What causes Addiction?

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Welcome to part 2 of my article on addiction. In my previous post I wrote about addiction and I hope you found it interesting and revealing. It’s amazing how our habits have changed over the years and we have become addicted to things which were non-existent maybe 20 years ago. Technology is often attributed as a major contributing factor for this and while it has made our lives comfortable, it has also managed to enslave us and control our lives. Before we understand how we can give up or at least stop ourselves from being slaves and getting into addiction, let’s first try and understand why do we get addicted?

Addiction as I had defined in my previous post is

The belief that you cannot do without something or someone OR the constant need for more and better of something

So addiction is essentially a belief which we hold. This belief often puts us in a state of a fear of losing something or someone or losing the feeling it creates.  For example I often hear smokers say that they are not addicted to smoking(nicotine) and they only smoke for the “good” feeling it gives. The claim here is that their body does not want nicotine and the act of smoking is more for the act itself. Having been a smoker for 12 years, and quit many times, I can tell you that this is nothing but fallacy we have. As long as you feel the “need” to perform the act (whether that’s a cigarette, cigar or any other form of tobacco), you are addicted to it. In case you are wondering I have quit smoking for good for the past year and it feels great!

So what are the reasons why we get into an addiction?

Stress/Tension:

Psychologists and Doctors attribute stress and tension to be the number 1 reason why people get addicted to something. Stress can come from a variety of reasons in life and is often the result of circumstances in life when one feels trapped, stuck or difficult to cope with the circumstance. The circumstances could be something small like day to day issues like being late to work, missing your train, traffic jam or bigger challenges in life like sickness of a loved one, loss of job or death of a dear one.

Social Acceptance/Peer Pressures:

Another common reason attributed to addiction is the need for social acceptance or peer pressure. As children and teenagers, we are very vulnerable to external influences. This is partly because our sense of reasoning has not developed enough to cope with the pressures from society. As humans we have a natural tendency or desire to have affiliations and this is normal to a large extent as we live amongst people and want to have healthy relationships. However when this goes wrong is when we are unable to differentiate between what right for us is compared to what we “want” to do to please others. Adults may not succumb to peer pressure but may fall into the trap of social acceptance which comes in the form of being seen as “social”. . The pressure is usually to be seen as “one of them” or be associated and “fit-in” with a group. So people like to call themselves “social drinkers” or social smokers”. The only problem is that the social occasions happen all too often.

Myths

One of the few positives put forward by smokers to justify their habit is that it helps keep their weight in check. This is by far the biggest myths about smoking and research has shown that this is not true. The belief stems from the fact that people think that you start gaining weight when you quit smoking.

A study of Japanese literature on smoking revealed findings that may seem shocking to some: Tobacco, in some cases, is promoted as a source for increased health and vitality. Likewise, tobacco’s supposed boost to virility is a long-running myth, by long-gone ads featuring masculine characters such as the Marlboro.  The following articles give you a very good insight about the common myths about smoking.

10 Persistent Myths about Smoking

What you don’t know about smoking?

Lack of direction in Life

The first 3 reasons have to do more with the classic addictions we have known and relates to addictions with substances. This particular one can be attributed to the subtler addictions to things like TV, Internet, mobile and social media. As one of my favourite motivational speakers Les Brown puts it “Most of us go through life sleep walking”.  What he means is that we are merely in a state of existence rather than living. It amazes me when people say that they are trying to kill time or don’t have much to do. My problem today is that there is so much I want to do with my life; I think I don’t have enough time to do everything. I sincerely pray that I live a long and healthy life so that I can do everything that I can think of. One life is not long enough to enjoy and experience this thing called “Life”.

When you don’t know what you want to do or where you are going, then you tend to develop an association with things which don’t add any value to your life.  That’s when you end up spending more than required time in front of the idiot box or the Internet. You may argue that your job or business requires you to watch the news and surf the internet. In that case it makes sense, but you have to be honest to yourself and ask if you should be spending the amount you are spending now.  What I’m against is idle browsing, mindless updates on Facebook, wasted tweets. Again no one but you have to decide on the limits. Have I done this? Of course yes. But the past 1 year has been a realisation on how I was wasting precious moments of my life.

Low Self Esteem

Another reason why people get addicted is Low self-esteem. With the information age and the advances in technology, the world has become an extremely competitive place and our day to day life is becoming more challenging. All of this has impacted an individual’s perception of his self-worth. There is a constant urge to compete with others, stay ahead, be more productive, reduce failure rates…… the list goes on.  As a result people are trying to find comfort in substances (cigarette, alcohol, drugs, etc.) or things (TV, Internet, etc.) or people (through social media networks). As human beings we want to feel accepted and acknowledged. A low self-esteem usually results when this does not happen, which then triggers our need for external stimulants which give us a feeling of being at “ease” with ourselves, albeit only temporarily.

The Psychology of Addiction

Apart from the physiological changes that the addiction brings about in a person, there is a very deep rooted psychology on why people get addicted. Addictions are essentially some form of stimulants. What needs to be understood is that every time we reach out to these stimulants we are telling our mind that this helps me coping with my current condition. Stimulants do not solve our problems. They merely take away the pain momentarily by taking you away from reality and free you from the pain. The more you do of something; your mind begins to start developing a belief that you need more of it and that your performance is dependent on them. This is very clearly evident in many rock bands and singers who use substances before their performance in the pretext that it gives them a “high” which drives performance. If we keep using external stimulants, they become a habit and we start becoming dependent to the stimulant. All stimulants grow on us over time and we feel a need to increase the intake. We start having a feeling of insecurity about the stimulant. Although the stimulant creates the sensation we are after, this also increases our fear of not having it. This is how habits turn into beliefs are established and before you know your mind will start coming up with all kinds of reasons trying to justify and protect your ego. We all know how smart our minds get when it comes to giving excuses!

Here’s an interesting link to what addiction does to your brain

What’s’ your view? Why do you think people get addicted? Share your views below.

 

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