It’s challenging to face the reality that you or a loved one is dealing with the realities of addiction. Not only do these compulsive behaviors cause changes for the individual, but these issues cause cascading issues in every aspect of your life.
Addictive behaviors change your brain and take a toll on other major organs in the body. As brain patterns and overall health are affected, addiction can cause various types of damage: mentally, physically, relationally, and professionally.
As the addiction advances, you find it difficult to enjoy the things you previously loved. Eventually, these unhealthy patterns make it nearly impossible for a person to live a normal life. Either they are coping with strategies to hide their addiction, or the behaviors completely overtake the person’s ability to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities.
Types of Addiction
While many people think about just alcohol and drug addiction, addictive behaviors can span beyond these core issues. For example, in the mental health industry, addictions typically fall into these two categories:
- Chemical Addictions: The ongoing use of any substance that affects the chemical balances in the body. Common examples of chemical addictions include alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, marijuana, and tobacco.
- Behavioral Addictions: The second type of addiction is a type of compulsive behavior with repeated, persistent patterns. Examples include gambling, pornography, the internet, social media, sex, video games, shopping, and more.
Both chemical and behavioral addictions are problematic because they interfere with normal brain function. The addictive behavior lights up the reward system in the brain, which sends a positive reinforcement of a dopamine hit in the body. In addition, the brain connects the substance or behavior with pleasurable feelings, creating a pattern that leads you back to the same choices again in the future.
Progression of Addiction
In the beginning, a person can often cope with addictive behaviors and still maintain daily responsibilities. For example, an alcoholic might be able to get through the workday, then start drinking at the end of a shift.
When the brain wants to light up the pleasure center again, you experience cravings for that behavior or substance. Often, these cravings intensify in specific environments. You might find it more difficult to avoid alcohol when spending time with other people who are drinking.
Over time, the addiction progresses, and you build a tolerance. You find that you need more frequent use of the substance and higher quantities to get the same dopamine responses as past experiences. It can lead to a situation where the cravings are so intense that it interferes with a person’s ability to think about other things.
Domino Effect: How Addiction Affects All Areas of Life
Here are common areas of life that are affected when a person is engaging in addictive behavior:
Being under the influence of a substance can change your behaviors, often leading to problems with the law. Examples of legal issues include stealing, impaired driving, prostitution, assault, possession of an illegal substance, or distribution.
These criminal charges might seem like an immediate inconvenience. Then people discover that a criminal record results in long-term effects. For example, your history could impact your ability to get a job, maintain custody of a child, and minimize housing rental options in the future.
It’s hard to hold onto money when addiction is driving your behaviors. How much money are you spending every month because of these unhealthy patterns? Financial concerns often arise in these ways:
- Money spent on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or tobacco
- Attorney fees and court fines
- Loss of work because the addiction interferes with job performance
- Drug dealing or prostitution as a way to pay for your own habits
- Theft of money or personal items from friends and family to buy alcohol or drugs
- DUI accidents that increase monthly insurance premiums
How is the addiction affecting the relationships you share with family and friends? When behaviors change because of a moderate or severe addiction, it breaks down trust with the people you love. Often, these issues cause more arguments, broken promises, and even violence.
Friends and family want to offer support, but they are embarrassed by the things you are doing. Eventually, addiction causes you to lose relationships because your actions are hurting other people.
The ongoing use of alcohol and drugs takes an undeniable toll on the body. Not only are you often dealing with the symptoms of withdrawal or a hangover. But the chemicals damage your brain and other major organs in the body.
Common physical issues from addiction include:
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Heart attack
The physical effects depend on the type of substance, the severity of the addiction, and the length of use. Also, other health concerns can play a role. For example, if someone is suffering from chronic pain, prescription medications can provide pain relief. But it also leads to an ongoing addiction that causes other health issues.
Employment or School
Addictive behaviors often affect your performance at work and school. In the beginning, it starts as write-ups or disciplinary action because you aren’t meeting your responsibilities in the workplace. Some people with addictions lose their jobs due to performance or attendance issues.
If you are a student, then similar issues can affect your ability to keep up with schoolwork. Do you find that your grades have gone down because you aren’t consistent with homework and studying? When you are missing class and letting responsibilities slide, then becomes harder and harder to pass your classes.
These problems get worse if you show up to work or school when you are drunk or high. In many situations, these issues result in immediate dismissal or expulsion.
Solutions and Treatment
You don’t have to walk the journey alone. A therapist can help you break the immediate addictive behaviors and help you implement tools to maintain a sober lifestyle in the future. For more information about addiction recovery and treatment, talk to our team at Lifeworks Counseling Center.