Addiction is when you become overly dependent on something you do, take or use and you struggle to control it anymore. It’s gone from something you enjoy to something that’s harmful to you.

You can be addicted to substances – such as drugs, alcohol or nicotine – or processes or behaviours – such as gambling, shopping, sex or pornography.

Therapy can help you address the causes of your addiction to help you stop your addictive behaviour.

Our member Andrew Harvey, an addiction counsellor, says: “Addiction can touch all aspects of people’s lives – their health and wellbeing, their work, their relationships - and affect them socially.

“When your reliance on a substance or type of behaviour causes you more pain than enjoyment, more issues than relief, then it becomes a problem,” he adds.

Some people may have an image in their head of what they think an addict is – for instance they may think they know how to spot a heroin addict.

But Andrew says there’s no such thing as a ‘stereotypical addict’. People struggling with addictions can still be very successful in their lives and work. Their addiction can often be hidden.

The work an addiction therapist does with their client will include how they might cope with stigma and denial.

What causes addictions?

“Understanding the causes of addiction, and addressing these, is an important part of most people’s recovery,” says Andrew. “It’s not one size fits all - the cause can be multi-faceted.”

For many people there is an underlying issue that has led them to addiction. This could be an experience of trauma or negative changes in their life.

“Often people are using whatever they’re addicted to as a kind of ‘medication’ to help them self-soothe – but then the medication becomes a poison,” he adds.

The chemicals within drugs, alcohol and nicotine can positively affect the way people feel so that they want to use them again.

Gambling can affect the chemicals in the brain so that people have a mental high after winning and want to maintain that high by continuing to gamble.

How can addiction counselling help?

Having addiction therapy can help you understand the past that has brought you to this addiction, and how you are behaving and responding to it in the present, to help you to move away from addiction in the future.

Andrew says: “A therapist helps a person understand their journey to addiction. Nobody chooses to become addicted to anything.

“It’s not always clear to the person struggling with addiction what the cause is. A therapist can help them explore that.

“If the cause is not addressed, the person often still has the pain that could drive them back into addiction.”

He adds that talking to a therapist means you can discuss your addiction and its causes without being judged. You’ll also work with your therapist on ways to change or stop your addictive behaviour.

Andrew adds: “You’ll be helped to find a road away from addiction.

“Your therapist will help you to realise what you can do to move forward in your life.”

If you have any comments or would like to share your story, please email us at engage@bacp.co.uk