When we talk about addiction, most of the time, we talk about drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Whilst this is true, they are not the only things we can become addicted to.
The problem with our understanding of addiction is that most of the time we attribute it to the nature of the thing that is making us addicted to it, blaming it for being addictive. We associate negative things like alcohol, gambling, and drugs with addiction because we believe they consist of something which makes us become addicted to them.
The reality, however, is that we could become addicted to anything.
Why? Because it’s not really down to just what it is that we are addicted to, but rather, why and how we have become addicted to that thing.
The truth is that we could become addicted to anything that gives us pleasure.
You can get addicted to anything if you partake in excessive activities of something that gives you pleasure because you will keep wanting to feel that “rewarding” feeling.
In fact, there are various kinds of addictions that are recognized by organizations and institutions, who offer help for, including shopping addiction, video game addiction, plastic surgery and compulsive lying.
I personally know people that are so addicted to exercise, they would rather cut off a limb than skip a training session. I know people that are so addicted to work, their families barely see them or get to spend time with them.
It’s time we realize that addiction is all pathological, and can happen to anyone because of anything. The real key is in becoming aware of this and finding balance in the things we enjoy.
So, what are the psychological implications of an addiction?
Casinos.co explain it well in their infographic which you can check out in more detail here. Basically, they start off by explaining “The Neuroscience of Pleasure”, which is a study based on an experiment carried out by two psychologists back in the 1950s.
James Olds and Peter Milner conducted an experiment on Lab mice whereby they discovered that parts of the brain, referred to as the “reward centre”, would light up every time their brain receives stimuli, releasing the feel-good hormone “dopamine”.
The mice had a few electrodes implanted on them and were placed in cages with a switch. Every time the mice would press the switch, their brain would receive a positive stimulus from an electrical simulator.
When the mice realized that the switch was the reason behind their “feel-good” sensation, they kept repeatedly pressing the pedal over and over again – up to 7,000 times an hour, skipping food and water – to continue receiving this positive brain stimulation.
Bottom line? We’re just like those mice, and our brains work the same way. We repeat the same activities that make us feel good, and when we become addicted, we have no sense of time and space – we skip meals and bathroom breaks if we have to.
Gambling Satisfaction vs. Satisfying Sugar Cravings
The infographic then drew out comparisons between the activity of the brain when ingesting sugar vs. when a person wins a bet. Basically, in both cases, the “reward centre” in our brain is shown to light up the same way and in both cases, “dopamine” is released into the system.
This shows that although eating chocolate and winning a bet are two entirely different things, our brains react the same way, and the reason behind this is simple: we don’t want the sense of satisfaction to stop.
We’ve all found ourselves having way too many cookies, or devouring a jar of Nutella, unable to stop ourselves. Why? Because it feels good, and we don’t want that feeling to end. This is why after the dopamine rush wears off, the cravings kick in.
The memory of the feeling you got from eating that jar of Nutella, combined with the desire to recreate it, is what compels you to repeat your actions. This is when compulsion takes over.
Balance vs. Addiction
So we’ve seen that addiction can happen to anyone and that anything can be addictive (which is somewhat scary), so how can anyone steer clear of falling into such traps?
Well, there isn’t one answer for this, but if you had to look around you, you’d be able to see that many people are capable of finding a balance in their lives, for instance, treating themselves once in a while and resisting the temptation or cravings for chocolates or sweets.
Even when it comes to gambling, there are people who gamble excessively without a care in the world about the consequences of their behaviour, and then there are people who gamble responsibly and are capable of enjoying a poker game with friends every once in a while.
There are a lot of things that make it more difficult for us such as having easy access to whatever it is we’re craving. If you get a craving in the middle of the night for sugar you are more likely to open the cupboard and eat then drive to the store to buy sweets.
However, ultimately, it is up to us to make sure we do not fall into the trap of addiction. If we become aware of how easy it is to become addicted to just about anything and understand that it is up to us to make sure that we don’t, we could all start making an effort to be more self-disciplined.
We have to remember that at the end of the day it all boils down to us – to our ability to find balance in everything we do and to be responsible enough to reach out for help when we realize that we might have a problem.
Images are by Casinos.co
Guest Author Bio
Nikita is a freelance content writer and amateur photographer who is particularly interested in why people do what they do. Through her writing and photography, she aims to explore the different behaviours of human beings. For this reason, you will mostly find her outdoors, engaging in social interactions with strangers. On some days, she will retreat and lose herself in her writing, carefully examining her subjects.