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What Is Addiction? Definition, Signs, Treatment & More

Addiction is an inability to stop engaging in a behavior or using a substance even though it is causing physical and psychological harm.

April 4, 2023

What's The Definition Of Addiction?

Addiction is an inability to stop engaging in a behavior or using a substance even though it is causing physical and psychological harm.

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by compulsive behavior that is difficult to control, despite the negative consequences it may bring. Addiction can take many forms, including drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, and even addiction to technology and social media.

The Science of Addiction

Addiction is a brain disease that affects the reward system of the brain. When we engage in pleasurable activities, such as eating, drinking, or having sex, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which makes us feel good. This reinforces the behavior and encourages us to repeat it.

In addiction, the brain's reward system becomes hijacked, and the person becomes dependent on the substance or behavior to feel good. Over time, the brain becomes less sensitive to dopamine, and the person needs more of the substance or behavior to achieve the same level of pleasure.

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What Are The Types Of Addiction?

As previously mentioned, addiction can take many forms. Here are some of the most common types of addiction:

  1. Drug and alcohol addiction: This type of addiction involves the use of drugs or alcohol to achieve a certain feeling or high. Over time, the person may become dependent on the substance to function, leading to negative consequences such as health problems, financial difficulties, and relationship issues.
  2. Gambling addiction: This type of addiction involves compulsive behavior related to gambling activities. The person may feel an intense urge to gamble, even when it leads to negative consequences such as financial ruin and relationship breakdowns.
  3. Technology addiction: This type of addiction involves excessive use of technology and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The person may spend hours scrolling through their feeds or playing video games, leading to negative consequences such as decreased productivity and social isolation.

It's worth noting that while these are some of the most common types of addiction, there are many other forms that can be just as damaging and challenging to overcome.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary depending on the substance or behavior involved, but some common signs include:

  • Loss of control over the substance or behavior
  • Continued use despite negative consequences
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the substance or behavior is stopped
  • Tolerance, or needing more of the substance or behavior to achieve the same effect
  • Preoccupation with the substance or behavior
  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships

Treatment for Addiction

Addiction is a treatable condition, but it requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of the disease. Treatment may include:

  • Detoxification to safely manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Medications to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies to help the person change their thoughts and behaviors related to addiction
  • Support groups and peer counseling to provide social support and encouragement

Why Do People Get Addicted?

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of addiction. Some people may be more genetically predisposed to addiction, while others may develop addictive behaviors as a result of environmental and social factors. Here are some common reasons why people get addicted:

  • Trauma: Experiencing trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, can increase the risk of addiction later in life. Trauma can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can make a person more vulnerable to addictive behaviors.
  • Stress: High levels of stress can also increase the risk of addiction. Stressful life events such as job loss, divorce, or financial difficulties can trigger addictive behaviors as a way to cope with difficult emotions.
  • Peer pressure: Social influence is another factor that can contribute to addiction. Being around friends or family members who engage in addictive behaviors can normalize those behaviors and make them seem acceptable.
  • Mental health disorders: People with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate and alleviate symptoms.

It's worth noting that while these factors can increase the risk of addiction, not everyone who experiences them will become addicted. Addiction is a complex condition that involves multiple factors and varies from person to person.

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Where Can You Get Support for Addiction?

Many organizations can help, depending on the type of addiction. These include:


Addiction is a complex and challenging condition, but it is treatable with the right approach. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it's important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. With the right treatment and support, it's possible to overcome addiction and live a fulfilling life.

Dr. Elizabeth Drew
Medical Director

Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Drew graduated from Hahnemann University School of Medicine and completed her family practice residency at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown PA. In 2005, she opened her family medicine office in Doylestown, and in 2008 she treated her first patient for opiate addiction.

Since then Dr. Drew has attained her board certification in Addiction Medicine, treated more than a thousand patients for addiction to opiates and alcohol, participated in programs to educate the community, traveled to Washington DC to educate our legislators, and served as Medical Director at some of the best addiction treatment programs in Pennsylvania.

She understands that addiction is a chronic disease that no one would choose to have, and her treatment philosophy is based on respect, compassion, and empowerment. She is excited to be the Medical Director of MPower Wellness and work to provide superior addiction treatment in Chester County.

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