acquiesce - September 7th, 2020

The Psychology Behind Addiction

One of the first steps to understanding your addiction is understanding the psychology behind it. Unfortunately, the psychology behind addiction is complex and is often argued by psychologists and addiction experts. What we do know is that addiction has both physical and psychological aspects that must be targeted as part of the steps to recovery. It seems obvious that if we try something that makes us feel good, we will want to continue using/doing it, however, addiction is far more complicated than just enjoying the physical effects of a substance or behaviour.

How can I tell addiction apart from regular behaviour?

First, an addiction must be identified. Sometimes our habits or tendencies can be mistaken for addictions or vice versa. Some people’s behaviours are harmful but not addictive, such as a university student that binge drinks every weekend. Whilst this is repetitive and potentially harmful behaviour, if that university student then graduates and goes on to work and start a family in later life, giving up weekend binge drinking for the sake of his/her responsibilities as an adult, then their behaviour is not addictive. However, if the student has extreme difficulty leaving this behaviour behind and continues to binge drink despite losing loved ones or a job as a result, then this person does have an addiction.

Addictions can often be hard to identify, especially if the behaviour involved is seen as ‘normal’, such as eating chocolate every time you feel sad or stressed. For some people, this type of behaviour is a result of an addiction to overeating and is a method of self-medication. This behaviour is so common that it is even used and encouraged within marketing, especially with products such as ice cream or chocolate, where the message is: “This product can make you happy when you are sad.”

Addiction can be broken down into four stages: Trigger, Avoidance, Substitution and Repetition.


The trigger of an addiction is either an external action or internal thought that triggers strong feelings. These actions or feelings are most likely negative, and can be difficult to face or resolve alone. Some triggers could include stress from work, a traumatic experience or a hard breakup.


Instead of facing up to these hard-to-deal-with triggers, the feelings or actions will be pushed aside or avoided.


The positive feelings evoked by substances or behaviours will be used to replace those negative emotions. This is of course a quick fix and does not solve the problem long term but rather takes the focus away from it for a short time.


If these actions are repeated as a way to keep putting off having to deal with the negative emotions or actions and they start to become a dependency, then an addiction begins.

If you are unsure of what triggers your addiction, the Acquiesce rehab programme can work with you to recognise, understand and provide a solution to the psychological aspect of your addiction.

If someone has had an addiction for a long time, their initial trigger may no longer affect them but by the time they have learned to cope with it, the repetitive behaviour is ingrained and it becomes too hard to stop. New triggers may even be developed, such as the sight of an attractive looking bar or seeing other people enjoying the effects of drugs. 

Acquiesce are here to address all of those triggers and teach you how to cope with them using a range of techniques including cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational interviewing, psychosocial interventions, one-to-one counselling, 12 Step approaches, ITEP, Behavioural activation, mindfulness, art and music therapy. Our Urban Recovery Rehab model allows individuals to implement and practice these in the real world.

Addictive Personalities

Some people have an addictive personality to begin with, which means they can become easily addicted to certain things or behaviours. Compulsive behaviour such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders share similar psychological traits with substance abuse. Characteristics of someone with an addictive personality or compulsive disorder can be identified in early childhood and onwards, including:

  • Struggling to delay gratification. They can’t wait for what they want and must have it now.
  • The feeling of constantly being stressed when others in the same situation do not feel stressed at all.
  • Sense of alienation from society.
  • Tendency towards impulsive behaviour.

How To Confront Your Triggers

The word ‘confronting’ can seem intimidating, but confronting whatever triggers your addiction doesn’t have to be one big action. Taking small, positive steps towards handling a situation can make it more approachable and can help you in the future when it comes to dealing with something difficult.

If your stressful job is the thing that triggers you, work out what in particular is bothering you and think of ways that it could be resolved. Instead of waking up every morning dreading going to work, try speaking to your boss and discussing where changes could be made or seek another job where less responsibility is involved if the role itself is causing you stress. 

Sometimes, triggers can be related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many retired law enforcement officers and military veterans often confess to self medicating with drugs and alcohol as the only way to cope with the emotional stress of their previous jobs. If a traumatic past is what triggers your addiction, the Acquiesce rehab programme addresses the psychological aspect of addiction and recovery and can help you recognise, understand and provide a solution for you.

If your trigger is something that is out of your control, Acquiesce can help you come to terms with it and help you learn how to cope with psychological therapy. Our different rehabilitation programs provide an independent service that is sleek and modern but also warm and caring. We offer Detox, Residential and Dayhab programmes to suit your needs and help you transition into everyday life as smoothly as possible to increase your chances of recovery and an addiction-free life.

For more information, about anything discussed above, or contact us here.

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