Whilst many of us enjoy a drink here and there (sometimes even having too many) or place the occasional bet, some people find themselves in over their heads. Addictions come in many forms and it can sometimes be tough to recognise the more subtle and “normal” looking addictions. For example, it is common for people to use their phone a lot these days, but did you know phone-use can be an addiction? Addictions can range from substances (alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs and nicotine) to sex and pornography, to smartphones and gambling.

Addictions mostly start off in the context of having a little bit of fun – for example, taking drugs at a friends party – or as a solution to a problem – for example, taking prescribed pain killers for chronic pain. However, addictions tend to gradually creep up and can suddenly feel out of control, causing enormous stress on the individual and their family. It can be hard to see a way out.

Substance Addictions (illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol and nicotine)

What are the signs and symptoms of a Substance Addiction?

  • Irresistible urges and cravings for drugs or alcohol. You may struggle to cope without them. For example, you may not want to attend social functions unless you are high. Or, perhaps you find that you “need” to drink at night to relax.
  • Physical withdrawals. In the absence of drugs or alcohol, you may feel sick and unwell. For example, you may start vomiting and sweating until you are able to drink or take drugs.
  • You need more and more. What may have started as one tablet of ecstasy or a few lines of cocaine at a night club on weekends, is now happening during the week too. You may be looking for excuses to go out in the week, so you can take drugs or drink. Or, perhaps you need a drink or drugs as soon as you wake in the morning. The more you use, the more you need to get the same effect.
  • Spending excessive money on your addiction. You may find yourself forking out lots of money to keep up with your addiction. This is especially problematic for people who can no longer afford it. You may owe your family, friends or the bank a lot of money.
  • Addictions take over your life. Your day may be centred around seeking out the drug or alcohol. Using drugs or alcohol may be prioritised over eating or spending time with your loved ones. You might also spend a lot time recovering from an episode of use, only to start the cycle all over again.

How does a Substance Addiction affect me?

  • Substance Abuse Addictions wreak havoc on relationships. Irritability, impatience and anger, caused by cravings or coming down, can make those around you feel scared and on edge. There may be conflict and tension in your relationships and people may be worried about you. You may withdraw from friends and family, due to shame and embarrassment. This can leave you feeling lonely, which can increase your need for comfort via drug or alcohol use.
  • Mood changes. Frustration and anger become familiar feelings. You may feel stuck on a roller coaster, and wish you could get off. Feelings of sadness and emptiness are also common, which reinforce the viscous cycle.
  • Neglecting your responsibilities. You may be taking days off work or school, or be frequently late. You may struggle to concentrate and get through your tasks. Poor attendance or performance can lead to job loss or failing school subjects.
  • Engaging in risky behaviour. Substance Abuse Addictions decrease our inhibitions and we tend to crave similar ‘highs’. For example, you may engage in promiscuous sex or take other drugs “just because”. When intoxicated or high, you may take risks, such as driving or getting into fights.
  • Addictions drain us financially. All of your money may be going towards your addiction. Or, you may be in debt and fear being unable to pay it back.

Sex and Pornography Addiction

What are the signs and symptoms of a Sex and Pornography Addiction?

  • Whilst it’s normal for everyone to fantasise, people with a Sex Addiction often find themselves completely preoccupied with thoughts about sex. You may feel consumed by sex – wanting it, needing it and seeking it. Urges to act on thoughts can be very strong. For example, you may approach strangers for sex, or frequently masturbate in inappropriate places.
  • It is common for people with a Sex Addiction to feel a loss of control over their actions. You may dread the urge, aware fully of negative consequences. For example, even though you may be in a relationship, you may find yourself compelled to have sex with strangers and have affairs. Or, despite health concerns, such as STD’s, continue to have unprotected sex with multiple people.
  • Negative feelings after sex or masturbating. You may find that despite initially wanting sex, you feel shame or embarrassment afterwards. Perhaps you hate yourself for cheating on your partner, but find yourself continuing to do it anyway. Or, you may experience shame and guilt by how much pornography you are watching, yet you cannot seem to stop.
  • Compulsive use of pornography. Have you found yourself spending way too much time viewing pornography? Perhaps you are awake at all hours of the night watching porn, or find yourself using the work computer to access pornography sites.

How does a Sex and Pornography Addiction affect me?

  • You may find it difficult to truly get close to anyone. If you are in a relationship, you might be guarded and feel more comfortable having sex with strangers or masturbating to pornography than being intimate with your partner. Your partner may complain about feeling lonely, because you are frequently away from home or often on your phone or computer. Trust may be broken and your relationship may be under threat. Friends may be frustrated with covering up and lying about where you have been.
  • Health risks. You may take risks, such as having unprotected sex with multiple people. This can heighten your risk of developing, or passing on, an STD. Or, you may experience unwanted pregnancies from unprotected sex.
  • Financially. You may be spending excessive money on pornography, going to strip clubs, or on prostitutes and hotel rooms. You may struggle to pay your bills or lost your savings, because of your Pornography or Sex Addiction.

Gambling Addiction

What are the signs and symptoms of a Gambling Addiction?

  • A Gambling Addiction can take over your life. You may find yourself consumed by thoughts of gambling and struggle to control the urge. People with a Gambling Addiction find themselves preoccupied with it; thinking about how to win, and when and where they will gamble next.
  • Despite efforts to stop gambling, you find it incredibly difficult. Maybe you swore to playing the last $50 in the pokies, yet find yourself at the ATM getting another $50 out. Or, maybe you promised to only gamble once a week with a set budget, but continually break your promise.
  • Changes in mood and behaviour. It is common for people with a Gambling Addiction to feel irritable and on edge. You may feel flat and depressed, especially when you lose or cannot access a gamble – for example, you get stuck at a social function. Constant lying and secrecy around gambling means your loved ones are confused and ask questions about your money and whereabouts. You may frequently feel stressed about being “found out”.
  • Trying to win back money you have lost. Maybe you were gambling with loaned money and continue to gamble in the hope of winning. This may leave you feeling stressed, angry and guilty.

How does a Gambling Addiction affect me?

  • Problem gambling hurts relationships. Maybe you are constantly arguing with your partner; defending your right to gamble or denying you have a problem. Or, your partner has discovered how much money has been lost, causing them to contemplate leaving you. Feelings of trust are often broken, leaving relationships in a fragile state. Friends and family may feel hassled by your requests for a ‘loan’. You may have withdrawn from your loved ones, so you can gamble without needing to explain yourself.
  • Financial. Are you quickly running out of money? Maybe your bills are not being paid on time and you are in debt. People with a Gambling Addiction often owe money to friends and family. You may be secretly redrawing money from your mortgage, or using a credit card your partner does not know about.

Smartphone Addiction

What are the signs and symptoms of a Phone Addiction?

  • Is your phone always within arms reach? Are you constantly picking it up and scrolling through your apps, surfing the net or messaging people? Phone Addictions involve mindless, almost “unconscious” actions like these. For example, you may scroll through your facebook feed and shortly after putting your phone down, find yourself doing it again five minutes later.
  • The first thing you do in the morning is reach for your phone and check your apps, the net or messages. Checking your phone is also the last thing you do at night .
  • Phone-use replaces social interaction. For example, you may be out to dinner with friends, but rather than socialising, you are busy taking photos or sending texts. Or, perhaps you prefer to socialise on facebook and instagram.
  • You may find it difficult to concentrate on activities without checking your phone. For example, you may be watching one of your favourite TV programs, but find yourself repeatedly checking your phone.
  • Phone Addictions cause anxiety. Have you accidentally left your phone at home and nearly had a panic attack? People who are addicted to their phones need their phone in their hands or by their sides 24/7.

How does a Phone Addiction affect me?

  • Phone Addictions can leave people feeling lonely and isolated. You may be comparing yourself to others on social media, and feel envious of others portrayed fun and excitement in their photos. This can leave you feeling dissatisfied and unhappy in your life. Ironically, the more time we spend on our phones, the less time we have to experience real, authentic connections with others.
  • Sleep disturbances. You may lose track of time while using your phone, and fall asleep later than usual. Or, perhaps you frequently wake and check your phone. Using your mobile before sleep can also interfere with the secretion of melatonin; a sleep hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Physical health. Have you noticed aches in your neck from always looking down? Or, pain in your arms and hands from using your index finger to type? Your eyes may also feel strained. As well, sometimes our safety is compromised when we are absorbed in our phones, as we neglect our surroundings that can warn us of a dangerous situation – for example, you may not hear or see a car reversing out a driveway.

How can I treat my Addiction?

There are several well-researched treatments that are effective in treating Addictions, including Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Solution-focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are experienced and trained in treating Addictions. If you are experiencing an Addiction and would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.