Our view at Beacon Counselling Trust is that addiction is the continued repetition of a behaviour despite adverse consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviours.


We believe addictions can include, but are not limited to, alcohol, drug abuse, exercise addiction, food addiction, computer addiction and gambling. Classic hallmarks of addiction include impaired control over substances or behaviour, preoccupation with substance or behaviour, continued use despite consequences, and denial. Habits and patterns associated with addiction are typically characterised by immediate gratification (short-term reward), coupled with delayed deleterious effects (long-term costs).

“The true cause of all addictions is anxiety, an uneasy feeling that is temporarily masked, or tranquillised, by some substance or behaviour”

Dr. Roger Callaghan


Psychological addiction


Psychological addiction happens when the cravings for a substance or behaviour are psychological or emotional. People who are psychologically addicted feel overcome by the desire to have a substance or behave in a certain way. They may lie or steal to get it.


A person crosses the line between abuse and addiction when he or she is no longer trying the substance or behaviour to have fun or get high, but has come to depend on it. His or her whole life centres around the need for the drug. An addicted person, whether it’s a physical or psychological addiction or both, no longer feels like there is a choice in taking a substance or behaviour.


Psychological signs


  • use of drugs or alcohol as a way to forget problems or to relax
  • withdrawal or keeping secrets from family and friends
  • loss of interest in activities that used to be important
  • problems with schoolwork, such as slipping grades or absences
  • changes in friendships, such as hanging out only with friends who use drugs
  • spending a lot of time figuring out how to get drugs
  • stealing or selling belongings to be able to afford drugs
  • failed attempts to stop taking drugs or drinking
  • anxiety, anger, or depression
  • mood swings


There’s no single reason why addictions develop. Regularly drinking alcohol or using other substances, or spending time gambling or on the internet (including porn sites), may be pleasurable or relaxing. Some people experience these feelings particularly intensely and have a strong desire to repeat them more often.


Physical (or physiological) addiction


Being physically addicted means a person’s body actually becomes dependent on a particular substance (even smoking is physically addictive). It also means building tolerance to that substance, so that a person needs a larger dose than ever before to get the same effects. Someone who is physically addicted and stops using a substance like drugs, alcohol or cigarettes may experience withdrawal symptoms.


Physical signs

  • changes in sleeping habits
  • feeling shaky or sick when trying to stop
  • needing to take more of the substance to get the same effect
  • changes in eating habits, including weight loss or gain


NEXT – Addiction and Symptoms

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