Category Archives: addiction

Sex addiction ‘Is it real’?

Often people ask me if sex addiction is a  real thing? My response is yes watching porn has been shown to activate the same reaction in the brain as cocaine use. I have worked with many clients who have reported taking risks around their sexual behaviours that they would never dream of taking normally. They state that at the time that they are feeling the obsession to ‘act out’ sexually the thought of the possible consequences do not deter them. They talk about loss of marriages, police arrests and loss of jobs being amongst some of those consequences. Even with the threat of loosing all or some of the above ‘ sex addicts’ state that the compulsion to act out sexually is still stronger.

Addiction is a condition that consists of a repeated compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance or behaviour despite the adverse social physical or emotional consequences’

There are other arguments that suggest sex addiction is not real but is in fact a smoke screen for what is really more about who you are as a person. These arguments suggest that for instance watching violent porn is unlikely to make you act out in a sexually violent way unless you already have a predisposition towards being violent and/or aggressive.

Lennard J Davies States that ‘it’s real in the sense that people say they have it. But it is invented in the sense that how much sex you have, how happy you are with that, how guilty you feel about what you do in the dark with whom are all heavily subject to culture and morality. Our culture is, after all, obsessed with sex, and obsessed with controlling sex. Sex addiction is the perfect poster boy to embody that dichotomy.’

My work has lead me to believe that there is a little bit of truth in both arguments. There is likely to be some underlying trauma that has predisposed a person towards acting out sexually but whatever the truth is the fact remains that if it is causing pain to the person or anyone else then change is most likely required. The first step is admitting you have a problem and then asking for help.

Sex addiction therapy works in a very similar way to drug and alcohol dependency therapy. A plan of action needs to be devised which more often than not will include the client figuring out what behaviour is causing them pain and learning ways to then abstain from it. Such behaviour is called a ‘bottom line behaviour’. Therapy helps clients work towards abstaining from unhealthy behaviours that cause them pain and work towards building healthy intimate relationships.

If you are worried about your sexual behaviours and think you might be a sex addict call me Victoria Abadi on 07983726647 for a free 20 minute telephone conversation.

Cited Lennnard J Davies, Pschology Today

What Are The Benefits Of Mutual Aid Groups

imageFirstly what does mutual aid mean? As a rule most people will have an idea of what self help is. Self help is possibly reading a book which will motivate you to either get fit, get rich, get motivated or get well in someway. A self help group is a place where peers come together to support one another with a common problem. Up until 10 years ago most such groups were called self help or support groups until it was pointed out the contradictory nature of the terms ‘self help’ and ‘support’. It suggests that both individualism and cooperation can co-exist, which they can but a better way to say this was to start calling self help groups mutual aid groups.

In relation to addiction, the most commonly accessed mutual aid groups are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA) Cocaine Anonymous (CA) Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Al-Anon. AA is a group set up to support those that identify themselves as having a problem with alcohol. The group members will identify with having a problematic relationship with alcohol in someway. The idea of the group is to work through a 12 step program of recovery with someone ( often referred to as a sponser ) who has been abstinent from alcohol for a period of time and has already worked through the 12 steps. The aim is to become abstinent from alcohol and improve ones quality of life and the lives of other people who have been affected by the alcoholic behaviour. It is often reported by group members that it is the ‘therapeutic value of one alcoholic helping another’ that they find most useful.

In mutual aid groups, specific modes of social support emerge. Through self-disclosure, members share their stories, stresses, feelings, issues, and recoveries. They learn that they are not alone; they are not the only ones facing the problem. This lessens the isolation that they may experience. NA and CA operate in the same way but the focus is more on addiction as a whole rather than to one particular substance. GA focuses on the addictive nature of gambling and again suggests abstinence from gambling in order to gain recovery. OA is slightly different as it does not suggest that you abstain from food but will often help members to discover what their trigger foods are and might suggest abstention from those. Again it is the combination of the 12 steps and the support of the other group members that help members enter into a recovery process. The Al-Anon Family Groups are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength and hope in order to solve their common problems,” believing that “alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery” (Al-Anon 1981).

AA was originally founded by ‘Bill W’ and ‘Dr Bob’ in 1935. It is now estimated that over 1million people attend more than 40,000 groups in over 100 countries (Borman 1992). AA and other anonymous groups have become to be known as a “twelve-step mutual aid groups” because their program’s  for abstinence involves the following twelve steps:


  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

In the South Manchester area alone there are approximately 80 AA meetings a week (click here to download a list of the meetings available).  In Hale Altrincham and wilmslow area alone there are 14 AA meetings a week.

It is becoming more widely recognised that society as a whole depends largely on organisations and services such as The Government, The Police and the NHS to provide help for issues they may be experiencing. Mutual aid groups are tapping in to a new movement known as Asset based Community Development.

ABCD is a set of values and principles which:

Identifies and makes visible the health-enhancing assets in a community
Sees citizens and communities as the co-producers of health and well-being, rather than the
recipients of services
Promotes community networks, relationships and friendships that can provide caring, mutual
help and empowerment
Identifies what has the potential to improve health and well-being
Supports individuals’ health and well-being through self- esteem, coping strategies, resilience
skills, relationships, friendships, knowledge and personal resources
Empower communities to control their futures and create tangible resources such as services,
funds and buildings (Foot and Hopkins, 2010)

Addiction recovery Mutual aid groups are an asset to the community as you do not need to be referred into them by a specialist worker you can turn up at any meeting at any time and if you have a desire to be abstinent from your particular substance and/or addictive behaviour you can become a member without having to pay any fees.

Therapy works well alongside mutual aid recovery as often becoming abstinent can involve looking at what may have underlined the addiction in the first place. Therapy provides a safe non- judgemental place in which this can be explored at your own pace. If you want any more information on abstinent based program’s and/or wish to enter into addiction therapy contact me on 07983726647 or email


Is Wealthy living healthy living?

499-2People often ask me if I find that drugs and alcohol are as widely used in wealthy areas such as Hale and Wilmslow in Cheshire where I run my addiction therapy clinics as they are in poorer inner city areas. My response is that addiction knows no boundaries when it comes to age, race, class, creed, religion or sexual identity. It does not care if you live in a ten bedroom mansion or share a one bedroom flat with four other family members. It does not care what colour you are. If you are Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or C of E. Even if your religion states that you should not drink addiction does not care. The definition of addiction is the continued repetition of a behaviour despite adverse consequences. So regardless of what your religion tells you or how many BMW’s you have parked outside your house if you suffer from the disease of addiction the chances are you will use if you have millions of pounds to loose or just your self respect and dignity.

One of the reasons behind wealthy young adults using drugs is that often they have had high expectations put upon them to achieve the same success as their parents. Combine that with the fact that often in their parents effort to acquire such success they are often busy out working leaving the children to be brought up by nannies or being sent off to boarding schools. When a child does not receive sufficient nurture combined with high expectations to achieve they often grow up with feelings of low self worth and self efficacy. For a young adult to feel there is little worth or point to their life is a dangerous place. Using drugs to escape from the high expectations heaped upon them becomes a not uncommon practice.
Dr David Regis of the Schools Health Education Unit says that his own research also suggests that children raised in wealthy suburbs are just as likely to abuse alcohol and drugs as those in more deprived areas. He believes that money is a strong dictating factor. He points out that poorer families do not have access to basics, let alone extra cash for alcohol or drugs. Wealthy kids tend to have more availability to cash thus making the purchase of drugs and alcohol easier than it is for children from a more deprived background.
If you suffer from the disease of addiction then regardless of where you come from you will use substances and suffer the consequences. It might be that if you are from a more affluent background that you will have quicker access to private addiction services. But there is help out there for people from all economic backgrounds. There are statuary services across the country providing free drug intervention services at no cost. There are also thousands of mutual aid groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that provide free recovery groups to anyone who has the desire to stop using.




Is Addiction A Disease Or A Choice?


The question I get asked the most as an addiction specialist is “is addiction a disease or a choice”  Is it nature’s fault or is it all about nuture? The debate has been going on for years. Without going into a full academic essay about this and citing all sorts of clever people, my answer is always the same. It is both….

At the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Robert Risinger scans the brains of human addicts while they watch a video of people getting high on crack. It’s what they call a “craving” video. He then shows them a hard-core sex film.

The brain scans show the addicts get more excited by the craving videos. The drugs become more powerful than sex — because addiction’s a disease that changes your brain, says Dewey.

Dewey is suggesting that drug users don’t have free will.

He believes that they they actually lose their free will as the cravings become so overwhelming.

But if they don’t have free will, how come so many people successfully quit?

Addiction expert Sally Satel acknowledges drug addiction and withdrawal is “certainly a very intense biological process.” But she is one of many experts who say the addiction-as-brain-disease theory is harmful to addicts — and wrong.

Many doctors agree, saying you can still choose not to take drugs, even if they do cause changes in your brain.…/addiction-matter-choice
So although I get asked this question time and time again and answer that i find that both the ideas of addiction being a disease or a choice are important the thing that really appears important to me is how you deal with the problem behaviour. Is it not more important to seek help to stop the behaviour and then explore at your leisure what it is that might have triggered the behaviour initially?

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders share many of the same characteristics as other addictions.  As such once recognised they can be treated.  Eating disorders are characterized by an unhealthy attitude towards food.  They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders.The most common eating disorders are:

Anorexia Nervosa:

Deliberate weight loss is the main symptom of this condition. Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa try to keep their weight as low as possible by an insufficient intake of food and excessive exercising.  Over time Anorexia can cause serious long term health problems.  An individual with Anorexia Nervosa has a distorted body image and may continue to lose weight even when below a healthy weight. The weight loss might then become severe or life threatening and if not treated may be fatal.

Bulimia Nervosa:

This involves cycles of bingeing (overeating) and purging (ridding the body of the excess food, usually by vomiting or taking laxatives). The binging and purging cycle can occur several times a week to multiple times a day. Bulimic behavior is done secretly because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame.   The binging and purging cycle can cause serious long term health problems for the individual, including but not limited to acid reflux, gastrointestinal problems and loss of teeth.

Compulsive Eating:

Compulsive eaters have a preoccupation with food, feel compelled to over eat and often loose control over the amount that they eat.  Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, fasting or excessive exercise, as such binge eaters are often overweight or obese. This may in turn feed into existing feelings of self-loathing which leads an individual to compulsively over eat, thus perpetuating the cycle.   An individual who compulsively over eats is risking long term damage to their health and is at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

Some signs that you may have an eating disorder:

Do you binge and purge?

Do family members of friends have concerns about your weight or your relationship with food?

Do you feel shame or guilt after eating?

Do you often feel “out of control” around food?

Do you feel shame and guilt around eating and your weight?

Do you isolate yourself or not attend social events because of how you feel about your weight?

Do you lie to others about the amount that you eat?

This is by no means a definitive list, but if you identify yourself as having one or more of these symptoms please do contact me and we can discuss ways in which to help you with your eating disorder. 

Compulsive Shopping

shoe-shopping-addictionCompulsive shopping was recognised as a psychiatric disorder in the early 20th century.  Similar to the use of alcohol and drugs an individual will compulsively shop in an attempt to avoid their feelings and can occur when a person feels depressed, lonely and angry.  The “good feeling” is temporary as compulsive shopping and spending generally makes a person feel worse.

It is similar to other addictive behaviours and has some of the same characteristics as problem drinking (alcoholism), gambling and overeating addictions.  Shopping addicts become preoccupied with spending, and devote significant time and money to the activity.Compulsive shoppers will continue to overspend even when it is causing themselves or others distress. They may suffer a loss of control when engaging in shopping and may overspend more than they had intended leading to severe financial consequences as a result of their spending.

Some signs you might have a shopping addiction:

Do you often go on shopping binges?

Do you often feel guilt after spending too much?

Do you often hide purchases from family and friends?

Have you used money that you do not have (credit cards or theft) in order to fund your compulsive shopping?

Do you own clothes and possessions with the price tags still attached which have never been used?

Do you feel compelled to shop?

Do you often feel a “rush” when spending?

This is by no means a definitive list, but if you identify yourself as having one or more of these symptoms please do contact me and we can discuss ways in which to help you with your compulsive shopping. 

Drug Addiction

Web-Images-287-300x200Having an addiction to drugs means that you are controlled by your need for a particular substance to satisfy cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms.  Addiction is not dependent on the type of drug and can occur whether the drugs are “street” drugs, or prescribed by a doctor. When things have got to the point that you are unable to get through the day without a “fix”, then you have a problem.

If you have found yourself in distress about your drug use or have tried to stop and been unable to do so, then you have a problem.  If your addiction is the focus of your life then you need to seek treatment.

Some signs that you might have a drug addiction:

Do you want to stop taking drugs but feel unable to stop on your own?

Do you need to take drugs in order to relieve withdrawal symptoms?

Do you need to use more of the drug in order to experience the same effects that you used to have with smaller amounts?

Are your thoughts primarily focused on drugs?

Do you feel you have lost control over your drug use?

Has your use of drugs caused you problems with friends, family or co-workers?

Have you had financial or legal problems as a result of your drug use?

This is by no means a definitive list, but if you identify yourself as having one or more of these symptoms please do contact me and we can discuss ways in which to help you with your drug addiction. 


Many people can drink alcohol without it having a negative or harmful effect on themselves or those around them. However for some people alcohol has an increasingly negative effect on their behaviours and health. If you or a family member drink too much on a regular basis or find it increasingly difficult to manage without a drink then the situation may have changed from social use to an addiction.

Some signs that you may have a problem with alcohol:

Are you unable to control the amount that you drink? Have you ever had time off work due to drinking? Do you feel you need to drink in order to socialise? Do you feel remorse after drinking? Have you suffered memory loss or blackouts as a result of drinking? Do you lie to your family and friends about the amount that you drink? Have you ever had a legal problem as a result of your drinking? This is by no means a definitive list, but if you identify yourself as having one or more of these symptoms please do contact me and we can discuss ways in which to help you with your alcoholism. 

Addictive Behaviours

For decades addiction has been recognised as an illness. The addicted person tries to avoid, or anaesthetise the way that they feel by using a substance or behaviour in a compulsive attempt to avoid their emotions.  An individual may be addicted to drugs (street or prescription), or alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex and/or relationships, exercise, work, or they  may have an obsession with food (which can manifest itself as bulimia, anorexia nervosa or compulsive over eating).

Many of these activities (such as work, exercise, consumerism, and alcohol) are socially acceptable and socially reinforced, problems occur when an individual makes any of the above activities the prime focus of their life to the exclusion of other activities. Any activity, substance, object, or behaviour that has become the centre of a person’s life, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially is considered an addictive behaviour.

Common Characteristics of addictive behaviours:

There are many common characteristics among the various addictive behaviours.  To begin with the individual will become obsessed with the substance, activity or behaviour, making it their prime focus to the exclusion of everything else. Even when the substance, activity or behaviour causes them or others distress or harm, they will continue with their behaviours as they feel unable to stop and have lost the element of control.

An individual will continue to cause harm to themselves and others and continue, even if they no longer want to. At this point an individual can be thought of as being powerless over their addiction, and even if they want to stop and try to stop they may experience withdrawal symptoms, including physical cravings, depression and anxiety. The person may feel increasingly distressed and have severe health problems, financial, legal or social problems, and still feel unable to stop the behaviour that is causing them and others harm and distress.

The addicted individual may feel great shame and guilt over their behaviour and may lie about the behaviour or try to hide the behaviour from family and friends.  Denial (not admitting that they have a problem) is a common characteristic of addictive behaviours, and an individual may need help to break the denial and face up to the hurt and harm that they are causing themselves.

Whether an individual has an addiction to a substance or a behaviour, it is important to treat the illness, and not just the symptom.  This is because a person can often be “cross addicted” which means that an alcoholic may also engage in compulsive shopping or compulsive overeating. Thus whilst addiction may have many different symptoms (compulsive gambling, compulsive eating, compulsive shopping or drug taking for instance), the main priority is to treat the underlying addiction and not the symptom itself.

Self Harm

Self-harm refers to the act of cutting and burning oneself and is an addiction that is widely misunderstood.  When a person is a self-harmer they engage in compulsive and obsessive behaviours which involve physically harming their bodies in an attempt to avoid feelings that they feel overwhelmed by  and unable to cope with.  Self-harming can include cutting, burning with cigarettes and general acts of physically harming one-self, such as punching one self, pulling your own hair, or hitting ones head against a wall repeatedly.  Self-harm can also be accompanied by other addictive tendencies, especially drug addiction and eating disorders.  Just like drug addiction and alcoholism the self-harmer has an incurable and progressive disease which can be managed through therapy and treatment. Some signs that you may need help with self-harming addiction: Have you ever been hospitalised as a result of your self-harming? Do you cut, burn or punch yourself as a means of dealing with painful emotions? Do you keep your self-harming a secret because of shame or fear of discovery? Do you often have scars, bruises or burns that you feel you must hide from others? Do you self-harm in order to punish yourself for something that you think you have done? Or for something that has been done to you? Do you feel that you HAVE to hurt or injure yourself in order to stop feeling overwhelmed by your emotions? Have you tried to stop harming yourself but been unable to do so? This is by no means a definitive list, but if you identify yourself as having one or more of these symptoms please do contact me and we can discuss ways in which to help you with your addiction to self-harming.