Unfortunately, addiction is a very common problem in today’s fast-paced, pleasure-seeking world – as seen in many rehab centres in India. However, it still remains a complicated issue, particularly in terms of its psychological underpinnings.
Here are 5 surprising facts about the psychology of addiction:
- Addictive behaviour is often rooted in emotional stress rather than a true desire for pleasure
When emotional stress (anxiety, depression, trauma, etc) is deeply buried within a person’s subconscious mind, alleviating it might feel very challenging. To ease this stress, pleasure may be found in ‘excess’, especially if there are no other healthy coping mechanisms available. Ceasing this excessive (i.e. addictive) behaviour may return the person’s thoughts to the source of the stress which causes further stress that is alleviated only by additional addictive behaviour. This vicious cycle becomes very difficult to break unless the addict seeks professional help at rehab centres in India.
- Hormones play havoc with the brain
In cases of chronic or severe substance abuse (e.g. cocaine or heroin) or even compulsive behaviours like gambling or over-eating, the brain releases massive amounts of dopamine (a ‘happy hormone’). In the presence of such addictions, the brain is unable to reabsorb the dopamine, making the pleasure last unnaturally longer. This changes the brain’s chemistry so that the unhealthy behaviours are only associated with the feelings of pleasure, reward and euphoria. Eventually, healthy activities like exercise are eventually discarded in favour of continuing addictive behaviours.
- Unhealthy pleasure-seeking due to Associative Learning
The want for any pleasure-giving activity or substance begins as a goal-directed behaviour wherein a person takes drugs (action) and then gets high (outcome). This is a form of ‘associative learning’. Dopamine again plays a role here in creating a memory of the experience and its associated ‘pleasure’, which compels the addict to repeatedly seek out the same experience.
- Physical brain injuries and addictive behaviours
With a traumatic brain injury, the head is impacted so forcefully that the brain bumps against the side of the skull, disrupting the pathways that transmit signals of pleasure and reward and causing addictive behaviour. Chronic pain and fatigue due to the injury or feelings of worry or stress can also exacerbate susceptibility to addiction. Rehab centres in India are increasingly seeing such cases as well as cases of severe addictions caused due to injuries (e.g. sportspersons), work stress (e.g. law enforcement officials) and on-the-job trauma (e.g. soldiers).
- Biological abnormalities and changes
Repeated exposure to addictive substances and behaviours can permanently change the molecular and neurochemical structure and functioning of the brain. Drug dependence also takes place at the cellular level because the central nervous system is in a constant state of adjustment to the addiction. Even after detoxification at rehab centres in India, a person can be susceptible to relapsing because prior repeated use has affected the brain and body to such a critical degree.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a harmful addiction, give us a call. We can help you lead a fuller, healthier life.
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