For many years, alcohol addiction was viewed as a character flaw or moral failing. Yet advancements in science have shown that alcohol addiction is far more complicated. Learn about alcohol addiction and understand the benefits of an integrated, private rehab program.
This article may be helpful if you are…
- Curious about dependency or substance misuse, and the experience of alcohol addiction;
- Interested in the various types of psychological therapy available for individuals who misuse alcohol;
- Thinking that you or someone you love may be experiencing an alcohol addiction or dependency; or
- Researching private rehab and residential treatment options for alcohol addiction.
What is an alcohol addiction?
The term “addiction” is very broad. It refers to any repeated behaviour that causes harm or interferes with everyday life. There are many different expressions of addiction:
- Substance misuse, such as alcohol, nicotine, prescription medication or illicit drugs;
- Food and overeating;
- Shopping or compulsive purchases;
- Sex and pornography; or
- Exercise and gaming.
This short 2 minute video explains addiction in a very concise way that is easy to understand.
With so many people experiencing different expressions of addiction, clinicians characterise alcohol addiction as being a physical dependency or a psychological dependency. In some cases, a person may have both a physical and psychological dependency.
Regardless of the characterisation of alcohol addiction, it should always be taken seriously and treated carefully with thorough professional attention.
A physical dependence refers to the body becoming dependent on the substance to function normally. Often, a physical dependence develops after prolonged use of a substance like alcohol, prescription medication or illicit drugs.
Physical dependence to alcohol shifts your body’s “normal”
Our bodies have an incredible ability to mitigate disruption to our physical, internal state. This natural ability to maintain equilibrium – or “keep things the same” is called homeostasis.
Substances like alcohol, sugar, prescription medication, nicotine or illicit drugs change this internal state of “evenness” in our bodies. When the body is regularly exposed to substances for a prolonged period of time, it creates a new equilibrium. Your body has adapted to the presence of these substances and the effects they cause.
This is one reason why people may experience a decreased impact of a substance over time. This can drive people to require more alcohol to have the same effect. Clinicians refer to this as a physical dependence or addiction.
Do I have a physical dependence on alcohol?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it would be worthwhile to discuss your alcohol usage with a medical professional.
- I need to drink more alcohol than I used to for it to have an impact;
- I (or others) have noticed changes to my eating habit, sleeping pattern or weight;
- I notice that I feel unwell if I do not consume alcohol (eg. get a headache, my heart races or I feel shaky);
- I often experience a strong physical desire to consume alcohol, similar to the need to drink water when I am exercising.
Does this sound like you? If so, seeking help sooner rather than later helps increase your likelihood of effective recovery and success in a private treatment program for alcohol addiction.
Warning: going cold turkey is not safe for those with alcohol addiction
Depending on the level of regular intake, the body can respond poorly to a sudden absence of the substance in your system. At best, this may be uncomfortable. But in some cases may be fatal.
This short 2 minute video explains why alcohol detox is a critical part of your recovery, especially if you have a physical dependency to alcohol.
If necessary, a private rehab program at The Banyans can incorporate a medical assisted detox at one of Brisbane’s private hospitals. This detox will ensure that you arrive for your residential program safely.
Our onsite registered nurses and Addiction Medicine Specialist continue to daily monitor your medical health and wellbeing throughout your rehabilitation program to ensure your safety and comfort.
Pleasure or pain: both can drive psychological alcohol addiction
A psychological dependence occurs when our desire for the substance does not come from the physical body, but the mind.
Psychological dependence typical develops when we drink alcohol regularly to feel happy or relaxed. In other situations, we may be seeking an escape from unpleasant emotions, like anxiety, trauma, hopelessness, grief, or stress.
Our brains are powerful, and so are emotions. Psychological dependency can create unpleasant withdrawal symptoms too. These may include irritability, fatigue or insomnia and strong cravings.
These undesirable effects often keep people in the cycle of addiction. However, psychological withdrawal symptoms are less medically dangerous than physical withdrawal symptoms.
Do I have a psychological alcohol addiction?
Each person has the own motivations for change, and can seek help from alcohol addiction or dependency for several reasons.
However, it may be worthwhile seeking help if…
- You rely on alcohol to relax, sleep or have a good time;
- Your alcohol use is causing damage to my relationships with family and close friends;
- The effects of excessive alcohol consumption have caused disruption to your work or education. This could be via hangover effects, the pursuit of alcohol, or absenteeism;
- You experience guilt about the amount of alcohol you consume, or how you behave when under the influence;
- When you do not consume alcohol, you feel anxious, angry or depressed; or
- You have lost interest in the activities or people that used to bring you joy.
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may benefit from seeking help.
At The Banyans, private rehabilitation programs for alcohol addiction can help you manage and overcome these psychological dependencies. For more information about how The Banyans may be able to help you, do not hesitate to contact our team.
Why do people become addicted to alcohol?
There are many reasons why people originally begin using substances like alcohol. Often, alcohol provides an overwhelming sense pleasure or escape. The desire for these effects drives us to continue misusing alcohol despite the negative consequences it can cause.
Why do people become addicted to substances like alcohol?
Alcohol can make us feel good.
Research has shown that alcohol can signal the release of endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals in our brain. These endorphins are what helps people “loosen up” and feel more confident when they drink alcohol. It can bring people back in search for the “happy buzz”.
The same study suggested that people who released more alcohol-induced endorphins also tend to drink on a more regular basis compared to people who produce fewer. This suggests that alcohol has inherent addictive effects on the human body.
Alcohol can numb negative feelings.
Similarly, alcohol can make us feel better by having a depressant or numbing effect. Some people engage in regular alcohol consumption as a regular method of avoiding unpleasant emotions like anxiety, guilt, boredom, loneliness or stress.
Many people who attend private rehab for alcoholism are also experiencing mental health concerns, like depression or anxiety. In this case, individuals may be using alcohol, drugs or prescription medication to self-medicate the symptoms of their mental health problems. They may be trying to cope with negative or difficult emotions, or temporarily lift their mood.
Our personalised, dual diagnosis programs mean that you can receive treatment for both addiction and emotional or mental health concerns while you here at The Banyans.
We have a genetic predisposition, or family history of alcohol addiction.
There has been a lot of research into whether addiction is due to our genetics or environment.
Twin studies indicate that it is likely both – with 40% to 60% of an individual’s risk of developing an alcohol addiction coming from our genetics. The remainder of the risk factor comes from our environment. This could be the attitude to alcohol in our home growing up, and our personal experiences in life.
Withdrawal symptoms made it difficult for us to change our patterns.
As we have already learnt, the body thrives on evenness and internal stability. If you have developed a physical dependency to alcohol, there can be several unpleasant symptoms that may require significant resilience and perseverance. In this way, we may feel like it is easier to carry on rather than experience the discomfort of medically assisted alcohol detox.
We are afraid to make a change.
Overcoming alcohol addiction is possible, but it takes time and can be a challenging process.
If we are drinking to avoid our feelings, we may be afraid of feeling and working through them. Through our treatment, we may need to take responsibility for some the consequences of our alcohol misuse.
Recovery requires vulnerability, self-insight and accepting help – three things that many people feel uncomfortable doing.
Perhaps we have tried a rehabilitation program before and experienced a relapse. Although relapse is often a part of our recovery journey, we can feel discouraged and disheartened.
An individual treatment program at The Banyans ensures that you are well supported throughout your entire journey. Our caring team will walk with you from your intake all the way through to your post residential support. We ensure you never feel alone and receive the highest standard of quality treatment for alcohol addiction.
Our alcohol misuse has become habitual.
Addiction treatment programs used to say that willpower was enough to break the pattern of destructive alcohol use. However, we now recognise a difference in the cognitive pathways for voluntary and habitual behaviour. This implies that there is more at play than self-control.
It has been shown that repeated exposure to a substance builds stronger cognitive pathways. These stronger pathways become like a well-walked trail that guide you to seek the addictive substance or activity.
For some people, drinking alcohol has become a regular and expected activity. Perhaps we have a group of friends that we always drink with excessively, or a time of day that is marked by a bottle of wine.
Drinking alcohol can become a part of our daily life, and it may not cross our minds that it could be doing great damage to our relationships, and physical and/or mental health.
It is important to note that these pathways also critical to our success in recovery! To learn more about how our versatile brain benefits addiction recovery, click here.
We have unconscious, automatic responses towards alcohol consumption.
The human brain has an incredible capacity to protect our consciousness from thoughts and memories that are significantly distressing. However, these memories are still carried deep in the unconscious brain until they are properly processed and relieved. We may be behaving automatically when these “pressure points” are activated by something in the present. This often keeps us in a detrimental cycle of pain.
The longer these memories are stored in the deep parts of our brains, the greater underlying distress they can cause, and the more mental distortions can be created.
Without realising it, we may be seeking alcohol as a way to cope with the emotional triggers deep in our unconscious memory.
Powerful brainspotting therapy to unlocks unconscious emotional triggers.
At The Banyans, our private, one-on-one programs focus on the deep underlying causes of your addiction to alcohol. Brainspotting is a unique therapy approach that helps bring those unconscious memories to light. By doing so, you can move forward without alcohol addiction and dependency.
At The Banyans, we have degree-qualified psychologists who are certified brainspotting therapists. Brainspotting is a powerful treatment approach for alcohol addiction and can be incorporated into your private treatment program.
The pleasure principle: Addiction hijacks the brain
Decades of neuroscience research has gone into the area of alcohol addiction and dependency. As technology has advanced, we have a new understanding of the “pleasure principle”. It is believed that it has a key role in learning, memory and addiction.
Nature’s prize for achieving necessary goals
When we activate the pleasure response in our brain, we experience a dramatic surge of the neurochemical dopamine.
Historically, our brains released dopamine – the pleasure chemical – as a reward for exerting time and effort to obtain something that was beneficial for survival. Potentially, this could be hunting, mating, or creating fire to maintain our body temperature.
The idea is that if we are rewarded in a powerful way, we would do it again despite the effort and time it took us to achieve the goal. It seems that the process of learning and memory also utilises the same response.
“Look! We found a shortcut.”
When we engage with substances like alcohol, we receive a powerful surge of dopamine or “pleasure” without exerting much time or effort.
Perhaps the alcohol makes us feel happy or removes an unpleasant emotion that makes us feel uncomfortable – either way, our brains have been rewarded, and we are motivated to engage in the activity again.
Breaking the circuit: an integrated approach to therapy for alcohol addiction
Scientists previously believed that abstinence was achievable through greater willpower. However, we now understand that addiction has a more complex effect on our brains. Therefore, succussful rehabilitation for alcohol addiction needs integrated therapies.
At The Banyans, our private rehabilitation programs address underlying contributing factors to addiction, as well as equipping you to better manage your psychological dependency on alcohol.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a commonly employed psychological therapy for individuals experiencing alcohol addiction. Developed for the purpose of preventing relapse, CBT focuses on maladaptive behavioural patterns or nonconstructive responses.
Cognitive behaviour therapy for alcohol addiction and dependency aims to identify and correct problematic behaviours by anticipating likely problems, and working through potential mitigation strategies. It explores the consequences of various behavioural choices, and helps develop skills for self-monitoring and self-control.
Dialectal behaviour therapy
Dialectal behaviour therapy (DBT) is a mode of psychological therapy used to help treat guests who may find emotional recognition and expression difficult. This type of therapy helps guests accept unpleasant thoughts and feelings, encouraging them overcome the urge to turn to alcohol to escape emotional discomfort.
This form of therapy focuses largely on strategies and techniques for relaxation and healthy distraction. This helps tolerate self-destructive thoughts and encourage positive lifestyle change, free from alcohol addiction.
Brainspotting is a research-based type of somatic experiential therapy. With a trained therapist, guests are guided to find a “brainspot” – a specific eye position that elicits a very strong emotional response. This short video helps explain it.
Brainspotting therapy based on the idea that our brain subconsciously holds unpleasant memories until they are properly processed. Brainspotting allows individuals to process the powerful emotions that are associated with their subconscious memories.
Brainspotting can be a crucial step in helping guests become “unstuck” from their destructive patterns and prevent relapse.
To learn more about brainspotting, watch this short video by Dr David Grant, the innovator of brainspotting therapy.
Brainspotting is often partnered with other forms of emotional and psychological therapies, such as counselling, CBT, DBT, music therapy, and art therapy.
Receive treatment for alcohol addiction at The Banyans
The Banyans Health and Wellness offers a private treatment program for alcohol addiction and dependency. Our rehab programs for addiction and dependency incorporate variety of robust treatment modalities to ensure you receive holistic and comprehensive care.
Benefit from effective treatment and one-on-one therapy to gain measurable outcomes and freedom from your destructive patterns. Our Intake Team are available any time to help you design a personalized program for private addiction rehab.
Submit an enquiry today to start your journey to better health and wellbeing.