Addictions can be divided into two general categories:
1. Substance addictions (such as those involving drugs and alcohol)
Substance addiction is usually characterized by withdrawal symptoms when the substance is suddenly discontinued. Physical addiction also means the body builds a tolerance to the substance, so that we need a larger and larger dose to get the same effect. Common withdrawal symptoms include shaking, diarrhea, and nausea. The speed at which we become addicted to various substances varies with the substance, the frequency of use, the means of ingestion, and our genetic and psychological susceptibility.
2. Behaviour addictions (such as eating disorders, sex, work, co-dependency, love addiction, and self-harm/mutilation)
Behavioural or Process addictions are patterns of behaviour that follow a cycle similar to that of substance addiction. To begin with, we experience pleasure in association with a behaviour, and then adopt that behaviour as a way of enhancing our experience of life, and later, as a way of coping with stress. The process of seeking out and engaging in the behaviour becomes more frequent and ritualized, until it becomes a significant part of our daily life. When addicted, we experience urges or cravings to engage in the behaviour despite consequences.
These addictions are real and result in problems in many areas of our life. The addiction has similar effects on relationships, which are often neglected in favor of the addictive behaviour, undermining trust and creating havoc in the lives of partners, family members, and friends. There is increasing evidence that addiction to these behaviours involves similar brain mechanisms to substance-based addictions, although more research is needed to confirm and clarify how this happens. Fortunately for those of us suffering from behavioural addictions, there are 12 Step programs and Fellowships that are effective in recovery.
Difference between habit and addiction
Many of us acquire the habit of using a substance or becoming engaged in an activity – and suffer no consequences. We can stop if we choose. What sets an addiction apart is that we continue with the substance or behaviour despite consequences that are predictable and increasingly serious.
Habit – it is done by choice. The person with the habit can choose to stop, and be able to do so using free will.
Addiction – there is a psychological and physical component. The person continues to abuse a substance or engage in a behaviour despite obvious and repeated harmful consequences because he or she has lost the power of choice and has developed the disease of addiction.