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Defining addiction
Characteristics of addiction
Medical Model
Behaviourist Model
Cognitive Model
Personality and Peers
Stress and Age
Media and addiction
Methods of Prevention
Medical Intervention
Psychological intervention
Self help & Public Health

Characteristics of Addiction

Behavioural addictions

Can behavioural addictions such as gambling be classified similarly to chemical addiction?

Clinical criteria of addiction (Carnes 1991):

  1. A behaviour that is out of control
  2. Severe consequences
  3. Inability to stop despite these consequences
  4. Persistent pursuit of self-destructive or risky behaviour
  5. Desire to stop the behaviour
  6. Use of the behaviour as a coping strategy
  7. Increasing levels of the behaviour needed to get the same effect (tolerance)
  8. Lots of time spent both in trying to engage in the behaviour as well as recovery
  9. Severe mood changes when carrying out the behaviour
  10. Social, occupational, and recreational activities sacrificed

Griffiths (1996) believes these ten criteria can be subsumed nicely into the following six:

1. Salience:

The behaviour becomes the most important thing to the person and they have it on their minds for much of the time.  Alcohol and nicotine addicts tend not to be so obvious in this regard, since they are able to combine their addiction with other behaviours in social settings.  However, once deprived of their fix, salience becomes far more apparent.

2. Mood modification

The addict gets a rush or buzz when engaged in the behaviour.  The addict is also able to use their behaviour to bring about a mood change.  Interestingly, the same chemical or behaviour can alter mood in different directions depending on time or setting.  Nicotine can stimulate in the morning or relax before sleep.



3. Tolerance

Usually associated with chemical addiction such as alcohol or heroin, this one can also be applied to behaviours.  Basically the addict needs bigger and bigger hits to get the same effect as they did initially with smaller amounts.  Risk-taking behaviour, for example, tends to get more extreme over time.  

4. Withdrawal symptoms

Changes in mood, shakes, irritability etc. as a result of cessation.  Applies to behavioural as well as chemical addiction.

5. Conflict

The pursuit of short term pleasure can cause conflict with other; parents, spouse, friends and can also result in conflict within the person. 

6. Relapse

A tendency to return to the behaviour, months or even years after an apparent Ďcure.í  Again this is just as common with behavioural addiction as it is with chemical. 

Griffiths believes that all six need to be present for a diagnosis of addiction.  However, others disagree, believing that addiction doesnít always result in undue disruption to a personís lifestyle and occasionally no withdrawal symptoms are experienced on cessation.

Addiction or enthusiasm?

If it adds quality to a personís life: Enthusiasm

If it detracts from a personís life: Addiction


The main thrust of this topic is synoptic and looks, yet again, at the main theoretical approaches or perspectives to psychology:



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