What Causes Addiction?

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There is much debate about the causes of addiction. Because there are two components to addiction, the physical addiction and the psychological addiction, it is likely that many factors create a risk for addiction. In the case of certain drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin, almost any individual who comes into contact will become addicted. Addictive behaviors such as shopping or eating, on the other hand, are used moderately by the majority of the population and only become addictions for some.

The following risk factors are involved in developing addictions:

Genetics: It is believed that addictions such as alcoholism may be inherited. Individuals from families with a history of alcoholism are more likely to develop the disease themselves. Also, individuals from families with a history of any kind of addiction are more likely to develop some other form of addiction. For example, someone from an alcoholic family may develop a problem with compulsive overeating or workaholism. While environmental factors can also have influence, individuals who have been removed from their alcoholic parents and raised by non-addicted individuals still show a higher risk for developing an addiction themselves.

Environment: Children raised by addicted parents are more likely to view substance abuse or certain behaviors as acceptable, making them more likely to engage in the addiction themselves. Individuals from countries where use of a certain substance or engagement in an addictive behavior are frowned upon or hard to obtain show a much lower incidence of addiction, pointing to possible environmental factors.

Abuse: Individuals who experienced sexual, psychological, emotional or physical abuse are more likely to become addicts. The addiction becomes a coping mechanism, helping the addict to deal with strong negative emotions surrounding the abuse, feelings of severe low self-esteem, and possible flashbacks.

Emotional Disorders: Emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipoloar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder often increase the risk of substance abuse and addictive behaviors, especially amongst those who are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Individuals often use drugs, alcohol, food, exercise, or work as a way to self-medicate and escape the symptoms of their primary disorder.

The Substance: Certain substances are more addictive than others, and risk of full-blown addiction is higher for drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine because of their ability to create dependence after relatively few uses.

Low Frustration Tolerance: One common factor found amongst addicts of all types is a low frustration tolerance. Addicts are highly susceptible to the negative effects of stress, often experiencing distress at a relatively low level of frustration. They become easily upset over everyday stress factors, creating a need for escape. They find this escape in their addiction.

 

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