Addictions can come in many forms. While alcohol and street drugs are the most common substances that people abuse, people can also become addicted to prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Behaviors totally unrelated to drugs and alcohol such as gambling, shopping, and eating can also become sources of addiction. Even spending time on the Internet can become an addiction.
With addictions, what started as a choice is no longer optional. Behaviors that started as infrequent or occasional can become compulsive and used as ways of coping with stress. Then they become the only way to deal with stress. Later they become sources of stress as people use them to try to get rid of the stress. People become trapped in vicious cycles where the thing that is used to cope with problems is itself causing more problems.
The first step in therapy is to determine if a particular behavior really is a problem. Some people can drink and it is not a problem; others can’t. For whatever reason, it becomes a problem. Maybe you don’t think it is a problem but others around you do. If together we decide that it is a problem, the next step is to look at the addiction from two angles. One is behavioral; we want to know what behaviors need to change. This can be anything from limiting access to the addiction to learning new coping skills. The other is to look at what is motivating the need for the addiction; what need is being fulfilled and what healthier alternatives can be substituted to meet those needs. Therapy will focus both on implementing change and then finding ways to continue those new behaviors. Changing addictive behavior is hard work; there is no quick fix or easy way around it but the results are worth all the hard work.
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