Addictions: Causes & Types – Part two

Addiction Defined


There are two types of addiction: addiction to substances and addictive behaviors.

Traits of Addiction

Traits of Addiction

Many addictions and addictive behaviors have similar traits, such as:

  • Acting in response to negative emotions or negative situations.
  • Doing more than you want to, need to, or can handle.
  • Being emotionally disconnected.
  • Feeling compelled to act.
  • Feeling a rush or a high, which is followed by a lack of pleasure and the need to maintain using to keep from feeling negative symptoms.
  • Shame and guilt.
  • Feeling big, proud, and empowered; or small, self-conscious, and out of control.
  • External focus:
    • Controlling people, places, situations, and things; not focusing on self.
    • Looking outside of self for a fix of mood.
  • Inadequate and inconsistent nutrition.
  • Increasing energy, focus, and time involved in the practice of the addiction.
  • Planning your life around your addiction.
  • Lying to important others.
  • Rewarding yourself by making using, an okay choice: “Because I need it, it’s okay.”
  • Thinking about it a lot.

Addictive Behaviors

Addictive Behavior

Addictive behaviors can be simplified as any behavior causing significant or regular harm, loss, or problems to the addict or someone close to the addict. The addict continues to use in spite of the negative impact on others or him/herself.  The addict’s behaviors are focused on the reward or high, not the depth or consequences of the experience.

It’s necessary to recognize that the using behavior is the primary issue in addiction and occurs independently of other mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or mental illness. Poor impulse control is considered its own diagnosis but should not be ignored; it can lead to more serious addictive behaviors and other issues.

In order to be diagnosed with an addictive behavior, a person must have at least five of the following symptoms:

Preoccupation You have frequent thoughts about all aspects of using.

Tolerance:  You require larger amounts or more frequent using to experience the same rush.

Withdrawal:  You experience emotional/physical pain that is associated with attempts to cease or reduce using behavior.

Escaping:  You use addictive behavior to improve your mood or escape issues.

Chasing You use to compensate for losses.

Lying: You try to hide the extent of your behavior by lying to family, friends, or professionals.

Loss of control You have unsuccessful attempts to reduce the behavior.

Breaking of boundaries:  You break a personal, social, or legal limit in order to fulfill your desire.

Rescuing You turn to family, friends, or another third party for assistance.

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Addiction Wall

Causes of Addiction

Understanding the causes of addiction can stimulate you to want to recover from it. There are many models of how addiction originates.

Bad Habit Model:

In this model of addiction, bad habits develop as a benefit of pleasure, comfort, and security. These habits have been influenced by negative environments. Habits can be stopped by changing behaviors, repairing relationships, and utilizing strength of will. Although this model offers useful ideas, it’s not the best answer for recovery.

Cause of Cravings

Brain Addiction Model:

According to experts, about ¾ of drug and food addicts, and likely many other types of addicts, have brain chemistry issues, specifically:

  • Mood chemistry deficiencies: Inherited or triggered in response to stress.
  • Poor regulation of blood sugar: Inherited or made worse by bad diet.

Both negative moods and irregular blood sugar result in cravings. This is what 12-Step programs and the disease model call an allergy. It’s the essence of the cause behind addiction. Increasing the health of neurotransmitter activity in your brain with good diet and nutritional supplements will decrease negative symptoms and increase emotional and physical well-being.

The process of addiction of all substances and behaviors, from liking to wanting to needing, occurs in the pleasure circuit of the brain. You experience pleasure from an experience, so you repeat it increasingly until your tolerance develops. As time passes you need more intensity or frequency for the same amount of pleasure to occur. Eventually, your liking becomes needing – not for pleasure, but to not feel bad and to be able to function. This process changes the addicted brain permanently. The neurobiology behind the addicted brain model is gaining visibility and acceptance in recovery communities and the scientific world.

Disease or Medical Model:

This model believes some people have a genetic predisposition for drug or alcohol addiction which causes them to establish a lifelong, incurable physical allergy. Evidence appears to validate this.


Loss of Choice Model:

A new theory states that in some addicted brains, the region of the brain needed to make good decisions is more vulnerable to addiction and addictive behaviors. As abuse grows, this region becomes more emotionally detached, and its decision making ability is reduced. Eventually, the natural yet inaccurate brain hardwiring that results from your addiction overrules all else, and you use, no matter the consequence. You believe that you need to use in order to survive.

Drugs, including sugar and addictive behaviors to a lesser degree, cause large amounts of brain chemicals, especially dopamine, to flood through your brain and control your thoughts and behaviors. Chemical floods produce new addicted pathways that start small then become large canyons, while normal pathways become weaker. These changes may become permanent.

Moral Model:

This model describes addiction as an immoral behavior by people who make sinful choices due to having bad character or those who violate social and moral codes. The addict is unworthy of sympathy and should be punished.

Personal Issues Model:

Core childhood issues or traumas may lead to negative patterns and emotions. If you don’t explore your personal issues, they will undermine the quality of your life, and you won’t maintain high-quality recovery. This is at least part of the cause of addiction for many, and a big part for some. As such, if you have unresolved issues or traumas, accept that resolving them may need to be a part of recovery. Denying issues will continue to cause pain. Please note, doing deeper work in early recovery deserves caution, leaning to contain core issue may be a better approach.

Psychological Model:

All addictions – except alcohol, drugs, and maybe sugar – are obsessive compulsive issues rooted in personality and character flaws. Some can be helped with medication. From this comes the Personal Issues Model.

Spiritual Model:

Separation from your spiritual connection causes a void. This leads to the desire to replace that void with something that makes you feel good or feel numb – this often leads to an addiction or addictive behavior.

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Community Reinforcement & Family Training (CRAFT)

Hands that help!

CRAFT is a cognitive behavior model for dealing with alcoholism and drug use that aims to achieve abstinence by eliminating the positive benefits of substance abuse and increasing the positive benefits of sobriety. CRAFT has several parts and is designed to build up motivation to quit using:

  • Helping the addict initiate sobriety.
  • Analyzing the addict’s using patterns.
  • Increasing positive benefits through reinforcement.
  • Learning new coping behaviors.
  • Involving significant others in the recovery process by teaching them skills.
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Pre-Treatment: Part Two


An intervention is a method for family and friends to give caring and supportive confrontation to the addict in their lives. In this collective group, the possibility of increased defensiveness, avoidance, manipulation, and hostility is reduced. The goal of an intervention is to awaken the addict to their need for help, and get them committed to recovery immediately. Traditionally, this involves an addict consenting to treatment in a residential program. For many, this isn’t the right fit. The person may be motivated to participate in a less intense option, it would be financially difficult, job restraints or there are no residential programs for his or her specific addiction.

The theme in an intervention is concern, and the approach is carefronting the addict with facts about how their behaviors have affected those participating in the intervention. If the addict is able to relax his or her defenses, and accept the truth, they may be rescued from hitting a lower bottom.

A well-done intervention is a loving, yet manipulative process. The motivation for an addict to recover comes partly from their relationship with the carefronters; the possibility of loss of support, family, or a job can be very persuasive. Often, once an addict has realized their need to change, recovery will take hold.

The phases of an intervention are:

  1. Family, friends, employer, etc. who are concerned about, and important to, the addict need to agree to participate. A group of eight people is about right. Ideally, get a professional interventionist, who will hold one or more pre-intervention meetings.
  2. At pre-intervention meetings, the following issues will need to be discussed and a plan finalized:
    • Each participant needs to understand the intervention process. They need to vent their negative feelings towards the addict and decide on a personal experience they will share with the addict as an example of why they are concerned.
    • It’s vital to break through any denial the participants may have about the confronted person’s addiction. Usually the addict’s addiction has been enabled by well intending family members. This must be addressed and an agreement has to be made to stop rescuing, fixing and saving the addict from the consequences of his or her behavior. Furthermore, the participants must get past their negative feelings about the addict, their using, and the intervention process itself.
    • A decision must be made to determine whether an intervention is going to happen, who is going to participate, and what the group will expect the confronted addict to do. Anything less than a strong, clear, and solid group agreement is likely to sabotage the intervention.
    • A plan must be agreed upon as to how to get the addict to the intervention location and other details that need to be arranged.
  3. The intervention experience:
    • One or more participants will bring the confronted addict to a home, doctor’s office, treatment center, or any desirable location. This may need to be done under false pretenses.
    • The designated facilitator will briefly share the reason for the meeting and ask the addict to agree to listen until everyone has shared. Hopefully, the addict agrees to listen. If not, a prearranged response needs to be initiated.
    • Each participant, in pre-agreed order, will share for up to five minutes one specific using-related incident that was difficult, embarrassing, hurtful, or scary and their feelings regarding the incident.
    • The participants can share their feelings and hopes for the addict to accept help and live a healthy life. This is not a debate about whether the addict has a problem; it’s a monologue of why the addict needs help.
    • The facilitator shares the group’s decision and expectations for the addict and attempts to get an agreement with the addict.
    • If no agreement is obtained, a second, less intense option can be offered with a consequence rider. That is, if the second option doesn’t work, the first option will be carried out. For example, if the addict refuses residential treatment but agrees to out patient care, if the latter is unsuccessful, then residential treatment becomes the only option.
    • If neither option is accepted, then it’s time for the participants to share their response to that decision. Until recovery is started, participants will break off their relationship, separate from marriage, be severed from work, etc. If the confronted still doesn’t respond, end the intervention and put tough love into action.
    • If the addict returns to using, a second intervention may be necessary. This last and final intervention sets up what the addict must do to continue having any contact with family and friends.

Intervention is a very hard experience, and not everyone agrees that it’s the best approach.

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