People can form dependencies to substances, such as alcohol or other drugs, and activities, like excessive eating, gambling, shopping and sexual behaviours, for a variety of reasons. Often, however, it begins as a way to alleviate emotional discomfort and/or physical pain. If left unaddressed it can have a negative impact on intimate relationships, work, health and well-being.
Addiction is devastating to both the individuals suffering with addiction as well as their friends and family members. A chronic disease, addiction is characterised by compulsive use of substances or addictive behaviours, and an inability to practice self-control when it comes to these behaviours. Eventually, it results in changes in the brain itself, which is why breaking the habit is so difficult. Counselling can help both patients and family members to deal with addiction.
How Addiction Arises
Substance abuse generally begins voluntarily – an individual tries alcohol, drugs or an addictive behaviour like gambling, through curiosity or a desire to become part of a group. Most of these affect the brain’s reward system, and flood the brain cells with dopamine, a natural chemical that causes a ‘high’. Over time, however, the brain adjusts to the increased dopamine levels. You must take more drugs, alcohol or engage in addictive behaviour more frequently to get high. This effect – known as tolerance – also means you may have less time for, and get less pleasure from, other activities you once enjoyed, like food, relationships or social occasions.
The Symptoms of Addiction
Long-term use of alcohol or drugs changes many systems and chemicals in the brain. Substance use can affect behaviour, decision-making, judgment, learning and memory, destroy relationships and cause increased stress.
When drug use continues despite these negative consequences, the patient is addicted.
Physical symptoms include bloodshot eyes, dilated or pinpoint pupils, weight changes, problems sleeping or excessive sleeping, tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination. When people become addicted, their physical appearance deteriorates and they may have unusual smells or significant body odour.
Treating Addiction with Counselling
One of the first steps in counselling is to help the patient recognise and admit that a problem exists. Denial is a very common part of addiction. Many people are unwilling to seek help until they “hit bottom” and the negative consequences become overwhelming – often taking everything from their lives they held dearly before addiction began – relationships, money, jobs, and even a home.
Even after physical detoxification, when the body is free of the chemical influence of addictive substances, behaviour patterns can lead to a relapse. Social activities, stress, environmental cues, and friends who use, can all increase relapse risk. That is why counselling in important, as it can help you get to the root cause of why you began engaging in addictive substances or behaviours in the first place – what physical or emotional pain lies beneath the addiction – and can help you find ways to address and cope with these issues, as well as ways to improve self-control to stay clean in future.
Counselling for Family Members of Addicts
Addiction counsellors work with both patients and families because addiction affects everyone. Both patients and families must be educated about addiction, its causes, symptoms and possible outcomes. Sometimes family members are enablers and must learn to change their own behaviour in order to help the patient. Family members may increase a patient’s stress by nagging or becoming angry. Relationships between partners or parents and child are damaged by addiction and must be painstakingly rebuilt. Change is possible, however, with the help of counselling.
Book an appointment
At Psychological Health Care we have experience in working with people who misuse alcohol and other drugs across a variety of settings, such as residential rehab clinics, prisons and community settings.
We structure individual treatment programs that aim to uncover and address the underlying issues that may have caused the addictive behaviours. This involves helping people explore the origins of their problematic behaviour, understand their triggers, develop healthy coping strategies and creating a meaningful and fulfilling life.
We treat patients from all over Perth at our Clinical Psychology clinics in Dianella and Warwick. To make an appointment simply give us a call or fill out the contact form on our contact page with your details and we’ll call you to confirm.
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