By Istvan Liptak

After all these years, addiction is still taken lightly by the general public.

We are not even surprised by it. Just as we don’t call the cops when we hear someone say “I would kill for a cold beer”, we don’t send our friends to a support group or a psychiatrist when we hear them say “I’m addicted to chocolate or DIY or The Office.

In the past, addiction was associated with alcohol, drugs or sex. Sufferers needed detoxication, treatment, and professional help.

Today, in turn, we have many otehr addictive hobbies around us. Sometimes it might be difficult to distinguish between good work morale and a mental condition that needs treatment.

Trading high-risk stocks and cryptocurrency

People have been comparing investing in stocks and gambling for ages. Now, it seems, science has indeed found them to be alike in one important way: they can be addictive. Studies have found similarities between what happens in the brain while day trading, trading cryptocurrency and gambling, pointing out that the dopamine spikes people experience when they earn through these are similar to those they feel when they win at Roulette (or finally get their fix). Combinations of gambling and trading high-risk stocks or cryptocurrency provide the best “highs” in this area, potentially turning them into addicts much faster.

Social media

In the golden age of the internet, we had bulletin boards and forums where we could discuss various subjects. Some of these avenues have grown (or were purposely built) to become meeting points for people from all over the world. They could share their experiences and jokes, get in touch with others, perhaps even find a romantic partner.

Smartphones came next and brought the Internet to our pocket, keeping us in touch with others.

These “others” include the faceless horde of companies selling merchandise and media creators pumping out content nonstop.

The Unabomber’s manifesto notoriously said that “a human being with technology is exactly like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine”. While some of us are forced by circumstances to use social networks for business or keeping in touch with family, many other users feel addicted to social media. They can no longer imagine their lives without Facebook or Twitter and show true withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get their fix.

Types of addictions

Basically, there are two kinds of addictions: the “traditional” one where a person becomes addicted to a mind-altering chemicals, (ranging from nicotine and caffeine to opiates and such) and the psychological one, where a person becomes addicted to dopamine (and, indirectly, to activities that cause a dopamine spike in the brain – like the two specific examples above).

This means that a person with a predisposition to addiction can become hooked on anything – from video games and workouts to shopping and cosmetic surgery.

How to spot addiction – and where to look for help?

Addiction is a serious condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is not easy to identify in oneself – it often becomes a norm for the addict, so much so that they become defensive when others point out the symptoms.

The condition’s official definition speaks of a “compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli” – and this is often the first sign that’s perhaps the easiest to spot: the constant craving for a substance or activity that, if not satisfied, leads to changes in one’s behavior.

The signs of addiction can range from sudden or gradual changes in preferences to changes in appearance, behavior, and spending habits – ignoring relationships and even skipping work, dedicating way too much time to a certain activity, and so on.

While these are usually associated with substance abuse and gambling addiction, the telltale signs are much the same in most other cases, though perhaps more subtle in the case of some of the “novel” forms of dependency.

The solution is to recognize the problem. Admitting the addiction and seeking professional help.

Given the widespread occurrence of addiction, there are more than enough professionals familiar with addiction, often supported by not-for-profit organizations, meaning that they can even help for free.

There are government-subsidized programs that help addicts free themselves from the substance or activity that keeps them captive. There are support groups where they can speak freely of their issues. They are there to help!

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