Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition that disturbs the brain of a person. When a person is doing things that are harmful and they are unable to control those certain habits it’s an addiction. Some examples of a habit that may turn into addiction are smoking, alcohol, and gambling addiction.

Chronic- It is long-term (unlike a cough or a cold)
Relapsing- It’s something that often comes back (like depression)
Brain disorder- It affects parts of the brain (People who are addicted to something and who are not their brain differs)

Addiction develops over time, as a person continues to use a substance and grows more dependent on it. Some drugs, like heroin and nicotine, may have more addictive qualities and people who use these drugs may often be at higher risk of dependence earlier on. Whereas people who abuse drugs with lower addictive qualities, like alcohol or marijuana, are less likely to depend on them. Even though a person makes the decision voluntarily to start getting involved with that activity, some involuntary factors also affect them.

To understand the cycle of addiction we need to break down addiction into three parts:

Binge , Withdrawal and Anticipation

The initial phase or the binge phase of addiction is when the user starts intoxication which activates the reward system of the brain in turn releasing and circulating dopamine in very high amounts which make the user feel “high” or get that initial boost of excitement. Repetitive intake of the substances to feel the “high” again is one step closer to addiction.

Now that the user has had mood boosts from using the chemicals (dopamine) released in our body by using intoxicating substances ,it makes the reward system harder to release dopamine while doing other activities in turn making us feel less happy or “high” while doing other activities. So, when the user stops using intoxicating substances it makes them feel depressed and low, leading them to lose interest in doing other activities. This inturn starts making them feel withdrawal symptoms– reduced energy, excitement, feeling depressed, anxious and restless.

Last phase of addiction is anticipation, when the person starts looking forward to getting the drug/substance voluntarily and involuntarily. They start desiring the drug and start obsessing and planning to get the drug.

Table of Contents

What are the absolute symptoms of addiction?

  • When a person loses interest in activities they used to love doing before starting an unhealthy obsession with a substance/ thing.
  • When it starts to override their normal judgement and willpower.
  • They start choosing the substance (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc) over their family, job, and their survival instincts.
  • Even if you ask them to stop, and even if they want to stop they still relapse and engage in that activity again and again.
  • They feel depressed when they are not engaging in that activity.
  • They have triggers and cravings. (environment, old memories, people, and smells can all be triggers that cause cravings)

Root causes : need to run away , low stress tolerance , parents, and more.

Difference between habits and addiction?

Habit is something people develop because of doing that particular activity every day for an extended period of time but these habits can be changed, even though it may take some time. Habits are reversible. Habits may be positive like saying “thank you” or going on a run every day or they may be negative like throwing trash out of your window. The major difference in habit and addiction is that habits don’t affect your well-being and ability to make decisions. Addiction is the overwhelming need or compulsion to finish the act regularly, regardless of the place or time, just to feel high. In short, while a habit can be controlled, an addiction is not something you can easily take control of.

How does addiction affect your brain?

Known as the reward circuit of the brain, mesolimbic dopamine pathway, is the part of the brain that is affected by addiction .This reward system and stress system are the two primary parts which are involved when it comes to addictions. The Reward system -provides pleasurable feelings in response to things that are good for you things like eating or engaging in sexual relations and the stress system responsible for helping you deal with dangers and threats. When these are activated together it creates an addicting cycle. With the release of dopamine and cortisol from each system respectively it will make you feel excited and “high’.

Types of Addictions:

  • Alcohol: This is arguably the most common among all addictions. It is a form of alcohol dependency, binge drinking or an unbreakable cycle.
  • Marijuana: This is a widely used illicit substance. Often associated with dependance, marijuana makes addicts get extreme withdrawal symptoms making them an addict user.
  • Food addiction: Hedonic eating behaviour involving the consumption of highly palatable foods in excessive quantities.
  • Pornography addiction: The compulsive need one gets to view porn despite the negative consequences is addiction of porn.
  • Gambling: Compulsive urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life is an addiction of gambling.
  • Cutting or Seeking pain: Non suicidal behaviors where people get this repetetive urge to self harm. People often claim they do this to “feel something”
  • Vaping or cigarettes: The nicotine and tobacco present in these substances get people addicted easily to the “high” they make them feel.
  • Shopping addiction: The feeling people get while shopping makes them addicted to it. Compulsive shopaholics also shop when they are in emotional distress.

Can addiction be cured?

The brain and addiction may be complex but it is possible to get the brain work back to how it used to normally with the help of therapy, counselling, medications, etc. While some people are able to recover from an addiction without help, many people will require support in the form of specialised addiction treatment. Generally, the earlier the person receives treatment, the more successful the recovery process will be.
The first step to cure is seeking help. Help from professionals will boost recovery and get you back on track.

“When we seek help, people are there to help. But you have to take the first step and ask for it’’

-Angie Ridings

How can therapy help with Addiction?

With a better understanding of the science behind addiction, mental health professionals will guide you along the way and provide a safe space to heal your trauma and addictions. When personal attention is given to you when you are seeking out help, it helps you manage both the physical and emotional consequences of addiction.

Where can you find a professional addiction counsellor?


  • Get a personalised plan for your emotional well-being. We bring you 24/7 mental healthcare support tailored to your personality.
  • A personalised plan made by accounting for your spiritual beliefs, lifestyle etc.
  • whether it’s connecting you to the right counsellor, recommending the type of therapy that could work well for you, or providing you with the most relevant content for guided self-discovery.