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How We Understand Addiction

6th January 2017

Dirk Hansen thinks through our current and evolving understanding of addiction and the complexities this brings to light for problem gamblers.

Our understanding of addiction continues to evolve. As we learn more about human behaviour and more about the brain, we see a broadening of the definition of ‘addiction’ and a widening of our perspective on the focus or source of addictive behaviour.

More traditional conceptions, which included labels such as ‘alcoholic’ or ‘drug addict’, are slowly fading away and being replaced with more varied terminology such as misuse, dependency, compulsion and disorder, amongst others.

However, even though the terminology and descriptions are changing, the classic understanding of the symptoms underpinning these categories stay largely the same.

These symptoms, with descriptions such as continuing a behaviour to the extent that it results in ‘a failure to fulfil major obligations at work, home, or school’, or, ‘repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut down or stop the behaviour’, will probably sound familiar.

For those who are deep in the throes of addiction, there is very little nuance in the experience. In fact, most often all that is apparent is the overwhelming urge to participate in the addictive act, despite the consequences.

Addiction can lead to real devastation. Yet understanding what is behind these destructive behaviours and this lack of control is still a mystery for the most part. It can be easy to over-simplify, to narrow everything down to one thing; but in reality, there is no one thing that explains addiction.

A full blown addiction contains an intricate web of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, distortions and family history, as well as biological and psychological processes. There will more than likely be a combination of factors which bring about addictive behaviour. Those who treat addictions successfully are mindful of this, and take each individual’s unique needs into consideration.

The path to recovery is different for everyone, but it can be reached. Help and support are available and accessible, including GamCare counselling. The process is not to be taken lightly, and struggles may persist. GamCare meets each of our clients with understanding and support, wherever they are in their journey. Read more >>