Addictive Disorders


People don’t do it so much for the “rush,” but to escape their loneliness, low self-esteem, uncomfortable or painful emotions, unhappy relationships, anger, or stress… its these negative feelings that fuel the damaging behaviors…

Addictive Disorders

“I couldn’t face the normal problems people have. I took every negative look or action from another as if it was magnified a thousand times. I kept thinking… I went through awful things as a child… I CAN’T be around anything negative NOW. So I began to drink to “cope” and then to be able to create my own reality.

I could “manage” when slightly fuzzy. Nothing hurt as much then. Well… it went from needing one glass of wine in the evening to 2, 3, 4, etc… until whenever “life” happened (like it usually does to people) I had to continually “up” the help I needed to cope. (Sound familiar to anyone?) UNTIL… I went way too far fighting with my husband and kids (whom I love dearly). I was deeply depressed, I had anxiety attacks…”

Every day millions of people feel the negative after-effects of their addiction disorders but are unaware that they have a problem. These addictions create chemicals that have a profound impact on the neuro-chemical balance in the brain which directly affects how you feel and act.

Most people don’t do it so much for the “rush,” but to escape from their problems. They are trying to self-medicate themselves out of loneliness, low self-esteem, uncomfortable or painful emotions, unhappy relationships, anger, or stress. It’s these negative thoughts and feelings that fuel their damaging behaviors.

In time, what may start out as an innocent activity becomes a habit and then gradually crosses over into a physiological and psychological addiction causing havoc in your life.

Here are three of the most common addictive disorders:

1) Alcohol Abuse & Dependency — Alcohol abusers, or problem drinkers, are people who clearly drink too much on a regular basis. Their alcohol use is self-destructive or presents a danger to others, but they are able to set limits and establish some measure of control over their drinking. When alcohol abuse progresses to alcoholism, also called alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence, the drinker loses control of the amount they drink, and they cannot stop using alcohol despite the severe physical and psychological consequences of excessive drinking.

2) Drug Abuse & Dependency — Drug abuse or substance abuse, involves the repeated and excessive use of prescription or street drugs. In one way or another, almost all drugs over stimulate the pleasure center of the brain, flooding it with the neurotransmitter dopamine which produces euphoria. That heightened sense of pleasure is so compelling that the brain wants that feeling back, again and again. Many of these drugs cause increased energy, rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure, but they also produce racing thoughts and make you feel overly-stimulated. Continued use causes rapid breathing, irritability, impulsiveness, aggression, nervousness, insomnia, weight loss, tolerance, addiction, and possible heart failure. These drugs also cause an impairment in cognitive functioning which negatively affects memory and impacts the ability to learn.

3) Eating Disorders — The three most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. People with anorexia starve themselves out of an intense fear of becoming fat. Despite being underweight or even emaciated, they never believe they are thin enough. In addition to restricting calories, people with anorexia may also control their weight with exercise, diet pills, or purging. Bulimia involves a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging. Following an episode of out-of-control binge eating, people with bulimia take drastic steps to purge themselves of the extra calories. In order to avoid weight gain, they vomit, exercise, fast, or take laxatives. People with binge eating disorder compulsively overeat, rapidly consuming thousands of calories in a short period of time. Despite feelings of guilt and shame over these secret binges, they feel unable to control their behavior or the ability to stop eating even when uncomfortably full.

Many signs and symptoms of addictive disorders are easy to see, but others are more difficult to recognize. For example, there are so many different myths when it comes to addictions:

MYTH #1: Alcoholics have no will power. If they were stronger they could just stop drinking.

FACT: Alcoholism affects brain chemistry which causes you to feel compelled to drink alcohol. Usually you can only stop drinking if you receive continuing help and treatment.

MYTH #2: I can’t be an alcoholic. I have control over it because I only drink on the weekends.

FACT: When you abstain from drinking for a certain period of time and then consume a large quantity of alcohol in a very small span of time, this is called binge drinking. It is a common symp of alcohol abuse.

MYTH #3: You have to be underweight to have an eating disorder.

FACT: People with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Many individuals with eating disorders are of average weight or are overweight.

MYTH #4: Only teenage girls and young women are affected by eating disorders.

FACT: While eating disorders are most common in young women in their teens and early twenties, they are found in men and women of all ages.

MYTH #5: People with eating disorders are vain.

FACT: It’s not vanity that drives people with eating disorders to follow extreme diets and obsess over their bodies, but rather an attempt to deal with feelings of shame, anxiety, and powerlessness.

MYTH #6: Eating disorders aren’t really that dangerous.

FACT: All eating disorders can lead to irreversible and even life-threatening health problems, such as heart disease, bone loss, stunted growth, infertility, and kidney damage.

It’s important that you understand the difference between the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse versus alcohol & drug dependence, as there is a significant difference.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol & Drug Abuse:

Health & Behavior

Continuing to drink or use drugs even though you have health problems that are affected or caused by your addiction;
Irritability, anger, hostility, fatigue, agitation, anxiety, depression, psychosis (seeing or hearing things that are not there), lack of coordination, difficulty concentrating;

Financial & Legal Issues

Paying bills late, collection agencies calling, and inability to keep track of your money;
Being arrested, doing things that you would normally not do, such as stealing to obtain drugs;
Driving while under the influence (DUI);

Risky Behavior

Putting yourself or others in danger;

Employment or School

Continuing to drink or use drugs even though you realize your job or education is in jeopardy;
Missing work or school, or going in late due to alcohol or drug use;

Family & Friends

Feeling annoyed when other people comment on, or criticize your drinking or drug habits;
Feeling remorse or guilt after drinking or using drugs;
Associating with questionable acquaintances or frequenting out of the ordinary locations when drinking or looking to purchase or use drugs;

Social Life

Scheduling your day around drinking or using drugs;
Focusing recreational activities around obtaining alcohol or drugs, using or recovering from the use;
Drinking or using drugs alone or in secret;

Signs & Symptoms of Cannabis Use (Marijuana & Hashish)

Heightened visual and auditory perceptions and increased sensitivity in taste;
Increased appetite;
Problems with memory, difficulty concentrating, paranoid thinking;
Decreased coordination, slowed reaction time;
Bloodshot eyes, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate

Of course, as if those symptoms weren’t painful enough, this abuse can overlap very quickly into a very strong dependency.

People with conditions such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or mood disorders such as depression and anxiety may find that alcohol or a street drug makes them feel less jumpy, depressed or anxious.

The line between abuse and dependence is defined by the role the alcohol or drugs play in your life. Addiction and dependence occurs when your addiction becomes so important that you are willing to sacrifice your work, home, and even family. Once your brain and body get used to the substances you are taking, you begin to require increasingly larger and more frequent doses, in order to achieve the same effect.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol & Drug Dependence:

Cravings & Relapse

Strong and overwhelming desire to use alcohol or drugs at a specific time or several times a day;
Creating a ritual of having drinks before, with, or after dinner, and becoming annoyed when this pattern is disturbed or questioned;
Drug seeking behaviors;
Trying to stop using the drug but failing more than once;
Feeling that you must have the drug to deal with your problems;


In order to feel the same effect, using more of the alcohol or drug than intended and using it more frequently;
Consuming a large quantity of alcohol without appearing intoxicated;

Effects On Memory & Motivation

Not remembering conversations or commitments; sometimes referred to as a “blackout”;
Losing interest in activities and hobbies that were once pleasurable;
Impairments in learning, memory and cognitive functioning;

Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine: Agitation, insomnia, anxiety, depression, anger, cravings, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shakes, irritability, muscle pain;
Anti-anxiety medications: Sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, feeling shaky, headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, and in extreme cases, seizures;
Heroin: Dilated pupils, goose bumps, watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, chills, nausea, muscle cramps, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, shakes, sweats, feeling jittery, irritable, panic, tremors;
Methamphetamine: Fatigue, disturbed sleeping patterns, irritability, intense hunger, moderate to severe depression, anxiety, psychotic reactions;

Risky Behavior

Sharing needles;
Having unsafe sex;

Short and Long Term Effects of Alcohol & Drug Abuse:

Short-Term Effects:

Loss of inhibition and impaired judgment;
Dizziness, blurred vision and slurred speech;
Uncoordinated movements and increased reaction time;
Unconsciousness and even death;
Depressed respiration;
Clouded mental functioning;
Nausea and vomiting;
Suppression of pain;
Spontaneous abortion;

Long-Term Effects:

Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications which can affect virtually every organ in your body;
Infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis);
Collapsed veins;
Bacterial infections;
Infection of heart lining and valves;
Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems;

Warning Signs of Eating Disorders:

Many people worry about their weight, what they eat, and how they look. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults who face extra pressure to fit in and look attractive at a time when their bodies are changing.

In the early stages, it can be challenging to tell the difference between an eating disorder and normal self-consciousness, weight concerns, or dieting. As eating disorders progress, the red flags become easier to spot. But a person with an eating disorder will often go to great lengths to hide the problem, so it’s important to know some of the most common signs:

Restrictive eating behaviors — Person may frequently skip meals or make excuses to avoid eating—he or she had a big meal earlier, isn’t hungry, or has an upset stomach. The person may also claim to be disgusted by foods that used to be favorites. When your loved one does eat, he or she may take tiny servings, eat only specific low-calorie foods, or obsessively count calories, read food labels, and weigh portions. In an effort to curb appetite, your friend or family member may also take diet pills, prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin, or even illegal drugs such as speed.

Bingeing — Person may eat normally around others, only to binge in secret—usually late at night or in a private spot where they won’t be discovered or disturbed. Warning signs of bingeing include piles of empty food packages and wrappers, cupboards and refrigerators that have been cleaned out, and hidden stashes of high-calorie foods such as desserts and junk food.

Purging — Person often goes to extreme measures to work off calories from a binge or even a normal snack or meal. They may purge by throwing up, fasting, exercising vigorously, or using diuretics and laxatives. They may disappear right after a meal or make frequent trips to the bathroom. If your friend or family member is vomiting, he or she may run the water to muffle the sound and use mouthwash, breath mints, or perfume to disguise the smell.

Distorted body image and altered appearance — A loved one’s appearance can also offer clues to an underlying problem. Significant weight loss, rapid weight gain, and constantly fluctuating weight are all possible warning signs. They may wear baggy clothes or multiple layers in an attempt to hide dramatic weight loss. They could have a distorted self-image or an obsessive preoccupation with weight. A relative complains about being fat despite a dramatically shrinking frame, for example, or a friend spends hours in front of the mirror, inspecting and criticizing his or her body.

The highlighted signs to watch for:

Preoccupation with body or weight;
Obsession with calories, food, or nutrition;
Constant dieting, even when thin;
Rapid, unexplained weight loss or weight gain;
Taking laxatives or diet pills;
Compulsive exercising;
Making excuses to get out of eating;
Avoiding social situations that involve food;
Going to the bathroom right after meals;
Eating alone, at night, or in secret;
Hoarding high-calorie food;