How Do I Deal With My Addiction Urges

How Do I Deal With My Addiction Urges
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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Addiction refers to a cluster of thinking, behavioral and physiological signs that indicate that an individual persists to use a substance or multiple substances (like alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, etc.) or continues a behavioral pattern (for example, gambling, overeating) despite the risk associated with their actions. This is because indulging in such activities triggers the reward system of the brain and leads to the release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Neurotransmitters are responsible for carrying information from one part of the brain to another. Thus, with the release of dopamine, an individual feels pleasure. This pleasure element then gets associated with an addictive substance or behavior a person may be indulging in.

One phenomenon related to addiction is craving. Craving involves intense urges. However, cravings can be so intense that a substance user may spend an inordinate amount of effort to continue the addictive behavior. For example, a person spends most of his day finding liquor one wants to consume by missing a work appointment, or an individual who wastes his savings on gambling. Therefore, addiction urges potentially affect important areas of functioning.

Ways Of Dealing With Addiction Urges

There are multiple ways of dealing with addiction urges. These strategies allow an individual to constructively respond to urges related to addictive behavior. Some ways of dealing with urges are as follows:

Identify triggers: The primary step in dealing with any urge is to make note of the conditions that encourage it. For example, having a rough day at work may make a person susceptible to overeating, or being with friends who enjoy gambling makes one engage in the same activity, etc. Identifying the situation or stressful triggers helps in creating an individualized plan for recovery.

Distraction and Avoidance: Distraction involves getting oneself involved in a task or activity that requires investing our physical and mental efforts. For example, engaging oneself in a workout routine or sport, chatting with a friend, or listening to music are some ways to distract oneself from the urges. These activities can help reduce the strength of an urge. On the other hand, avoiding a situation is also helpful to curb indulging in urges. For example, avoiding parties for a few weeks so as to abstain from smoking or drinking excessively.  

Stress Management: Stress acts as a major trigger in encouraging urges to continue addictive behavior. Stress management to deal with urges, therefore, focuses on pursuing methods of relaxation (like taking up a creative activity for example), building better social support systems (for example, joining support groups), etc.

Psychotherapy: Many psychotherapeutic approaches assist clients in dealing with urges. For example, techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy encourage clients to deal with maladaptive thoughts and behavior patterns related to addictive behavior. While supportive psychodynamic psychotherapy offers ways of dealing with emotional or past traumatic experiences that usually tend to increase the probability of substance use and abuse.

Recovery from addiction is a challenging task and coping with urges can be very difficult. Thus, facing urges begins with acknowledging and accepting their presence. This helps in deciding the future course of action.  Dealing with urges needs consistent effort and usually, various strategies described above under the guidance or supervision of professionals like psychiatrists or clinical psychologists can help to cope.


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