Over the weekend, Denise Welch opened up about her addiction struggles with a poignant post on her Instagram, where she described gaining weight after swapping her dependency on alcohol for food addiction instead.
This ‘swapping’ behaviour is known as transfer or cross addiction – where someone suffering from substance addiction or a behavioural disorder will swap one bad habit for another to get the same feeling of relief.
While Denise has changed her relationship with food after therapy and mentorship, experts have explained that cross-addiction can be common among those struggling with substance abuse or addictive behaviours.
Below, Martin Preston, founder and chief executive at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, has explained exactly what cross–addiction is and how to speak to a loved one who may be struggling.
What is cross-addiction?
“Cross addiction happens when a person who struggles with substance dependency or has addictive traits tries to compensate for the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that they are experiencing while trying to get better by switching one addiction with another.”
“This happens because addiction can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, making it hard to give up habits and not depend on something.”
“When people cross their addictions, it can often manifest itself as swapping one dangerous substance for another, which will have similar or the same effects as their original addiction.”
“In some cases, cross-addiction can also cause a different problem for the sufferer. For example, someone suffering from alcohol addiction who has chosen to go sober may switch to a gambling addiction instead because the high of winning a bet distracts them from the withdrawal symptoms they feel from not drinking.”
“Like with any addiction, if you are worried about a loved one who you think might be transferring habits from an old addiction to a new one, there are some key signs you can look out for. These include: experiencing anxiety and depression, money problems related to a new addiction such as shopping or gambling, and obsessing over how to get more of a substance or thing related to the addiction.”
Do you have an addiction – signs and symptoms to recognise in yourself
If you think you or someone you love may be suffering from addiction, identifying with one or more of the following signs and symptoms may indicate a problem with addiction that requires professional help.
A compulsive need to engage with a behaviour or substance
Addiction is often characterised by a compulsion to engage in a particular behaviour or get access to a substance. This means that even when people want to stop their addictive behaviour, they cannot do so.
For example, while a person who drinks a glass of wine every evening might not necessarily have a problem, when the desire to drink becomes all they think about, to the point they can’t stop it, it could be a sign they are struggling with alcoholism.
Spending less time at work or doing other activities
A person struggling with addiction may also become withdrawn from work or choose to engage less with activities they used to enjoy and spend more time using a substance or engaging in dangerous behaviour instead.
Denial and secrecy
Another sign that could indicate that someone is struggling with addictive behaviours is denial or secrecy. For example, a person who has just one drink every day may use this as an excuse and claim that they ‘can’t’ be an alcoholic because they stick to the recommended daily intake.
However, denial and secrecy are often the brain’s way of protecting addiction from being challenged and can more often than not be subconscious.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Suppose a person abuses a substance or engages in addictive behaviour daily and starts to become dependent over time. In that case, they may experience withdrawal symptoms on the days they do not have access to it.
Depending on the addiction, symptoms can sometimes be life-threatening, ranging from shaky hands, insomnia and anxiety to more severe problems, including seizures and hallucinations.
Continuing to engage in addictive behaviour despite the negative consequences
Those who have developed addictive behaviours may find it difficult to stop despite the negative consequences it may have on them or their loved ones.
The sufferer may even experience a close brush with death or lose relationships as a result but will be compelled to continue despite what has already happened or could happen in the future.
Becoming anxious or depressed
Those who are suffering from addiction may also begin to experience psychological issues such as anxiety or depression, as well as physical problems also.
When addiction begins to progress, damage is caused to the individual’s dopamine system in the brain, meaning that they are likely to become progressively more depressed and anxious.
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