Addictions | Symptoms & Treatment Options | Zencare — Zencare


What are addictions?

Addictions refer to a broad group of conditions in which an individual is regularly involved with a substance or activity in a way that is compulsive, hard to control, and often has harmful consequences.

Addictions are most often defined by using a substance like drugs or alcohol (commonly called substance use disorders), but some definitions of addiction also include compulsive engagement in behaviors such as sex, gambling, or shopping.


Many people engage in substance use or potentially addictive behaviors without these habits becoming addictions. For example, looking forward to getting a drink at happy hour doesn’t mean you’re addicted to alcohol, and one evening at a casino doesn’t equal a gambling addiction. However, when you frequently seek out a substance or behavior in a way that feels difficult to cut back, control, or disengage from even when it interferes with your day-to-day life, it may be worth considering whether you’re struggling with an addiction.

Different types of addiction

Addictions can come in many forms. A few of the most common addictions include:

Prevalence of addictions

Addictions are considered to be very common.

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health [1]:

About 21.5 million people in the United States ages 12 and older had a substance use disorder

American Addiction Centers indicate that substance use disorders are more common in men than in women [2].

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health also indicates that many people struggle with drug and alcohol use disorders simultaneously.

Additionally, nearly eight million adults in the United States in 2014 had both a substance use disorder and a diagnosed mental health condition [3]. This is what’s known as co-occurring disorders.

Symptoms of an addiction

Symptoms of addiction can vary, but the most common indicators are as follows:

Addictions are generally considered highly treatable. If you may have an addiction, you can explore the following options:

What to look for in a therapist for addiction

Look for a therapist who has a specialty in treating addiction

Several different treatment methods have been shown to be helpful for various addictions. A few of the most common include:

You may also want to work with a therapist who has specific credentials, such as a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).

Know what questions you need to ask potential therapists

These questions may prove helpful when interviewing potential therapists:

Prioritize personal fit

While personality fit is a nuanced factor, it is critical to your success in therapy. Multiple studies have revealed the importance of this factor, often referred to as “therapeutic alliance.”

On your initial phone call with the therapist, ask yourself:

Additionally, consider these factors:

Consider cost, location, and scheduling

Therapy will only work if it works for you. Before making an appointment, ask yourself honestly:

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.