The Development of Addiction

The Development of Addiction

An addiction often starts when a person does something to bring pleasure or avoid pain. The activity may be drinking a beer, using the Internet, or going shopping. If it works, the person is likely to repeat it. He or she becomes increasingly dependent on the behavior, and tolerance may develop; over time, the person needs more of the behavior to feel the same effect. Eventually, the behavior becomes a central focus of

An addiction often starts when a person performs a pleasurable activity, such as playing a video game. Over time, as the person repeats the activity again and again, he may become dependent on the activity. The result is addiction. the person’s life, and there is a deterioration in other areas, such as school performance or relationships. The behavior no longer brings pleasure, but it is necessary to avoid the pain of going without it.

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Although many common behaviors are potentially addictive, most people who engage in them don’t develop problems. Risk for addiction depends on a combination of factors, including personality, lifestyle, heredity, the social and physical environment, and the nature of the substance or behavior in question. For example, nicotine (the psychoactive drug in tobacco) has a very high potential for physical addiction, but a person must try smoking whether influenced by peer pressure, family factors, advertising, stress, or personality traits to become addicted. Some studies have found that genetic factors play a role in risk for addiction, and some people may have a genetic predisposition for addiction to a particular drug.

Examples of Addictive Behaviors

Some behaviors that are not related to drugs can become addictive.

Compulsive Gambling Compulsive gamblers cannot resist the urge to gamble, even in the face of personal ruin. About 1% of adult Americans are compulsive (pathological) gamblers, and another 2% are “problem gamblers.” This addiction is currently viewed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to be as serious as substance disorder. Some 42% of students report having gambled at least once in the past year, and about 3% reported gambling at least once a week. The consequences of compulsive gambling are not just financial: The suicide rate among compulsive gamblers is 20 times higher than that of the general population. Many compulsive gamblers also have drug and alcohol abuse problems.

Compulsive Buying A compulsive buyer repeatedly gives in to the impulse to buy more than he or she needs or can afford. Compulsive spenders usually buy luxury items rather than daily necessities. Compulsive buyers are usually distressed by their behavior and its social, personal, and financial consequences. Some experts link compulsive shopping with neglect or abuse during childhood; it also seems to be associated with eating disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder.

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