Clinically Speaking is a blog that will allow anyone to learn about Social Work, case presentations in psychotherapy, and the relationship of pop culture in psychology. Come one...come all!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

What is an addiction?

We often hear, "I am so addicted to this TV show, or this ice cream". We don't stop and think about what an addiction really is and how it happens. Lets first start with the definition of an Addict: A person who is addicted to a particular substance, typically an illegal drug. It is important to note that within the definition, the word addicted is used. As we have learned in the past, when a person is being Dx(Diagnoses/Diagnosed), according the DSM-TR-IV every Dx needs to fulfill criteria. The section on substance abuse is very large because it encompasses a lot of different substances which ranges from alcohol to both legal and illegal drugs. I believe and don't quote me on this, that the DSM-V will have sex addictions, internet addiction, and gambling addictions included in some capacity(we will talk about the differences later on in the week). According to the World Health Organization an estimated 76.3 million people struggle with alcohol use disorders contributing to 1.8 million deaths per year. Furthermore, the United Nations reported that around 185 million people globally over the age of 15 were consuming drugs by the end of the 20th century.

Typically, in the mental health field and substance abuse programs, the way we classify an addiction is different then how it is defined. We are able to distinguish the difference by assessing one major factor. If the particular substance or act does not interrupt a person from their daily living, we assume that it is not an addiction, rather a habit. Meaning if someone can go to work, school, attend to his familial and legal obligations of a person in society and is using a particular substance then we say its not an addiction(Btw-that's how the DSM starts the criteria)

But does that make any sense at all? Because I function, that means I am not an addict? This is exactly what a lot of addicts say to rationalize to themselves and others to dispel the notion that they have a serious problem. Now, there is a concept of a functional addict. However, maybe to the rest of the world they seem functional, but in no shape or form are a functional person. An interesting article by Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. entitled The High-Functioning Alcoholic, she details the what I had written about functioning abusers.

This is just a little taste of what we will talk about throughout the week.

Tomorrow: Addictions-Are they all chemical?

Don't make your Monday, Mundane!

1 comment:

  1. I think the idea behind the question of tying addiction to the ability of an addict to "function" isn't about whether or not those who still function are truly addicts or not but about drawing a line by which to create a diagnosis. What i mean is this, there is a diverse spectrum of drinking and there are people all along that spectrum. So then where do we say this person is and this person isnt? we need something more concrete (for many reasons) than just oh that's ok and thats too much.