Irresistible? Impulse Control Disorders and Addictive Disorders (Part 2)

We pick up from our last article on impulse control and addiction disorders. In this article we shall highlight more on addictive disorders.


Addiction describes the situation in which someone engages repetitively in a behavior that is negative and may also often lead to ill health impacts. The cycle of addiction may be caused by dysfunction in the brain which may be linked to genetic and environmental factors. Genetic factors may be difficult to control but environmental factors can be controlled. These controllable factors especially among Sports Personalities may have to do with training on handling fame, pressure to perform, and sudden financial windfalls from winning among others.

Addiction is a disease caused by long term habitual use of drugs and other substances of abuse. It is a progressive illness that is not completely curable but it is manageable. It is a pattern of repeated self-administration of the drug of choice which results in dependence, tolerance and compulsive drug taking.  The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as compulsive shopping, sex addiction/compulsive sex, overeating, and problem gambling and computer addiction. In these kinds of common usages, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user himself to his individual health, mental state, or social life.

Addiction is a disease which can present in different forms. Some of the types of addiction include:

  1. Food addiction
  2. Shopping addiction
  3. Internet/Video games addiction
  4. Gambling/Casino addiction
  5. Alcohol/drugs addiction
  6. Sex addiction

Substance abuse

This is best described as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. This simply means that a person at this point will need the attention of a clinician (medical doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist). Clinical impairment is manifested by at least one of the four following criteria occurring within a 12-month period:

  • There is recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home;
  • There is recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous;
  • There are recurrent substance-related legal problems; and/or
  • There is continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance

Substance abuse and Impact on Sportspersons

When an individual is engaged in competitive sports, the pressure to perform is often high. This has seen a section of sportspersons engage in substance abuse in the attempt to cope. Unfortunately the result often is:

  • Failure to deliver on expected results
  • Total ban from sports
  • Self-harm and a direct connection to traffic road accidents (TRA) due to toxic state
  • Social, financial, marital and legal problems

Further to this Sportspersons just like other people within the wider populace find themselves falling prey to issues to do with:

  • Dependence

This is a state in which the drug user relies on the drug for day to day functioning and is characterized by a compulsion to take the drug despite negative effects.

  • Withdrawal syndrome

This occurs when the drug user misses out on their drug of choice when they need or crave for it. Their body and mind then develops a series of specific physical and psychological symptom depending on the type of the drug they use. The symptoms range from headaches, nauseas, general discomfort and intense burning itch of the skin. This may be accompanied by a feeling of depression, despair and aggression against oneself or one’s surrounding.

  • Tolerance

With regular use the person now find that there is need for increasing the daily amount of drug of choice. This is required in order to achieve the same effect initially experienced at the first time use.

  • Dual diagnosis

Some users may have one or more psychiatric disorders along with substance abuse or substance dependence. This then means that more medical attention and expense is required since all of the disorders should be treated concurrently and aggressively. As noted earlier, within MSA there is available support for all our sports people on the above issues.

Image courtesy:

Revd. Dr. James N. Mbugua (PhD)

MSA Positive & Competitive Psychology Expert

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