Addiction Disorders

Addiction disorders have a destructive effect on the body and soul. Here you will find information on the most important forms: nicotine addiction, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, shopping addiction, and gambling addiction. Also, read about who is most at risk, how to recognize addiction, and how to break it.

What is addiction?

Addiction refers to the psychological or physical dependence on a substance or behavior. It arises because the addictive substance or behavior affects the reward center in the brain and triggers positive feelings there.

Addiction is, therefore, not a character weakness but, according to the definition of addiction, a disease based on brain misregulation. The causes of addiction are varied. In addition to genetic predisposition, psychological and social factors can lead a person to become addicted.


How does alcohol affect the body and psyche? When does consumption become risky? And what damage can it cause? Find out here!

How do the different drugs work? How addictive are they? And how dangerous are they? Get information here!

What does smoking do to the body and mind? What are the risks? And how do you get rid of nicotine addiction? Get information here!

What causes addiction?

There are genetic as well as psychological and social factors that cause addiction. Various risk genes that influence the effects of drugs on the body significantly increase the risk of addiction.

Mental stress such as low self-confidence, psychological trauma, and mental illnesses such as fears are also risky. Drugs can provide short-term relief for people with mental stress.

Naturally, an environment where drugs are readily available and used frequently also increases the risk of addiction.

How does addiction develop?

The lines between hazardous use (or behavior) and addiction are fluid. Potent drugs can become addictive very quickly. However, dependency usually develops insidiously – from dangerous consumption to abuse and addiction. It is, therefore, often difficult to say when one is addicted.

Addiction Memory

During addiction development, specific brain structures change permanently. A so-called addiction memory develops in the reward center. It causes someone to relapse even after prolonged abstinence quickly. In addition, the body and psyche get used to the kick – the addict needs an increasing dose to achieve the same reward effect.

Addiction and loss of control

If the addictive substance is unavailable in the case of a dependency or if the addictive behavior is not carried out, a strong desire sets in (addictive pressure, craving). A loss of control accompanies this: the addict finds it difficult or impossible to control whether, when, and in what quantities he consumes the addictive substance – or when he falls into the addictive behavior. The consequences are often significant health, financial, professional, and social problems.

Drug addiction, or chemical dependency, is a severe problem. It can ruin lives and even end them. Addiction affects people regardless of age, gender, race, or occupation. While alcohol and drug addiction are more common than most people think, it is only when you take a closer look that you start to see just how serious the addiction problem is.

For drug addicts, the craving for the drug dominates their lives. Read everything you need to know about drug addiction’s signs, effects, and treatment here.

What addictions are there?

In addition to the so-called substance-related addictions to alcohol, nicotine, medicines, or illegal drugs, there are also some behavioral addictions. The following types of addiction are officially recognized in addiction medicine.

Sex addiction is a real and serious condition that millions of people struggle with each day. It is characterized by the uncontrollable desire to engage in sexual activity constantly. A sex addict may engage in sexual activity without physical pleasure or may engage in it when feeling physically ill. While sex addiction mostly affects men, women can also struggle with sex addiction. Sex addiction is more common among men than women, with recent studies showing that around 4% of men and 1% of women have serious sex addiction issues.

Sex addiction is a behavioral addiction. Find out here how it manifests itself and how to get a grip on it.

Computer games can be addictive. Most people think video games are for kids, or maybe those over 35. But according to data from iGen, Americans today spend an average of three hours and 56 minutes per day playing video games. They’ve even coined a term for this: “screen time addiction.” Screen time addiction, or video game addiction, is becoming more common. Whether it be on consoles or mobile devices, people spend more and more time playing.

Read here how you can recognize those affected, how the addiction can be treated, and what relatives can do.

Sleeping pills, painkillers, tranquilizers – some medications can be addictive. Addiction often goes undetected for a long time.

How do you recognize addiction?

Total of six signs that can indicate addiction. They apply regardless of whether the addictive substance is a substance or specific behavior.

Every one of the warnings listed below is already a clear alarm signal. If three of the addiction symptoms apply, addiction is usually present.

Strong demand

Desire or compulsion to use a substance or to do something over and over again. This craving can be intense even when there is no physical dependency.

Loss of control

Addicts can hardly control when, for how long, and in what quantity they consume an addictive substance.

Inability to abstain

An addicted person often cannot do without “their drug,” even if the addiction has severe health or social consequences.

Tolerance formation

The body and mind get used to the drug. People who become addicted need increasing amounts of medication to get the desired effect.

Withdrawal symptoms

With substance dependency, withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, freezing, and tremors, as well as severe body aches, sleep disorders, hallucinations, seizures, and circulatory collapse can occur. Behavioral addictions include nervousness and aggression.

Withdrawal from social life

Those caught in an addiction lose interest in other pursuits. Hobbies, social contacts, and even work are neglected in favor of addictive behavior.

Also, typical features of addiction are feelings of guilt after consumption and concealment of the addictive behavior up to denial.

Relatives of addicts sometimes suffer more than the addicts themselves. Many slip into codependency. What you can do about it.

How do you treat addiction?

Getting out of an addiction is difficult. Prerequisites for success are that the person concerned recognizes that they are addicted and is motivated to free themselves from their addiction. Both are usually a big step – because addiction takes up a large part of one’s life. The prospect of having to do without the “drug” permanently (be it behavior or substance) seems at first to be almost inconceivable.

The goal of treatment is usually abstinence. If this hurdle is (still) too high, or if it is a behavioral addiction that makes abstinence impossible or not advisable (sex addiction, shopping addiction, Internet addiction), controlled consumption can also be aimed at.


In the case of substance-related addictions such as alcohol, withdrawal can be dangerous for the patient – even life-threatening! – be. That is why it is usually carried out under medical supervision. In less severe cases, this is also possible on an outpatient basis.


After the detox comes to the actual work, it is essential to control the mental dependency and develop prospects for life without addiction. In milder cases, this can be done on an outpatient basis. In more severe cases, an inpatient stay is necessary.

In the case of recognized addictions, the costs are covered – for detoxification by the health insurance fund, for the several months of withdrawal treatment after the pension insurance has approved the application.

Behavioral therapy is the method of choice to combat addiction. In individual therapy sessions and often additional group sessions, the patient explores

  • what function the consumption or addictive behavior has for him,
  • how these needs can be met in other ways,
  • what the deeper causes of addiction are,
  • How to avoid relapses.
  • He also learns new strategies, for example, for dealing with stress and problems.
  • If the addiction has already had a negative impact on work and social life, new perspectives are developed to rebuild them.

Stabilization phase

Therapy should ideally be followed by a stabilization phase, either with further therapeutic contacts or as part of a self-help group.

To overcome an addiction, you need professional support. Here you will find the most important contact points for those affected and their relatives.

Prevent addiction

Addiction usually creeps into life unnoticed. Preventing and recognizing the warning signs in good time is not easy. Still, there’s a lot you can do. People whose families already have dependency disorders should be particularly vigilant because addiction has a strong genetic component.

  • Addictions usually arise from a mental need – for stress reduction and relaxation, stimulation, or well-being. Always find out what you need to feel good – and how you can achieve this without addictive substances (relaxation exercises, sports, nature experiences). The keyword here is “mindfulness.”
  • Stay away from substances that are quickly addictive. In addition to illegal drugs such as crack, this includes legal ones such as nicotine!
  • Limit yourself to occasional and, above all, conscious consumption. Reaching for a beer bottle or a glass of wine shouldn’t become a routine you don’t even think about anymore.
  • If friends, colleagues, or family members ask about your consumption behavior, take it seriously!
  • If your consumption of (legal or illegal) substances or specific behavior (eating, shopping, or computer games) keeps getting out of control, seek help from a counseling center at an early stage.

Scientific standards:

This text corresponds to the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines, and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.