Contrary to popular belief, addiction is an illness that renders the user totally powerless over their behaviour through no fault of their own.
It is an extremely destructive and potentially fatal illness that affects approximately one in ten of this country's population.
Whether someone is addicted to a substance (alcohol, street drugs or prescription drugs) or a behaviour (shopping, gambling, sex, relationships, work, exercise, self-harm etc) the illness is the same and can therefore be treated in the same way.
Addiction is a way of anaesthetising a person's feelings by changing the way that they feel by using a substance or behaviour. This is because the addicted person does not have the necessary coping mechanisms to deal with their feelings in an appropriate manner. It is not merely the fault of any childhood upbringing or irresponsible behaviour (although they can play a part) but is a far more complex mental problem that needs the right treatment for the illness to be put into remission.
The important thing is to treat the illness and not the symptom. For example if an alcoholic was merely taught how to refrain from drinking, there is a strong likelihood that he/she will pick up some other addictive substance or behaviour. Conversely if somebody who suffers from self-harming is simply taught how to stop hurting themselves, there is a great possibility that they will start drinking or taking drugs to deal with the underlying feelings that they were previously trying to suppress.
Consequently, it is vital to tackle the illness of addiction as a whole and not simply look at the individual behaviour being presented at any one time.
Unfortunately the first, and often most powerful, symptom of addiction is denial and therefore it can take the suffering addict a long time and some major consequences before they finally realise and admit to themselves that they have a problem. However, once they reach this stage the healing can begin.