The Psychology of Addiction

07.01.23 10:35 PM By Lakisha Lynette Bealer

The Psychology of Addiction

If you're like most people, you probably think of addiction as a personal failing.  But what if we told you that addiction is actually a psychological phenomenon?  It is actually one of the most fascinating topics in psychology, as it's a complex phenomenon with many different causes and manifestations. 

In this article, we'll explore the psychology of addiction: what it is, how it develops, and why it's so difficult to overcome.  So if you're curious about this topic, read on!


What Is Addiction?

The word “addiction” is often used to describe a habitual behavior that has become damaging to the individual.  However, addiction is more than just a bad habit – it is a serious condition that can have devastating consequences.  Addiction is characterized by an inability to control oneself, even when faced with negative consequences.  This lack of control can lead to financial ruin, relationship problems, and even death.  Although addiction is most commonly associated with substance abuse, it can also refer to behaviors such as gambling or even working.  But what is the root cause of getting addicted to something?


What Are The Causes?

As with anything else, there is no single factor that can be pinned down as the main cause of addiction.  Moreover, as already mentioned, there are numerous different types of addiction that have slightly different mechanisms of development.  So with that in mind, let’s review some of the key factors that are responsible for developing an addiction.


The Genetic Factor

It's well known that addiction can run in families, and often, people will attribute this to simply being a "family trait."  And indeed, studies have shown that addiction is more common in certain families and that certain genetic variants are passed on.  We are talking about different genes that influence different processes associated with addictive behaviors.  However, research has shown that there is more to it than that.  While genes are thought to play a role in developing addiction, they don't really account for 100 percent of the risk. 


The Environmental Factor

While some people may be more genetically susceptible to addiction than others, the environment that we live in also plays a role.  From childhood and family history to the stress of everyday life, these are all factors that can be found to play a part in addiction development.  Then you also have peer pressure and friend groups which engage in harmful behaviors.  In this case, the desire to belong to a certain group can really influence your chances of repeating the same behavior.  And while it's not always possible to control these factors, understanding how they contribute to addiction can help us better understand the disease and how to treat it effectively.


The Psychological Factor

Addiction is often thought of as physical dependence on a substance, but it can also be a way of coping with emotional trauma.  Mental health is a key factor in addiction development, and in some cases, addiction can act as a way of coping with emotional trauma.  For example, people who have experienced childhood trauma or abuse may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of numbing their emotions.  Similarly, people who suffer from anxiety or depression may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to ease their symptoms.  While addiction can provide temporary relief, it ultimately leads to more problems and can make the underlying mental health issues even worse.  Therefore, it is important to also look at addiction through the lens of mental health.


Is There A Solution?

While there is no one-size-fits-all cure to overcoming addiction, it is important to remember that it is a treatable disease.  But it is also considered a chronic disease, which means that treatment will not be a one-time solution - it should be looked at as a lifetime journey.  The key to breaking the cycle is persistence and, of course, following the treatment plan as prescribed by a professional.  This may be either attending regular therapy sessions or taking medication as prescribed.  In some cases, it might mean making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers and setting up a support system. 

With determination, most manage to overcome addiction and live a healthy, fulfilling life.