Addiction

Could you be addicted to something you find so pleasurable that it is causing you problems? Are you having too much of something you like? I offer integrative psychological treatment for addictions in London. It’s often difficult to know how much is too much of what we enjoy, but here are some clues.  Check whether this is true of your problem behaviour:

  • Getting it is taking up too much of your time and attention
  • You’re needing more and more of it to satisfy you
  • You end up having more of it than you intended
  • When you don’t get enough of it you feel very uncomfortable
  • It’s interfering with work, relationships, and recreational activities
  • It’s damaging your health
  • You haven’t succeeded in controlling or cutting down on it
  • You keep having it or doing it although you know it’s bad for you

If you think you or someone you care for might have an addiction, then read on, and find out how it can be treated: What is addiction? What can you feel addicted to? How does addiction operate? What addiction treatments are out there? How do I treat addictions?

What is addiction?

Addiction is often described as a medical illness. In this case, the term is applied only to addiction to drugs, tobacco and alcohol because they produce physiological changes that respond to medication.  But these addictions are also behavioural problems which respond to psychological treatment, just as other behaviours with similar addictive qualities also respond to psychological treatment. ^Top

What can you feel addicted to?

Here are some of the things you can have too much of and feel addicted to:

  • Drugs – recreational or prescription
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Internet
  • Work
  • Sex
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Shopping

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How does addiction operate?

Addiction works at a number of levels: Genetically, some people may naturally get more pleasure from a behaviour than others, making them more vulnerable to addiction. Physiologically, addictive behaviours produce pleasurable chemicals in the brain, which are reduced when we stop those behaviours.  Internally, addiction sets up a conflict which some people may be more skilled at handling than others.  Individually, people may choose addictive behaviours to mask unpleasant emotions, or to make up for a lack of other sources of positive emotions.  Negative emotions often come interactively from unpleasant relationships with others, perhaps in childhood, or from situations where the person feels stuck in a dysfunctional group. Socially, groups have their own rules and beliefs, which can be inherited from a culture which can encourage addictive behaviours.  That culture is in turn shaped by the economic conditions which encourage the sale of goods which people enjoy using, irrespective of their longer term effects. ^Top

What addiction treatments are out there?

There are several well-established treatments for addictions:  The 12-Step Approach used by Alcoholics Anonymous engages support for you from a peer-group and your chosen Higher Power. From the Cognitive Behavioural Approach, The Stages of Change model makes you contemplate and prepare for change before taking the leap.  Motivational interviewing gets you to weigh the pros and cons of changing your path before you make a commitment.  The Community Reinforcement Approach finds rewarding activities and relationships to attract you away from your addiction.  Relapse Prevention stops you turning back, by pointing out the wrong turns you could take and getting you to plan an alternative route.  In clinical trials these methods have been found about as effective as each other. However, relapse often causes problems (for example, about 85% of those who give up alcohol on any occasion have a relapse), so people usually have to quit several times before they quit for good. ^Top

Psychological Treatment of Addictions AtoF

My AtoF treatment method combines these approaches with recent research on self-control.  It is an example of my Journeybuilding™ Approach to therapy and can be used to help overcome any addictive behaviour:

Antecedents

  • Identify what sets off your addictive behaviour, including memories
  • Notice what, when, where and how much you do the behaviour, with whom
  • Pay attention to your addictive behaviour as you do it and notice how it affects you
  • Remove, switch, or change what sets off the addictive behaviour where you can
  • Get those you love and trust to give you healthier signals for where to go

Beliefs

  • Uncover your views of your behaviour, your world and yourself
  • Notice how others’ views and behaviour influence your view
  • Challenge views which discourage you from changing your behaviour
  • Check out negative viewpoints by acting differently and seeing what happens
  • Build a forward-looking view where you see yourself overcoming your addiction

Concerns

  • Review your standards about where you should be in life
  • Work out what you really want to get from life
  • Distinguish what you really need, and prioritise those needs
  • Weigh the pros and cons of changing to meet your needs better
  • Learn to manage feelings which your addictive behaviour suppressed

Decisions

  • Build a realistic vision of the good life for you
  • Find more rewarding pathways than your addictive behaviour
  • Decide your path and burn your bridges behind you
  • Make a step-by-step plan of what you will do if you encounter obstacles
  • Focus on your vision and get others to come along with you

Expression

  • Monitor your progress
  • Act as if you’re a new person on a better path, even when it feels strange
  • Encourage yourself as you go along
  • Manage your mental reserves so you have enough strength to face challenges
  • Reward yourself for reaching milestones

Follow up

  • Get into a good rhythm, and wear positive pathways into your life
  • Anticipate new obstacles and how to avoid them
  • View lapses as wrong turns, not returns to where you started
  • Get back on track as soon as you can so you avoid slippery slopes
  • Build structures in your life far from addiction and be with people who can share them

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How successful am I?  Read what some of my clients say about me here.   Or if you or someone you know has an addiction, you can get in contact with me using the form on the right.  I’ll be happy to talk to you about how I can help.