An addiction is a strong, uncontrollable need to do, take or use something to the point that it may be harmful. Common addictions are to alcohol or drugs but it is possible to become addicted to anything, for example gambling, chocolate, shopping, pornography, computer games, prescribed medication, relationships, sex.
Whatever the addiction may be, you cannot control how you use it, and you become dependent on it to get through daily life. This can can lead to problems at home, work and school.
There’s no single reason why addictions develop. The activity may start off being something positive and pleasurable but then become a dependency with strong feelings associated with it and an intense need to repeat it.
You’re more at risk of developing an addiction if:
- other members of your family have addiction problems
- you experienced stress or abuse while growing up
- you have mental health problems
Many people regularly use addictive substances or engage in potentially addictive activities, such as gambling or sex, without having any problems. However, in some people it can cause damaging physical and psychological effects, as their behaviour becomes more frequent and intense and turns into an addiction.
Unemployment and poverty can trigger addictions, as can stress and work or emotional pressures. Indulging in the addiction can be a short-term way of dealing with and forgetting about difficult issues.