What is an addiction | Addiction Therapy & Counselling

In this article I will explain what addiction is and the different types of addiction.

Just to reassure you: If you think you are addicted to something, according to research, at least 1 in 3 people are addicted to one thing or another so you are not on your own!

What is an addiction?

We all like to do things that make us feel happy such as shopping, maybe buying a lottery ticket, eating chocolate. Your brain releases “feel good” chemicals and hormones which encourage you to repeat the behaviour because it provides such a good ‘high’.

An addiction is the psychological and/or physical lack of control over what you are doing, using or taking. You will also find that it is beginning to be harmful to you and/or other people around you. 

However, if seeking out the ‘high’ has developed into a compulsive and uncontrollable desire to still do the activity despite the increasing negative and harmful problems it is causing you, then you are dealing with an addiction.


Do you have a problem with an addiction?

Ask yourself:

  • Are you concerned about your use?
  • Do you want to cut down but can’t?
  • Do you feel physically sick when cutting down or stop?
  • Do you have cravings to use?
  • Are other people worried about it?
  • Do you feel that it is the most important thing in your life?
  • Do you feel angry when others criticise your use?
  • Do you feel guilty about your use?
  • Have you ever had to have an ‘eye opener’ (this applies to alcohol)?
  • Do you feel better when using?
  • You are preoccupied with your addiction i.e. thinking about how you are going to get it, ways of getting money
  • You’ve tried unsuccessfully yourself to control, cutback or stop
  • You feel restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop
  • Your addiction helps you to escape problems or helps you to forget how you are feeling
  • You lie to family members or friends to conceal how much you doing

Stages of Addiction

There are different stages of addictions. During the early stages you may find that you can function quite well. You still have your job, your relationships and your health is ok. Here there are aspects of your life that your addiction is starting to affect.

This is the most common type of addiction and ou don’t have to suffer major losses to have an addiction.

The late stage of addiction is where you might find that everything about your life is functioning around your addiction. You may have lost your job, most of your relationships. You would be using daily. This is what most people think addiction is like but this stereotype is rare.

The unfortunate thing about addiction is that left on it’s own, it gets worse over time.

Different types of addictions

Here are SOME of the different types of addictions. The total amount available is massive! It is more about the effect that is important.

Behavioural Addictions

  • Anger
  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Work
  • Food (eating)
  • Sex
  • Pornography (attaining, viewing)
  • Using computers / the internet
  • Playing video games
  • Exercising
  • Self-harming
  • Shopping

Different types of Substance addiction

This list is no way comprehensive and just gives an idea of the type of substances you can be addicted to. It is more important to have an understanding of what they do and what they give you.

Most substances fall into one of three categories. They are either a Stimulant, Depressant or Hallucinogenic


  • Increase the activity of brain and body – energy, alertness, attention.
  • Often used to treat ADHD.
  • You would end up feeling or looking very happy, wide awake, confident.
  • It can also make your heart beat faster, loose your appetite, make you paranoid and anxious.


Depressants are basically as it sounds.

  • They attempt to do the opposite of stimulants by depressing the activity of the brain and body. 
  • Decreasing your feelings and emotions. 
  • You would end up feeling or looking relaxed, drowsy or sleepy.
  • It can also depress your inhibitions so you can behave in ways you would not normally.



  • according to Wikipedia ordinarily “causes hallucinations, perceptual anomalies, and other substantial subjective changes in thought, emotion, and consciousness”
  • You would end up having visual (see things), auditory (hear things) and tactile (feel things) hallucinations.


Legally available

Either through retail or medical professions:

  • Alcohol – Depressant
  • Nicotine – Stimulant
  • Caffeine (Stimulants) – Energy drinks, coffee Stimulant
  • Benzodiazepine (Depressant) alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR), clobazam (Onfi), clonazepam, (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam
  • Opiate based pain killers (Depressants)- Codeine, Tramadol, Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis), Hydrocodone (Hysingla, Zohydro ER), Meperidine (Demerol), Methadone, Some cough syrups
  • Other ones include Dextroamphetamine (stimulant) and Pregabalin (Depressant)
  • Some Hallucinagenics such as Ayahuasca are legal in some countries.


Illegal substances

By illegal it means that it is a criminal offence if you have them.

  • For Benzodiazepine and opiate based pain killers, you would have had to have had them prescribed to you from your own GP otherwise they would be classed as an illegal substance. Some substances are both stimulants and Hallucinogens
  • Opiates (Depressants) Heroin, Opiate based pain killers
  • Stimulants – Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Crystal Meths, Amphetamine, Speed, Khat, MDMA
  • Hallucinogen: LSD, magic mushrooms, Crystal Meths, Ecstasy, MDMA
  • Glues, gases and aerosols, petrol
  • Anabolic Steroids (Stimulants)
  • Cannabis (depressants) including Synthetic cannabinoids such as Black Mamba

All addictions, believe it or not can cause both physical health and psychological problems. 

Psychologically, you can start to experience depression, panic attacks, sleeping problems obsessive-compulsive traits, deteriorating relationships, poor work performance and escalating financial problems caused by your increasing fixation with the activity. 


Physically, the consequences vary depending on the type of addiction but most substance addictions you can experience some sort of physical symptoms when you try to stop without medical assistance. 


You may need medical assistance when trying to stop drinking alcohol or if you are abusing benzodiazepines or opiates. 

In particular with alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms can be mild to life threatening. You can actually die depending on how physically dependent you are on alcohol, if you were to stop suddenly. So I would strongly advice you to seek medical advice either from your GP or your local Drug and Alcohol Treatment service.


I am personally not interested in being an expert in the mechanics of the different types of drugs but I do a great understanding of them.

What is more important to me is why they addiction? What is the root cause of the addiction? My desire is to help you to recover and not find that you are so dependent on them and not to continue that endless cycle of relapsing.

If that is what you are interested and need some support in, feel free to contact me for a Free 15 minute consultation. 

I am a Therapist based in Sutton Coldfield, UK also available online.

Call for a free 15 minute no obligation consultation to talk about your next steps.

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