Addiction may be defined as a pattern of behavior that’s persistent, the result of a psychological or physical dependency that disrupts a person’s quality of life. People become addicted to a wide variety of substances — in the realm of physical addiction, a person could be addicted to tobacco, narcotics, alcohol, sedatives and stimulants; in psychological addiction, the person might take ordinary drives, such as the need for food or sex, and take these behaviors to an extreme. Everyone knows someone with an addictive streak or an actual addiction, but how do these addictions come about? What causes addiction?
A medical definition suggests a neurobiological disorder that’s chronic, that may have genetic, environmental, or psychosocial effects. A person reaches the state of addiction when that person continues to use a substance despite its negative effects, creating the inability to control the drug’s use (defined as compulsive behavior) and to maintain a preoccupation with using the drug when there’s no medical need for it (in other words, a craving for the drug). Many drugs, such as narcotics like morphine, may create a physiological addiction to them in most people. The cause here is the substance themselves.
However, what about addiction to alcohol, or to items, which are purely psychological, such as pornography? Addictive behaviors may be genetic in nature; if alcoholism exists in a family, there’s a strong possibility that the children will later have to deal with the same issues. This might also be an environmental factor, though, a case of seeking solutions to problems in a similar manner to the way one’s parents handled the problem.
Some studies have suggested that what causes addiction is abuse at a young age, either emotional or physical, may propel people to develop addictive tendencies. In these cases, the addiction derives from a coping mechanism: the addiction is not about the substance being abused, but about a deeper issue psychologically that needs to be addressed. Emotional disorders, such as chronic depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, even post-traumatic stress disorder, will also increase the risk of addictive behavior and substance abuse as people who are undiagnosed attempt to self-medicate in an attempt to avoid the results of their main disorder.
Whether or not the addiction is caused by genetics, environment, emotional disorder, abuse or addictive substances, a person who suspects they’re in an addictive cycle should seek help and treatment.