Why do we get addicted?

The way we use the word addiction has long been a subject of contention. Many talk of addiction in regards to drugs use, eating or gambling, though not all of these would be classified as an addiction if we used purely physiological addiction definitions. Recently, however, scientists and psychologists have put forward that addiction should also be used to describe psychological dependence as well.

Physiologically, addiction is defined as a chronic condition when an individual becomes biologically and physically dependent upon something, often causing a craving or compulsive behaviour through a chemical change inside the individual. The individual will continue to repeat the behaviour even if it is detrimental to their self. Psychologically, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion to perform a specific behaviour, again, even if this is detrimental.

While physiological addiction is easier to classify and diagnose due to obvious physical withdrawal symptoms if a substance is removed, psychological dependence is much harder to classify due to the fact individuals can be overly interested, even to near obsessive, about a behaviour, and miss it when removed, but not actually be fully addicted and experience physical withdrawal symptoms when the behaviour is stopped. Often the issues with individuals trying to lose an addiction, such as smokers, is the psychological dependence rather than the physical, in that a smoker will miss the physical smoking of the cigarette and associated behaviour or feelings more than the chemical nicotine rush.

For more answers to curious questions, make sure you pick up the latest copy of How It Works. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, make sure you subscribe today!

Plus, take a look at:

Can we get addicted to cheese?

Do some people have an addictive personality?

Can food make us happy?