What is an addiction?

An addiction is characterised by the persistent and compulsive urge to use a substance or engage in a particular activity despite it having harmful consequences. This repeated behaviour creates a dependency and becomes a habit which is out of the individuals control as they feel unable to stop. This deeply affects their lives and those who love them. 

What are the most common addictions?

  • Food
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine (Cigarettes, Vaping devices)
  • Drugs (Stimulants, Opioids)
  • Gambling
  • Shopping

Understanding Addiction

How it begins:

When we do something that gives us pleasure, it activates or brains reward centre. It will then remember it and encourage us to repeat the behaviour. 

So, why do some of us become addicted to something when others don’t?

The following are examples of how addiction can manifest:

  • Trauma and Anxiety

If someone experienced a trauma and as a result suffer from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, they will seek a distraction to suppress those flashbacks, triggers and symptoms of panic. For Example, Alcohol may seem to alleviate these symptoms, however it is only on a temporary basis and the individual is likely to repeat the behaviour when those negative feelings are triggered.

  • Confidence 

If someone lacks self-esteem, they may take a substance which creates a temporary sense of confidence, allowing them to interact with others and appear comfortable. However, this too is temporary and the individual may become dependent on that substance as they feel unable to interact without it.

  • Depression 

Someone suffering from depression may find comfort in food which can lead to overeating. This may create an addiction to a variation of foods in general or one particular food item. The consequences of food addiction is a likelihood of weight gain and health issues which can exacerbate the depression and the dependence on food.

  • Observation & Peer Pressure 

If, when we were younger, we observed people indulging in a behaviour (drinking alcohol, smoking, drug use or other) and they appeared to be happy and elated, we may then code it as positive and were likely or perhaps even pressured to try it ourselves at an unsuitable age where we were too young to understand the consequences of the behaviour. 


Therefore, an addiction is a symptom and it can develop from anything we use as a form of self-medication to act as a band-aid to mask that emotional wound from the past.

Taking anything or doing something to excess can be harmful to your health and wellbeing. The consequences of suffering from an addiction can be:

  • Physical Health conditions (applicable to Alcohol, drugs,food etc)
  • Mental Health disorders
  • No interest in things you previously enjoyed
  • Losing employment
  • Distance from friends/family members
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Getting into debt to support the addiction

Overcoming Addiction

The great news is that addiction of any kind can be overcome. Addiction is a form of self-medication, and the key is to understand what your brain’s positive intent in having this addiction is.

In order to overcome any addiction, the first step is to acknowledge that there is an issue and go and see your Doctor. They will point you in the direction of further help and support which may include therapy and perhaps support groups etc. You can also contact us for more details on how we can help.

The recovery process involves gaining an understanding of how and why the addiction developed and dealing with the trauma it originated from. Once you address the trauma(s), it will lower the need to self-medicate and with regular support, help you overcome your addiction.

In many cases without support, people may stop engaging in the behaviour they were addicted to and simply replace it with a different harmful behaviour, becoming addicted to that also. This indicates the emotional pain still exists but the behaviour has just been transferred to something else.

A very important thing to remember is that there is no shame or embarrassment in asking for help with an addiction. Nobody is immune from developing an addiction at any time in their lives and when you do get help you have every chance of living the happy life you deserve.

Coping with and supporting a loved one's addiction

If someone you love, whether it’s a parent, relative or friend,  is currently living with an addiction, it can be challenging, however here are some facts and tips which you may find helpful.

  • If your loved one is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s normal to dislike or even feel hatred and shame towards them and then feel guilt when they’re sober again. These are all normal feelings and you shouldn’t think negatively of yourself for experiencing them.
  • The person didn’t become an addict to upset you or because they view you negatively in any way. They engage in the behaviour because of emotional pain and they are trying to suppress it.
  • If you are frustrated that the person is not currently accepting help and you are feeling drained, take some time to practise self-care and be mindful of your own wellbeing. This will equip you to cope with the challenges you face with that person.
  • Consider that it all started with good intention. They started the behaviour in order to try and feel better from what they were struggling with. It wasn’t their intention to become addicted to something.
  • Talk to others in the same position as you via support groups and helplines that are now widely accessible. Confiding in those who are going through the same thing will allow you to see that you’re not alone.

Even though you may be worried about that person, remember that their circumstances are not your responsibility. You can only offer support but ultimately they will only benefit if they reach out and accept the help they are being offered.

If you are the person struggling with addiction and you are frustrated by the persistent concerns of those who love you, remember that anything that they say/do is with good intention and because they care deeply about your wellbeing. If you feel like they don’t fully understand what you are struggling with, consider that you may not know the worry they face each day.  It helps to communicate through having a calm discussion or consider mediation/counselling to develop an understanding what each of you are going through.

Living with an addiction can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome an addiction if given the right help and support. Read more…


Read Maria’s Story here…