There are many types of addiction: gambling; sexual, including pornography; internet/gaming; food, and substance misuse, including drugs, alcohol; and eating disorders such as compulsive eating.

The origins of addiction

Addiction can happen to anyone. It involves both physical and mental processes and it’s hard to know where the boundaries are between them. No one starts an activity or behaviour thinking “I will become an addict”. It is a complex interaction between brain, body, learning and behaviour. At the beginning, usually an addicted behaviour supplies a need or functions to solve what feels like a problem (it feels good, helpful, relieving or fun!).

But it may also feel very difficult for you to express yourself. Feelings and emotions experienced as difficult (such as loneliness, anger, anxiety/stress, fear or boredom) may lead to actions designed to make yourself feel better. It feels like a choice, with yourself in control.

Along the way a ‘switch’ may get flipped. There may be more negatives than positive consequences now from the addictive behaviour. It may feel like the balance has been thrown off and feels like less of a choice now. Instead of you controlling your unwanted and intrusive thoughts, feelings and emotions through the previously helpful behaviour, it may feel like the activity or substance now controls you.

The addictive cycle

A destructive cycle involving both your psychological and physical being is created, leading to further difficult and stressful feelings. You (or others) may experience yourself as being different than before and things may start to feel overwhelming. You may be confused, feel powerless and out of control, ashamed, angry or guilty, and feelings of anxiety and/or depression may deepen. Your social interactions may become more difficult.

Different and “avoidant” behaviours may develop to sustain the addiction, like hiding your actions, lying to significant others, denying there is a problem, excluding previously enjoyed activities, reduced physical care of yourself affecting hygiene, eating or sleeping, and using distortions in thinking (like “I can’t have a problem if I can still go to work, can I?”).

It may profoundly impact all aspects of your life: your work, relationships, home life, physical health and well-being, legal status and/or finances. Thus, a coordinated and holistic response can be the most helpful and offer best outcomes to help you manage!

What can you do?

Be honest – the first step is recognising and acknowledging your responsibility for yourself, that there is a problem that requires help and support.

Think about what change could mean for you. Healthful changes are sustained through personal motivation. What are your reasons for getting help? Are they your reasons or someone else’s? How could your life be better (if you had help and support)? Try to observe your answers to “What do I need?” without judging yourself. Asking where am I now and where do I want to go may be useful. The best outcomes occur when you are seeking help for you (not because someone told you to).

Challenge unhelpful thoughts or beliefs, such as your having to do this alone!

Take action – one step at a time! Decide what you need and are comfortable with for your own support right now. Just decide where you will start…there are many different forms of social and community support available: your GP and practice nurses; psychosocial education and mental health services from specialist government and charitable bodies; self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous; tools such as the internet; embodied physical practices like yoga and Tai Chi, meditation, mindfulness practices, relaxation,and visualisation; and of course talking therapies.

Make contact – you do not have to solve all your problems at once. Just get in touch.We can help, with no moral judgements made!


Our therapists have a range of skills and specialities – please read each of our profiles to find out more.