What happens in our mind when we develop a non-chemical addiction?

The concept of “addiction” generally goes hand in hand with that of “drug”, but in practice this is not the case. There are some addictions in which the consumption of any addictive substance is not involved, and in fact these are not statistically rare cases.

The large number of people who have become addicted to gambling and spend many hours a week betting their money and even getting into debt to keep trying their luck is, for example, a sign that these types of disorders are not dependent. That our brain comes into contact with certain molecules from the outside.

In this article we will explore the topic of non-chemical addictions, seeing what happens in the human body and mind when it takes control of the person.

    What is a non-chemical dependency?

    As we move forward, a non-chemical addiction is one that it is not based on the dependence on the consumption of a certain psychoactive substance with addictive potential. This means that while it can occur at the same time as the use of drugs that can lead to addiction, the addiction one suffers from does not arise from their addiction, but from a learned pattern of behavior and interaction with the environment. consciously or unconsciously.

    Think, for example, of the person who goes to the casino every week to bet a large part of their saved money, and once there, they have a few drinks: addiction is linked to the habit of participating in gambling games. hazard. to an environment that facilitates such behaviors, not in the consumption of alcohol itself. On the other hand, non-chemical addictions can lead to the same degree of dependence that is found in drug addiction, although the triggering event is different and is a little less harmful to the body in the short term, because there is no has no molecule that interacts abnormally with neurons in our nervous system. However, in the medium and long term, non-chemical addictions present a level of danger comparable to drug addiction.

    In addition, as its appearance does not go hand in hand with the action of consuming products already considered dangerous or risky, for many people, non-chemical addictions may seem harmlessSince the idea that an addiction can develop without introducing any substance into the body is not intuitive. It makes it harder to realize that you have a problem.

    How are substance-free addictions triggered?

    These are the elements involved in the onset of non-chemical dependence.

    1. A system of immediate incentives

    Non-chemical addictions always they are based on the promise of pleasurable sensations that could arise in seconds or minutes. In this way, the person is kept “hooked” on which the activity is more and more dependent.

    2. The experience of fear of loss is common

    Combined with the promise of well-being, the fear of losing this kind of experience arises. This often adds to the aversion to loss: the person does not want to “waste” the efforts made so far.

    For example, in those who develop pathological gambling, what is known as player error is common; they feel that since they have lost many matches, the match they will win in is in the fall, although statistics reveal that this is the wrong conclusion: the odds of winning or losing losing are the same in every game, or at least they don’t depend on the above results.

    Likewise, those who become addicted to certain video games fear that if they turn off the computer or video game console, they will miss memorable games that would have been possible because they spent hours playing and playing. accumulate requirements to get there.

      3. There are changes in the person’s nervous system

      Although this type of addiction does not come into play molecules outside the body and have a psychoactive potential by activating the neurons of our brain, this does not mean that they are not able to modify the functioning of our cells. In fact, the constant repetition of actions and exposure to experiences that shape addiction, it causes our brain to gradually transform both physically and functionally.

      Simply put, our neurons are reconfigured and begin to interact with each other in a way that causes us to prioritize falling into addictive behavior over and over again. Our mind learns that all that matters is to “keep the addiction alive”, and in fact, it behaves in a very similar way to brains affected by alcohol, cocaine, etc.

      4. The social habits of the person are oriented towards dependence

      As the addict’s brain changes, so do their social habits. She spends more and more time with people who are also addicted to it, which always leaves her open to the temptation to relapse.. At the same time, he leaves out other connections with people who do not bring these experiences.

      5. The phenomenon of habituation appears

      As the non-chemical dependency consolidates, the person you increasingly need to be more involved in the activity to which you have become addicted in order to feel a minimum of satisfaction or pleasure.. In other words, the experiences that gave him an intense burst of well-being at the beginning (for example, winning 50 euros on a slot machine) and which hardly make him feel good, and he needs more.

      6. Increased risk of developing other addictions

      Suffering from an addiction triggers the risk of developing others. This leads to a state of general disinhibition in which it is even more difficult to avoid relapses.

      Are you looking for professional psychological support?

      If you are considering seeking professional help in overcoming an addiction or any other type of mental health issue, please contact our team. Fr Psychology of Cribecca we have been providing treatments to people of all ages for many years and currently offer face-to-face sessions in our Seville center and online via video call.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
      • Cia, A. (2013). Addictions not related to a substance (DSM-5, APA, 2013): a first step towards the inclusion of behavioral addictions in the current categorical classifications. Rev Neuropsychiatr, 76 (4): p. 210-217.
      • Kauer, JA; RC Malenka (2007). Synaptic plasticity and addiction. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 8 (11): pages 844 to 58.

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