4 types of addiction

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hands with pills

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Not all addictions are created equal.

The word addiction and the whole concept of addiction have taken on a number of meanings. The result is that when we talk about addiction we are not all meaning the same thing.

As a counselor, I have come to see 4 different classes or patterns of addictions.

The meaning of the word addiction has changed so much it becomes difficult to know when to use the word addiction in one way and when it is being used in another.

My favorite dictionary, a real physical, book type dictionary, is the Century Dictionary from 1889. It defines addiction as “A state of being given up to some habit, practice or pursuit; addictedness; devotion. This definition explains why so very many different patterns of behavior have come to be called addictions.

Modern on-line dictionaries have inserted a first meaning of drug dependency and reduced the notion of devotion to something to a secondary position. Both meanings bring people to the counseling room.

Here are 4 primary types of addiction that may call for treatment or recovery.

Physical tissue dependency on a substance is addiction.

Doctors might refer to this form of addiction as “Chemical Dependency.” We all know about addictions to chemicals which result in severe withdrawal symptoms when the user stops. The Heroin or opioid user gets violently physically ill when they are without their drug for a period of time. Alcoholics may experience the D T’s if they are without a drink for a period of time.

Psychological dependence on a substance is addiction.

This manifests when the addict goes through a rehab, 28 or 30 days, and then, when they leave rehab, they return to drug or alcohol use. Clearly, this form of addiction is in the mind, not the body.

One reason we might develop this variety of addiction is the belief that we should be able to handle our alcohol or that we need substances to have a good time. The idea of heavy alcohol or drug uses is almost synonymous with the concept of a party and with having fun.

When people develop problems, DUI’s or similar issues, from drug use, they think it is their fault, that they should be able to handle their alcohol. We are mostly reluctant to admit that drugs, including alcohol, are inherently problematic.

By the way – it is quite possible to have fun, enjoy yourself – without resorting to drugs or alcohol. And this is one case where more is not better, more is a bad thing.

Process addictions, when doing takes control of the doer.

Some processes are psychologically rewarding and become so reinforcing that people find themselves unable to stop an activity or to regulate the time they spend on this behavior.

Slot machines and gambling are one activity that can form a process addiction. Video games, sexual activity, and shopping can all become repetitive patterns that a person can give themselves over to. The result is an addiction, a loss of control of your life, as a result of over participation in this activity.

Overeating may well be a form of process addiction. Other eating disorders anorexia or bulimia may fall into the psychological dependency category.

Lifestyles can become addictions.

The dope game or criminal behavior can also be addicting. Dope dealers get caught up in the game. The lifestyle provides large amounts of money, status, and recognition within a subgroup. The lifestyle also provides many other personal benefits. Every dope man knows there are plenty of customers willing to trade sex or other illegal activities for more dope.

The great fallacy of this game is that because you can make a lot of money in a short time it is very profitable. Careful studies have shown that many a young man thought he had it made; the cars, women, the bling, and the cash. But when we factor in the fines, the legal fees and the time locked up and making nothing, it is not unusual for the dope man to make less than minimum wage. The catch is that he makes thousands in a weekend and then nothing for the years he spends in prison.

No doubt I have left out listing examples of other items that might fit these four categories. Have you experienced an over-dependence, a devotion to something that has affected your life? Have you been chemically or psychologically dependent on a substance or developed an excessive reliance on a process or a lifestyle?

If you have any of these issues help is available.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.