For many years now we have heard of, witnessed and in some cases even experienced the mishaps that control our lives due to addictions . Getting hooked to something is a part of our psychological makeup. For instance; from shopping to sex and excessive eating, to making excuses our addictions seem to have no conscience of their own. Usually they do more harm by emptying our pockets and altering our emotions than offering some comfort which is usually the primary reason we resort to them.
What is Addiction?
Many people who have never experienced any form of addiction often wonder how people can get addicted to drugs, alcohol or smoking. But we are surrounded by addictions in other forms like caffeine, sugar, exercise, steroids or even work for that matter. These seem to be more understandable as they appear in more subtle ways.
Addiction involves compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite being aware of the consequences. It can include either substance dependence (drugs or alcohol) or behavioral addictions (e.g. gambling) or both.
Addiction Vs Habit
The difference between habit and addiction is that a habit allows for a choice whereas in an addiction you are not in control of your choice. A person with a habit can stop successfully whenever he/she chooses to bring a change. However, in addiction due to the physical and psychological dependency it becomes hard to control or change without any help.
What causes addiction?
The understanding about causes of various addictions is very limited and may vary considerably depending on the individual life circumstances. There is a combination of physical, mental, environmental and emotional factors that may lead to the development of any form of addiction.
A relevant question to ask here is what do people get out of addiction that causes them to continue depending on it. What are they getting that otherwise they don’t have? Some of the probable things that come to my mind are a sense of relief, control, peace and temporary calmness. Most of the addictive substances serve as painkillers. So, getting to the root of the issue, it is the pain that people escape from by leaning on various addictions. This makes life livable and death avoidable at least in the moment of feeling the high from the addiction.
A creation of oblivion to distance from the harsh reality is one of the reasons people use addiction as a coping mechanism. Buddhists have this concept of hungry ghosts who are pitiable creatures with empty bellies and their necks are so thin that they are not able to swallow due to which they remain hungry. They are associated with obsessions, compulsions and addictions because of the nature of greed and jealousy they possess. Similarly, we are an extension of them in a way as we are empty inside never able to fill the void. Even when an attempt is made, it is to fill the emptiness from outside through our addictions.