Over 20 million Americans are battling addiction, and you may be one of them without even knowing it.
Not all addictions look the same, nor are they always obvious. That’s why the majority of addicts never receive treatment, leaving them to fight depression on their own.
But there’s a better way. Learn about the two main types of addiction and how to treat them to start living a freer, happier life.
Chemical addiction (also called physical or substance addiction) is one of two kinds of addiction, and it’s often the one people picture most.
A chemical addiction requires a substance that is consumed or used in a way that alters the body chemically. This chemical reaction is the basis of the addiction, where the body learns to function only with the help of the substance.
This shouldn’t be confused with dependence on a substance. While addiction can involve dependence, it encompasses more than just that. A chemical addiction prevents someone from living a healthy life, free from their drug of choice. The addiction is so strong, they will sacrifice nearly anything in order to continue using the substance they crave.
Here are some of the most common substances involved in chemical addiction.
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance, though not everyone becomes addicted to it.
But for some, innocent social drinking can turn into a daily craving for alcohol. This can lead to dangerous binge drinking, alcohol dependency, and reckless or even deadly behavior.
Many prescription drugs are known to be addictive, especially if misused.
Medications taken according to a doctor’s instructions are typically harmless and unlikely to fuel an addiction. But for some, it can be tempting to overdose prescriptions or mix them with other substances to create a mood-altering effect.
Many who become addicted to prescription drugs may later turn to buying these drugs illegally in order to feed their addiction.
Illicit drugs are illegal substances that are known to harm the body. This can include opioids (such as heroin), cocaine, and other “street” drugs.
These drugs aren’t regulated and can be extremely addictive.
Chemical Addiction Treatment
Chemical addiction is challenging to treat because the mind and body have learned to only function with the help of the addictive substance.
Removing that substance can trigger withdrawal symptoms that should be treated and monitored by a professional.
While it is possible to quit cold turkey on your own, the safest chemical addiction treatment is at a detox center such as Hope Rising. They offer support during every step of getting sober, from uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms to working through the emotional aspects of addiction.
Behavioral addiction doesn’t involve a substance, though it still relies on chemicals similar to a chemical addiction. But in a behavioral addiction, the chemical release is in response to a rewarding behavior, which can become compulsive and addictive.
Just like with chemical addictions, behavioral addictions can be dangerous. Yet addicts feel so dependent on the rewarding behavior, they’ll risk almost anything.
Behavioral addictions are harder to spot than chemical addictions. Often, they’re overlooked completely, sometimes even by doctors and mental health professionals.
Here are some of the most common behavioral addictions that you or a loved one may struggle with.
Food and Overeating
Food can be healthy and nourishing for our bodies, but too much can become an addiction. This can be considered a binge eating disorder as well as an addiction.
In this type of addiction, people eat beyond the point of feeling satisfied. The experience of eating can feel rewarding for addicts. But overeating can lead to unhealthy weight gain, other disordered eating habits like purging, and health complications.
Shopping releases dopamine, a highly rewarding and relaxing chemical in the brain. And this chemical can spur addiction.
Excessive shopping, overspending money, and even shoplifting may all result from a shopping addiction.
Gambling is a common trigger for addiction because it involves the excitement of winning. This can create an addictive rush and powerful feeling of relief.
But even after repeatedly losing—and losing significant amounts of money—addicts will continue playing, finding it hard to stop.
Like many other behaviors involved in behavioral addiction, sex in moderation can be a healthy activity.
But sex can become problematic when it requires increasingly risky acts in order to achieve satisfaction. If you’re addicted to sex, you may regularly engage in dangerous or illegal acts or neglect everyday responsibilities in favor of sex.
Behavioral Addiction Treatment
Behavioral addiction can be easier to treat than chemical addiction, but it still often requires the help of a professional.
Therapy can help replace compulsive and addictive behaviors with healthier alternatives. And a doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications, such as anti-depressants, to treat underlying issues.
Some people also find comfort in support groups with others struggling with the same behavioral addiction. In these groups, you can discuss triggers and coping strategies to combat addictive behaviors.
Identifying and Treating Different Types of Addiction
Not all addiction looks the same. Understanding different types of addiction is key to identifying problem areas and getting the most effective addiction help.
Whether it’s chemical or behavioral, addiction can have a devastating impact on you and your loved ones. If you’re living with addiction, reach out to a professional, and start taking back control of your life.
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