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We offer specialist Therapy and Counselling Service throughout the UK and beyond.  

Addiction presents in two different forms:

  • Psychological addiction can be identified when the addicted person exhibits psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, irritability/anger, mood swings, obsessive thinking or impaired judgement when he or she is unable to access the addictive substance or engage in the addictive behaviour.
  • Physical addiction occurs when the body is addicted to the use of drugs, alcohol, medications, glue or any other chemical substance.

Physical addiction is generally recognised when an addicted person exhibits physical symptoms, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, thinking ability, physical cravings and agitation when they can no longer access the addictive substance.

A person may be physically addicted, psychologically addicted, or both.  This is why some individuals seem to have no physical difficulty quitting smoking or going “cold turkey” from drugs or alcohol.  In these cases, their addiction is primarily psychological.  Other people may require medical interventions to “come down” or “detox” because they may have life-threatening physical reactions to abruptly halting their substance intake.

Addiction therapy or addiction counselling is focused on treating psychological addiction.  A person may be actively engaging in addictive behaviour when they start therapy, or they may be trying to “stay clean”.  Addiction may present as substance abuse (alcohol or drug), or as an impulse control issue such as theft or gambling, or as a process or behaviour pattern like over-exercising.

Why start addictions counselling?

People begin addictions counselling for many reasons.  These may include:

  • Social stigma
  • “Hitting bottom”
  • Desire for change
  • Feeling out of control
  • Loss of access to children
  • Health issues/fear of dying
  • Required by court or employer
  • Repeatedly letting others down
  • Lack of personal or career success
  • Tired of hiding/lying/manipulating
  • Risk of job loss
  • Unmanageability
  • Failing a drug test
  • Feeling low self-worth
  • Social isolation/ostracised
  • Chronic financial problems
  • Ultimatums by friends or family
  • Emotional/psychological distress
  • Becoming like an addicted parent
  • Loss of friends and other relationships

When does an activity or behaviour become an addiction?

An activity or behaviour becomes a psychological addiction when you become dependent on it, and use it to avoid or ‘deal with’ another activity, emotion, or thought.

For example, some people drink to feel more confident in social situations. Others may smoke to ‘fit in’ with a group of smokers they like to spend time with.  Others use drugs to forget pain of past events temporarily.  People may overeat to suppress emotional pain, engage in sex to reduce loneliness, or set strict work guidelines and goals to overcome a sense of powerlessness.

As with physical addiction, once you stop or slow the addictive behaviour, psychological withdrawal symptoms may begin.  Typically, this involves a sharp escalation of emotional distress, or thinking about whatever the addictive behaviour was being used to obscure.  For some people, psychological addiction may be more than, or equal to, or harder to overcome than physical dependence.  It is not unusual for a person to substitute one addiction for another when the initial habit becomes untenable (e.g. overeating because there is no alcohol in a ‘dry camp’, or over-exercising to quit smoking).

Physically, an activity or behaviour becomes an addiction when you need to increase the amount of the substance or activity to gain the same effect.  The need for more of the substance to have the same effect is called tolerance.

Often when you have developed a tolerance for something, the body is also dependent on it.  If you stop taking substance, the body may go into a physiological crisis, called withdrawal.  Withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and are often the reason people find it hard to “kick the habit”.  In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can become so severe they may be life-threatening without medical supervision.  Therefore, individuals who decide to treat a physical addiction are encouraged to do so under a physician’s care, and in certain situations, are encouraged to do so in a hospital setting should urgent medical intervention be necessary.

Who is at risk for addiction?

While anyone may become addicted to a behaviour, substance or impulse, certain factors have proven to increase the likelihood of addiction:

  • Low self-esteem
  • History of being abused/neglected
  • Lack of healthy social support systems
  • Experiencing single or multiple event trauma
  • History of chronic or overwhelming stress
  • Unstable childhood
  • Prior history of addictions
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Other family members with addictions
  • Unmanageable losses (e.g. friends, family, career, etc.)
  • Tendency to impulsivity (and conditions such as ADHD)
  • Regular contact with peers who are living with addictions
  • Mental health issue (e.g. depression, anxiety, personality and mood disorders, etc.)
  • An environment that supports or normalises addictive behaviour (e.g. going out drinking with the team every Friday evening or pub-hopping on weekends)

What are the signs of addiction?

Most people do not recognise the signs of addiction unless they have prior experience with addiction or people who have addictions. 

It is much easier to notice the symptoms “after the fact”, as many addicts become experts at hiding or minimising their dependence. 

Even when directly asked, an addict may deny he or she has an issue, either because they fear recrimination, or possibly because they do not see that they have a problem. 

A common defence for an addict is “I don’t have a problem, but you do (or are the problem)”. 

Even when an addict seems to blame everyone else but themselves for the problems associated with addiction, they may still refuse to acknowledge that they might be a part of the problem.

Common signs of addiction

These may include:

  • Always thinking, talking and planning about the addiction
  • Repeatedly engaging in the addiction even though it causes harm to themselves or others
  • Trying to convince others to join in the addiction
  • Hiding/denying addictive behaviours
  • Unable to limit or stop addictive actions (out of control)
  • Denial (blaming, minimizing, avoiding the subject or getting aggressive)
  • Blaming others for chronic problems
  • Financial stress
  • Grandiose, unrealistic talk to mask low self-worth

What happens in addiction counselling?

In the first session, the therapist will discuss confidentiality issues with you.  If you are attending therapy on your own accord, this is a straightforward process.

After that, the therapist will work with you to identify your addictive behaviours, the causes of those behaviours, and develop a treatment plan.  Sometimes the addictive behaviour is easy to identify – there are primary addictions (often the reason you came to counselling).  Then there may be subtle addictions that are not as noticeable but will still cause problems if left untreated.

Determining the cause of addictions is a significant element of treatment.  Identifying and resolving the root cause of the habit increases the chance of stopping the addiction and preventing a relapse. Our therapists will use a variety of therapeutic methods to suit your individual needs.

What Next?

Please call us to discuss Addiction Therapy and Counselling or any of our other services as each needs to be carefully tailored to the meet your individual needs for optimum delivery of therapy.