Understanding Addictive Disorders
Each year, millions of Americans find themselves caught in a cycle of addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other substances/ behavior. They must struggle daily with the effort to become and remain free of the drugs or behaviors to which they feel uncontrollably drawn.
Affected individuals are diagnosed on the basis of the particular substance or activity to which they are addicted. However, individuals with any type of addictive disorder may exhibit related symptoms, and both causes and treatment are similar.
The Nature of Addiction
An addictive disorder, as opposed to temporary reliance on a particular substance or behavior, can be distinguished by several distinct symptoms:
Tolerance. Over time, an individual requires increasing amounts of the preferred substance/behavior to achieve the same physical or psychological effects.
Withdrawal. When an individual tries to curb the addiction, withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc., will occur.
Lack of control. The individual has extreme difficulty cutting back or controlling the addictive behavior, even when aware of negative consequences.
Preoccupation. Cravings for the desired substance or behavior are constant. Increasing amounts of time are spent planning, participating in, and then recovering from the addictive behavior, with employment and relationships often threatened.
Causes of Addiction
Are addicts “born that way,” or do they develop addictive disorders due to environmental factors? In this nature vs. nurture debate, both answers may be true. Psychological, genetic, environmental, and other factors that determine a particular individual’s likelihood of developing an addiction may be interrelated.
Biological factors. Studies have shown that the likelihood of twins developing the same addiction is 50-70%, and familial rates of such addictions as alcoholism are significant. Other research has pointed to such biological factors as abnormal dopamine levels influencing addictive behavior.
Psychological factors. Is there such a thing as an addictive personality? While no such diagnostic code exists, many experts believe that certain personality traits make individuals more vulnerable to addiction. They include: sensation seeking, impulsivity, poor coping skills, anxiety or depression, insecurity, and feelings of social alienation.
Environmental factors. Stress may the factor that figuratively pulls the addiction trigger in an individual who is biologically or psychologically prone to develop one. A history of trauma, for example, is frequently found in individuals who develop an addiction, particularly any type of severe stress in childhood. Physical or sexual abuse also increases the risk of developing an addictive disorder.
Treatment of Addiction
Numerous treatment approaches have developed that provide benefit to individuals in acute stages of addiction, and a robust recovery movement provides ongoing support and management of the illness. Treatment modalities include:
Medical approaches. Depending upon the nature of the addiction, an individual may benefit from medical detoxification and an inpatient rehabilitation program. While the use of medication is often discouraged, short-term use of medication is necessary in some instances.
Psychotherapy. Many contemporary forms of “talk therapy” have demonstrated positive results in individuals with addiction, including the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy;
- Motivational enhancement therapy;
- Dialectical behavioral therapy;
- Relapse prevention therapy.
These therapies teach individuals better coping skills, including recognition of triggers to addictive behavior, stress reduction, relapse avoidance, and impulse control.
Psychotherapy may be conducted in an individual or group setting. Family therapy is often encouraged in order to reduce enabling of addictive behaviors, as well as to heal broken relationships.
Community and family supports. Peer support is a cornerstone of most successful recovery programs. Recovering individuals find ongoing support through a variety of community organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or similar groups. Many support groups are based on the twelve-step recovery model first established for AA.
In addition to counseling, families may benefit from support groups such as Al-Anon for assistance in dealing with a loved one’s addictive behavior.
Addictive disorders can be daunting, but with proper treatment and support, individuals can experience recovery and return to full function in their homes and communities.
Problem Gambling: Addiction or Habit?
Do you know someone who gambles excessively? If so, perhaps you’ve wondered if this individual just had a bad habit or if he or she was actually addicted to gambling. It’s a question that even the experts have debated. But the latest diagnostic publication of the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)-V, confirms that excessive gambling can indeed be an addiction, just like substance abuse.
The Nature of Gambling Addiction
“Problem” gambling, also referred to as pathological or compulsive gambling, affects an estimated 2 – 4% of the population. Before recent changes by mental health clinicians, it was classified as in impulse control disorder. Like kleptomania (uncontrollable stealing) or pyromania (impulsive fire setting), compulsive gambling was considered a mental disorder associated with poor impulse control.
With further research, a new classification of the disorder has been made. In the DSM-V, compulsive gambling is considered to be one of the “substance-related and addictive disorders.” Why the change? There is growing clinical evidence that pathological gambling has much in common with traditional substance abuse disorders.
First, the effects of the respective disorders on individuals’ work, financial, and personal lives can be similar. Neurochemical testing and brain imaging have also made a case for the belief that gambling activates the brain’s reward system in a manner similar to drugs. For example, compulsive gamblers report highs from gambling as well as cravings. Furthermore, gambling problems tend to run in families, indicating potential genetic factors. Finally, pathological gamblers are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
In order for an individual to be classified as having a gambling disorder, at least 4 of the following symptoms must be present:
- Frequent preoccupation with gambling;
- Tendency to gamble increasingly large amounts of money;
- Using gambling to cope with feeling distressed;
- Lack of success in controlling, cutting back, or stopping the behavior;
- Lying to others to hide gambling or committing illegal acts to finance;
- Restlessness or irritability when attempting to decrease or stop gambling;
- Frequent and often long-term “chasing” of losses with increased gambling;
- Loss of a job or relationship due to behavior;
- Reliance upon others to get out of financial straits.
Many of these symptoms resemble classic addictive symptoms, such as withdrawal and loss of control.
Individuals with pathological gambling problems are more likely to exhibit symptoms of other psychiatric problems. In addition to substance abuse, such problems may include mood disorders, anxiety, or personality disorders.
While the effects of pathological gambling should not be minimized, viewing the behavior as evidence of an addiction rather than a character flaw can be helpful in encouraging an individual to seek treatment. It may also remove some of the stigma associated with the behavior. With appropriate intervention, individuals with gambling addictions can recover and live productive lives. (And that’s a sure bet!)
Loosening the Destructive Grip of Addictive Disorders
Addictions come in many forms. But those suffering with develop an uncontrollable urge to revisit a substance, activity or behavior in order to satisfy a need or desire. An addiction may fill a void in one’s life, or act as a salve for a festering emotional wound.
Those at the mercy of their addictive behaviors often experience gradually increasing levels of emotional pain and deteriorating mental or physical health. Another byproduct of serious addiction is the tendency to eschew responsibilities and neglect important aspects within one’s life, such as friends, family, school and career. Many suffering with addictions are also prone to struggles with depression.
Treating Addictive Disorders
Addictive personality disorder is a condition where an individual carries traits making them more susceptible to addictive behaviors. However, anyone at any stage or walk of life can develop an addiction.
People can become addicted to eating, gambling, smoking, exercise and countless other activities that offer comfort or what they determine to be an “escape.” But the most pervasive and widely-publicized addiction in our society involves alcohol and drugs.
Alcoholism and drug addiction are serious health problems in the U.S. and around the world. Those who become dependent on alcohol and drugs subject themselves to a life full of difficulties ranging from relationship and legal problems to homelessness and destitution.
Addiction recovery is often a long-term and sometimes arduous process. But with proper medical care and support from friends and family, addiction treatment can be successful.
Inpatient addiction centers such as Cincinnati, Ohio’s Lindner Center of Hope and Sibcy House are examples of facilities providing environments conducive to success in treating addictive disorders. Using a team of experienced mental health specialists and an intensive, cutting-edge treatment plan focusing on detoxification and stabilization, Lindner Center of Hope sets the standard for addiction treatment. Its reputation for helping those with addictive disorders go on to live fulfilling, productive lives continues to grow.
Mental Health Treatment Centers Offer a Wide Variety of Services
Over 45 million Americans have some form of mental illness. Roughly 25 percent of these individuals have disorders considered to be serious, according to a recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study. With the number of Americans suffering from mental illness and substance abuse problems on the rise, caregivers and treatment facilities throughout the country continue to work to meet increasing demands.
One way this troubling trend is being addressed is through the creation of comprehensive mental health treatment centers. In recent years more focus has been placed upon the consolidation of mental health services that were once spread throughout a city or region.
Mental Health Centers are All-Encompassing
Many of the newer mental health centers are universal in their offerings. They provide inpatient and outpatient services for a wide range of mental health issues and are staffed with a diverse array of experienced therapists and psychiatric specialists.
These types of facilities will often contain separate areas for children, adolescents and adults. ADHD treatment, adolescent depression treatment, eating disorder treatment and treatment for anxiety and bipolar disorders are among the services that can be performed under one roof.
Some mental health centers also contain short-term residential units, such as Lindner Center of Hope’s “Sibcy House” near Cincinnati, Ohio. Sibcy House staff members specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of those with complex mental disorders, addictive disorders and those who have experienced a mental health crisis.
The Lindner facility is also one of the few mental health centers in the country to offer both ECT and TMS treatment. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are used in severe depression treatment and to address conditions for other types of treatment that have failed. These devices are located in Lindner’s new state-of-the-art Neuromodulation Center.
The centralization of services in modern-day mental health centers has been a positive development in a number of ways, including making treatment more accessible to patients and communication between caregivers more convenient. This is especially the case in situations where multiple modes of treatment may be necessary.