Understanding Psychological Addictions

Psychological addiction occurs over a period of time. Frequent exposure to drugs or alcohol on a consistent basis can lead to addiction which requires treatment. There are many other behaviors which fall into the category of addiction including eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual and shopping addictions and more.

Psychological Addiction

By definition, a psychological addiction is based on an inability to stop doing something which is harmful to self or others. An individual’s entire life revolves around the addiction to the point of being unable to stop without intervention. The brain perceives a need for the stimulus which drives a person to seek it out time and time again, without regard for risk or consequences. An addiction will become the center point of a person’s life with all else falling to the wayside.

Causes of Addiction

Certain personality traits may lend themselves more to addictive behaviors than others. This may include denial of obvious problems, difficulty with emotional or impulse regulation. Any underlying psychological condition does not lead to addiction in itself, however, certain people may be predisposed to take more risk and seek opportunities to engage in risky behavior than others that put them in situations where exposure to addictive behavior is a possibility. There are also social and environmental factors at play wherein an individual may grow up around behaviors which lend themselves to addiction or have family members who struggle with addiction. There are many factors but no one known cause for psychological addiction.


There are various forms of treatment available for psychological addictions. Some of them include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): helps people with addictions overcome them by providing tools to recognize and avoid destructive thought patterns and behaviors. A cognitive-behavioral therapist can, for example, teach a patient to recognize triggers in the environment which may cause craving for the undesirable behavior then learn to avoid or manage them more effectively
  • Motivational interviewing: a therapy technique which involves conversations structured so that people increase motivation to overcome the addiction by helping them to recognize how life looks now and how it might look in the future, free from addiction
  • Pharmaceutical treatments: depending on the nature of the addiction itself, there may be drugs which can provide relief from symptoms of the disorder and help the individual get back on track and focus efforts on recovery

Many tools, resources and treatments are available for individuals struggling with psychological addiction. It is important to be aware of the devastating consequences of being addicted to a behavior (gambling, bingeing/purging, sexual addiction, etc) and addiction to substances. All of these addictions require treatment to help recover, but they might all vary in how they look or what they provide. Each individual should research appropriate facilities and programs to find the best fit for overcoming addiction.