Addiction (i.e. substance abuse) has long been understood to mean an uncontrollable habit of using alcohol or other drugs. Because of the physical effects of these substances on the body, and particularly the brain, people have often thought that “real” addictions only happen when people regularly use these substances in large amounts.
Although the precise symptoms vary from one addiction to another, in clarifying what is an addiction, there are two aspects that all addictions have in common. Firstly, the addictive behavior is maladaptive or counter-productive to the individual. So instead of helping the person adapt to situations or overcome problems, it tends to undermine these abilities. Secondly, the behavior is persistent. When someone is addicted, they will continue to engage in the addictive behavior, despite it causing them trouble.
Generally artistic, intelligent, and unfulfilled, addicts typically feel unworthy, hopeless and unredeemable. Alone in a crowded room, isolated (by choice or necessity,) estranged from their fellows, the addicts’ emotions run the gambit—from anger, rage and violence, to deep depression, repentant sorrow and paralyzing fear. Without the toolset to go forward in life, unequipped at making real friends, and disassociated from family connections, addicts often feel overwhelmed by sensations of separateness, superiority and uniqueness.