WHAT IS AN ADDICTION?
When a person takes a drug (e.g., alcohol or drugs) or engages in a pleasurable activity (e.g., eating, gambling, sex) where repeated involvement in the drug or activity becomes compulsive and affects the person's normal functioning, we're talking about addiction. People with addiction sometimes do not know that their behavior is out of control. They often do not notice that it causes problems in their lives.
Thanks to science, the outlook on addiction has changed dramatically. We now know that addiction is a disorder that affects both the brain and behavior.
WHAT CAUSES AN ADDICTION?
Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain in three different ways:
- Craving for the object of addiction.
- Loss of control over use of the object.
- Persistent engagement despite negative consequences.
For many years, experts believed that only alcohol and drugs could lead to addiction. Technology now shows that activities that bring pleasure can also lead to addiction, for example eating, gambling and sex.
Research on the condition is still ongoing, but a combination of medication and pseudo-therapeutic treatment (to see a psychologist) can greatly alleviate the symptoms and improve the person's quality of life.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON ADDICTION TREATMENT
- Why is treatment needed for addiction?
Without proper treatment, the symptoms of addiction can gradually worsen. Addiction can in this respect be associated with other diseases, e.g. diabetes, be compared. Both require ongoing pharmacological treatment (medication) and monitoring by a professional, and the results are generally much better if the person is regularly receiving psychotherapy from a psychologist. Professional treatment is extremely important for anyone who has been diagnosed with an addiction because there is a strong chemical underpinning of symptoms and it is difficult to keep the symptoms under control (that is, escalate) without medication and / or psychotherapy.
- Who can diagnose me or a loved one?
All psychological diagnoses are complex; therefore, we recommend that you be tested and diagnosed only by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. They are trained to treat various addictions.
- What role does psychologist play in my treatment?
A clinical psychologist can diagnose and treat any psychological condition. This means he or she can help you understand what your diagnosis is, how to live with it, and how to apply a strategy that can lead to behavioral change. A psychologist in South Africa may not prescribe medication and usually works with a psychiatrist in a team.
- What is the difference between a GP, clinical psychologist and psychiatrist?
- Family doctor: A GP has been studying medically for seven years. Because they do not specialize in psychiatry (such as a psychiatrist), they have only limited exposure to the training necessary to diagnose and treat people with psychological / psychiatric conditions. Your family doctor may prescribe medication, but is also ethically required to refer a patient to a specialist if needed.
- Clinical psychologist: A clinical psychologist is studying human behavior and psychotherapy, and must have at least a master's degree (six years +) in South Africa, with an internship and research that must be completed in order to register. It is the person who will help you understand and live with your psychological diagnosis (such as post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist also studied medically for seven years, but specializes in psychiatry, namely the chemical treatment of disorders related to human behavior. So a psychiatrist is the doctor who can diagnose you and prescribe the right medication for your psychological condition. The reference to "psychological states" or "psychiatric states" is exactly the same.
- Is there a specific type of psychologist I need to see?
In South Africa, there are currently five different categories or specialist areas within which all psychologists must register:
- Clinical psychologist
- Counseling Psychology
- Educational Psychology
- Industrial Psychology
- Research Psychology
The different categories indicate the specialist areas within which psychologists must adhere to strict regulations and comply with ethical and legal requirements. Only one clinical psychologist can make a clinical diagnosis according to the HPCSA.
ADVICE FOR LOVERS AND FAMILY MEMBERS LIVING WITH ANYONE OR WORKING DIAGNOSED WITH ADDICTION
If a loved one is diagnosed with addiction, your support and motivation can play a very important role in accepting and managing their diagnosis. Here are guidelines on how to assist an individual:
- Be patient. People who are under the onslaught of an addiction do not always have the ability to say how they feel or what they are experiencing. Give them a chance to get used to the diagnosis first, and gradually work out an actual plan to manage their lives in the future.
- Be informed about addiction. The more you and your loved one, family member or colleague know about the disease, the more you can work together on a plan to support the person and manage the disease.
- Ask what your loved one expects of you. One can easily think you know what is best for another person, but the easiest is to ask how he or she wants you to act.
- Listen to him or her and do not constantly give advice or try to reason with logic. It is important that the person takes responsibility for the addiction and the effect it will have on his or her life. When someone makes choices on behalf of someone else, it may cause the person to become dependent on you and then not want to fight the addiction yourself. It is not your addiction, but your loved one's. Listening is a wonderful way to support your loved one.
- Get to know the signs and symptoms so you can act early. Everyone's symptoms of addiction do not manifest in the same way, so it is very important to understand how the person manifests in your life's symptoms. For example, when your loved one's mood suddenly changes, you can start taking measures as long as possible.
- Participate in physical activities with the individual. It is not a cliché that regular exercise helps people with psychological diagnoses. Exercise relieves tension and anxiety, and aids in the production of low-mood transmitters. So regular exercise is actually a successful antidepressant.
- Encourage a healthy eating and sleeping pattern. An established routine not only helps the person manage their addiction, but also helps to see signs / symptoms early.
- Take a good look at yourself! Remember, a person with an addiction can also negatively impact you by involving you in their addiction. Living with a person treated for addiction can feel frustrating, exhausting and sometimes chaotic. Make time for yourself too.