Why Are We Addicted To Things?  | Unveiled

Why Are We Addicted To Things? | Unveiled


Why Do We Get Addicted to Things? Today, addiction is recognized as a chronic
disease; one that changes our brain structure and function, altering how we think about
even everyday things. It’s often painted as easy to perceive for
an outsider looking in, but difficult to track for the person who actually suffers from it. And, while every case is unique, there’s
often a basic pattern that forms. Perhaps you believe that you need a drink
to calm yourself, and you need one more to feel good. The more you drink, the more it makes you
feel as though you’re happy, and so a connection in the brain forms suggesting that drinking
equals happiness. You look forward to that happiness, and so
you drink more. But of course, the process is applicable for
lots of different triggers. In many ways, addiction feeds on a natural
human impulse – to look for things that make us happy. It could be seemingly ‘safe’ lifestyle
choices like playing video games, exercising, or watching TV. Or, the more stereotypically addictive pastimes
like drinking alcohol, gambling, having sex or taking drugs. Addiction sets in when these things dominate
our thoughts, to the point where they directly impact our daily life. Before long, we feel as though you can’t
live without them. But why is this? Why does the quest for ‘happiness’ skew
the way our brains work? And why are certain activities seemingly more
likely to make us feel this way? Why do we get addicted to things? Are you a fiend for facts? Are you constantly curious? Then why not subscribe to Unveiled for more
clips like this one? And ring the bell for more fascinating content! Whether it’s recreational drugs, gambling
or any other addictive pursuit, these things give the brain a powerful surge of dopamine
– a chemical compound linked with feelings of reward and reinforcement. How fast or how intense this dopamine is released
determines how quickly we feel ‘happy’. And if more alcohol, more sex, or more drugs
means more dopamine-fuelled happiness, then the reflex to just say “why not?” becomes all too tempting. The dopamine hits on their own mightn’t
be so bad, but they also mix with the release of another neurotransmitter called glutamate,
which plays a big a part in how we learn and memorise things. As both neurotransmitters are firing off at
once, the brain becomes overloaded, and links the two together. Quickly, this reward-related learning can
spiral out of control, leading to addiction. And now’s when compulsive behaviours can
set in. The problem is that the almost immediate effects
of reward and happiness stay in our memory, ready to present themselves at the next opportunity. All the while, the memories of possible side
effects, negative outcomes or unhappiness are smothered out. Sometimes gradually, but often fairly rapidly,
the person who’s addicted (or is becoming addicted) routinely acts on the seemingly
logical urges that their brain creates. Driving to get fast food when you aren’t
especially hungry; Spending more than you have while online shopping; Placing big money
bets on sports you don’t care about… In the throes of addiction, it’s difficult
to see when the downsides outweigh the upsides – which is part of the reason why addicts
can find it hard to admit that they’re addicted. It’s an obvious understatement, but the brain
is a pretty impressive thing. It’s operating and completing tasks subconsciously
that we’re not even aware of, and it’s constantly adapting to our ever-changing lives
and environments. However, when it comes to addiction, these
abilities aren’t always such a great thing. The craved for dopamine releases may feel
less and less effective over time, because our brain has developed a tolerance to the
trigger. It’s gotten so used to the apparently good
feelings linked with an addictive substance or behaviour, that the ‘happiness’ is
dulled. This means that while the physical effects
of drinking alcohol, taking drugs or smoking cigarettes (for example) remain, the pleasure
that comes with it diminishes. But, that doesn’t mean the addiction has
simply passed. Because, once the undesirable aspects of any
addictive pursuit threaten to show themselves, that’s when the so-called ‘vicious cycle’
kicks in. Unless they’re making a specific, targeted
effort not to – which is easy in theory, but difficult in practice – addicts look
to double down on that hit of dopamine, by feeding their addiction further still. Whether it’s more shots, another purchase,
another partner, more money at the card table or more food from the local take-out… the
more the individual seeks to satisfy their urges, the more they become addicted to them. In terms of root causes, addictions can be
tricky to trace and pinpoint, and they can form due to a combination of factors. The idea of ‘peer pressure’ offers some
explanation for some cases, as addicts are seemingly encouraged through an association
with others doing the same thing. Specific emotional states can contribute,
too, particularly when an individual is looking for something to outweigh significant negative
feelings or trauma. That said, the rise of an addiction can also
be circumstantial, with stories of patients getting hooked on prescription drugs regularly
featuring in the news. It’s certainly a rising phenomenon and,
while figures do vary, it’s reported that between five and ten percent of Americans
use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. In fact, deaths related to prescription drug
abuse have more than quadrupled since the turn of the twenty-first century. And the problem partly rests with that compulsive
need to keep doing something (or taking something) if the brain tells you that it’s good. But, what makes an addiction even harder to
beat is that the addictive behaviour (or, at least, parts of it) are often engaged in
without conscious choice. Addicts become fixated on whatever they’re
addicted to, and may struggle to see the problem until something or someone changes their perspective. In popular culture, you might call this an
‘intervention’ or, in some cases, even an ‘epiphany’. The hope is that after such an event, the
individual becomes less dependent on whatever substance or behaviour they’re hooked on
– having seen their situation in a different light. But, of course, it’s rarely that simple,
and there are countless hurdles to overcome before anyone conquers their addiction. And, even then, some former addicts may never
feel completely free from the cycle – but, rather, in control of their choices. As with the forming of addictions, there are
dozens of factors that come into play when trying to beat one. All of this is not to say that every vice
automatically translates into an addiction. Only that when you are venturing through the
wild side, it’s best not to take too many chances chasing a dopamine high. What do you think? Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments, check out these
other clips from Unveiled, and make sure you subscribe and ring the bell for our latest
content.

11 comments

  1. Some say addiction is a disease, some say it's not, I believe it's more than just a disease, it's a symptom of a much deeper problem! You did forget to mention that addiction and physical dependence are not the same thing, one can cause the other in either instance. They are in some situations, related.

  2. The autonomous addiction to negative, neurotic and recursive thought is the core of most addiction – the addictive substance or behavior is simply a response to the stimulus.
    Feel bored : have a drink
    Feel overwhelmed : have a drink
    Feel lonely : have a drink
    Instead of looking for healthier alternatives than a drink, what if we explored the very thoughts that make us feel bored, overwhelmed or lonely.

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