Addictions have been described as a person engaging in a rewarding behaviour that eventually leads to harmful consequences. Addictions inhibit the development and continuation of normal healthy relationships. They may impact upon a person’s ability to socialise and also be a productive member of society. There are many different types of addiction: sex addiction, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, computer addiction, shopping addiction, exercise addiction, and gambling addiction. But substance and gambling additions are the only two that are currently recognised as official medical conditions that may need treatment. There are several factors that may influence a person becoming addicted; they are genetic, social and psychological.

How society views and understands addiction is an important indicator of how society will treat those suffering from an addiction. If an addiction is considered illegal then it will lead to those individuals being prosecuted. If it is seen as a deficiency of knowledge then the addicted with be educated. If it is treated as an illness then the individual will be offered medical assistance. There is a recognised path that leads to addiction which starts with experimentation and casual use, to abuse and dependence. Recovery from an addiction takes considerable time and a lot of effort and is often filled with false starts and failed attempts. The path that leads someone to becoming an addict is uniquely their own, but the path out is a common and well-travelled road. Recovery from addiction is possible but it begins with a person’s willingness to change their behaviour.

The assessment of people who may be suffering from addictions is complicated by their social status. It’s easy to recognise the street addict who steals to support their habit. Or easy to identify the homeless alcoholic who sleeps rough most nights. But what about the successful business man or woman who uses cocaine every day or drinks every night but never to excess? Or the person who goes away for regular week long binges but stays sober the rest of the time? Or the young person from a middle class family who plays computer games in preference to socialising with their friends and stays in their room alone? The social status of the individual will influence how we accept and treat their potential addictions.

The social culture may influence a person’s behaviour. If a person is in a culture where drinking is very acceptable, then drinking on a daily basis would be seen as unimportant. In comparison a person drinking regularly in a culture where drinking is unacceptable would experience a totally different response. This can also be true for those who smoke, or for those people who surround themselves with others who regularly use marijuana or other illegal drugs. The social culture we experience may support the addictions we develop. It is unlikely that those suffering from an extreme drug addiction will socialise with people who are not dependent on similar drugs.

Christopher Swane - Counselling And Psychotherapy For Men - Wellington New Zealand