Addiction & Recovery For Dummies
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To overcome an addiction, first you need to recognize addiction in yourself or a loved one. Then, explore addiction recovery programs and treatment methods and decide how to deal with your addictive behavior, or that of a family member or friend.

How to recognize addiction in yourself

Dealing with an addiction means you stop wasting time and energy on self-deception and denial. Take a good, hard look at yourself and be perfectly honest. Are any of these statements true for you?

  • Your substance-seeking behavior is increasing, or your compulsion to do the problematic behavior is increasing.
  • Your main focus on living is getting and using the substance or doing the addictive behavior.
  • You’re losing touch with the priorities in your life, such as friends, work, school, and family responsibilities, because of your substance use or addictive behavior.

How to recognize addition in a loved one

If you suspect an addiction is happening in someone else look at this list of questions and see if the answer is yes or no. Does this person . . .

  • Turn up late for functions or dates?
  • No longer follow through consistently on commitments?
  • Have more trouble with illness than usual?
  • Have more problems at work than usual?
  • Seem to be withdrawing from intimate contacts, especially with you?
  • Have unexplained absences from or inconsistencies in their usual schedule?
  • Appear to have a new set of friends whom you don’t get to meet?
  • Have major financial fluctuations (for example, spending more or considerably less money than usual)?
  • Have lapses of concentration or memory?
  • Stay up later at night and sleep in more during the day?
  • Have more trouble than usual getting it together in the morning?
  • Seem surprisingly secretive about specific aspects of their life?

While this checklist cannot diagnose an addiction, the more “yes” answers, the more likely your loved one is suffering from an addiction.

Approaches to addiction treatment and recovery

Entering treatment for addiction entails finding the right method of treatment for you. Keep in mind that virtually all addiction recovery programs use one or more of these seven views on addiction:

  • Moral: People will and often do sacrifice anything to feed an addiction.
  • Disease: Addiction is a disease that causes unhealthy brain function.
  • Pharmacological: Addiction stems from chemical imbalances that some nonaddictive drugs can help with (for example, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and some psychedelic medications).
  • Cognitive-behavioral: Cognitive distortions drive addictions and can be replaced with “healthy thinking” and healthy satisfactions.
  • Learning: Different kinds and levels of learning cause addiction. Conditioning is important as it can be largely automatic and dominant, involving less or little or no thinking.
  • Psychodynamic: Difficulties in emotional regulation cause extremes like numbing and emotional flooding — addictive substances can then calm, sedate, excite, and sexualize unhealthfully.
  • Biopsychosocial: Physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction are addressed in combination treatments.

These views are structured into programs in residential treatment centers (for example, 28-day programs) or outpatient centers, guided by professionals or self-help trainers who apply evidence-based treatments.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Brian F. Shaw, PhD, Paul Ritvo, PhD, and Jane Irvine, DPhil, are all university professors with more than 20 years' experience in private consulting.

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