Types and Signs of Addiction

‘Addiction’ can mean many things to many people, but in general it refers to repeatedly using a substance (such as drugs) or engaging in an activity (such as gambling) for pleasure, even though doing so causes harm or interferes with everyday life.

This can help if:

  • you want to know what ‘addiction’ means

  • you want to know the signs of addiction

  • you think that you or someone you know might have an addiction.





Types of addiction


Addiction is basically a compulsion to use a certain substance or to behave in a certain way in order to feel good (or sometimes to stop feeling really bad). Addiction falls into two main categories: physical and psychological.

Physical addiction


This is when your body becomes dependent on a particular substance. It also often means that you’ve developed a tolerance for the substance, so you have to take more of it to continue to feel the effects. If you have a physical addiction, you’ll experience strong symptoms of withdrawal when you try to give it up.


Examples of physical addiction are drug and alcohol dependence, including cigarettes and prescription painkillers.

Psychological addiction


This is when your craving for a substance or a behaviour comes from an emotional or psychological desire, rather than from a physical dependence. Your brain is so powerful that it can produce physical symptoms like those of withdrawal, including cravings, irritability and insomnia.


Examples of psychological addictions include gambling, gaming, exercise, internet, shopping, sex and overeating.

Signs of addiction


A number of generic signs may indicate that you’re addicted to a substance or behaviour.

  • You need to use more of a substance, or to do an activity more often, to get the same effect.

  • You’ve become reliant on a substance or activity as a way to forget your problems or to relax.

  • You’re withdrawing from family and friends.

  • It’s causing you problems with school or work.

  • You’re stealing or selling stuff in order to keep doing it (such as drugs or gambling)

  • You’ve been unsuccessful in trying to quit.

  • You feel anxious, angry or depressed


Additional information


Chocolate and sugary foods are fine as an occasional treat, but only in small quantities.


Dark chocolate, which contains a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate, has a greater ratio of rewarding chemicals compared to fats so is a better alternative and will still give you that kick.


If you do decide to indulge in a little chocolate or sugary treat, make sure you pay attention to what you’re eating.


Eat slowly and mindfully, concentrating on each mouthful.

Savouring the chocolate will prolong the experience, and your brain will enjoy the rewards.


By taking control of the experience you will be putting yourself – and not temptation – in the driver’s seat.


Lisa Sproule


Read our blog 4 Tips for Resisting Those Sugary Foods

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