Six Components of Addiction

Substance or Process/Behaviour: What makes it an ‘Addiction’:

A lot of us understand how people become addicted to substances/chemicals, like nicotine, alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs. A common question I’m asked: are non-substance addictions like gambling really addictions at all? My response: behavioural addictions can be just as serious as substance addictions. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a professor in the UK who studies problem gambling, as well as other compulsive behaviours. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to his presentations at conferences and regularly check out his blog. Here’s what he thinks:  (

Dr. Griffiths believes that all addictions consist of 6 components:

  • “The first one is SALIENCE, which means that it is the single most important thing in that person’s life and that they will do it to the neglect of other things in their life.
  • The second thing is MOOD MODIFICATION, whereby addiction is used as a consistent method of shifting your mood state, whether to get high or to tranquilize your mood.
  • Thirdly, addicts have WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS, including extreme moodiness, nausea, headaches, sweats and so on.
  • Fourth is INCREASED TOLERANCE, where people need more and more over time to reach the same effects. This could involve betting higher sums of money or taking more of a drug.
  • The fifth component is CONFLICT. The addiction becomes so all-engrossing that it harms everything else the person does, including work, school and relationships.
  • Number 6 is RELAPSE. As soon as the person goes back to the activity they are addicted to, they quickly fall back into the cycle.”

If you are curious about addiction, have concerns regarding yourself or someone you care about, or have tried repeatedly without success to let go of problem behaviours, I may be able to help. I offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation, 604.888.9294, or send me an email,