Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not Such A Happy Christmas For Addiction Sufferers

It may be the season to be merry for most people but according to experts at the Priory Group, the UK's leading independent provider of addiction treatment services, Christmas is often the most difficult time of year for people suffering from an addiction.

The euphoria and excitement surrounding Christmas reinforces feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth which are common in addicts. This makes it even harder to manage their addictions during the festive period.

An estimated two million people in the UK are believed to suffer from an addiction of some sort. The three most common addictions are also the ones that are the most difficult to cope with at Christmas:

- Alcohol
- Food
- Shopping

Dr Philip Hopley, consultant psychiatrist at The Priory Roehampton explains: "It can become very difficult for people to deal with the stress and anxiety caused by the financial and consumer pressures of the festive season, and by difficult family and relationship situations that often arise at this time of year. For an addict this is intensified by trying to avoid temptation at a time when the rest of the population appears to be having a fantastic time.

"During December alcohol consumption in the UK increases by 41%. Christmas puts a significant strain on people and this often leads to people using more alcohol in a bid to relax or avoid facing issues.

"There are a number of reasons why some people end up drinking too much at a consistent level, including the need for confidence in social situations, such as the office Christmas party. the financial strain caused by overspending; the pressure to be upbeat and act as the 'perfect host'; spending extended periods with relatives; and

"One of the most difficult times of the year for those recovering from alcoholism is the Christmas holidays because so many people appear to be having a good time whilst drinking. The New Year can seem like a very bleak place for alcoholics facing a long road ahead. Dr Hopley continued: "Christmas is often seen as a good excuse to indulge in overeating and excess, but to people with eating disorders it can spell despair.

"People with conditions such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa can become extremely distressed to the point of feeling suicidal because of the pressure to eat at Christmas.

"Bulimic behaviour often peaks over the holiday period and some sufferers resort to self-harm, which can become destructive addictive behaviour."

Christmas is also a very challenging time for those suffering from a shopping addiction, or Oniomania as it is clinically known, according to Priory addictions specialist Dr Hopley: "Shopping addiction or impulse buying is when someone gets a 'high' from spending money on goods and spends excessively on items that they want rather than need. At Christmas the shops are full of glitzy displays designed specifically to encourage people to buy.

"One of the main implications of shopping addiction is debt. People who are addicted to shopping may spend even when they have no money to spend with, which can soon lead to debt problems. Debts can often spiral out of control and can soon become unmanageable. Other consequences are denial and desperate acts to cover up the addiction leading to the breakdown of close relationships."

Dr Hopley concluded: "While the vast majority of people enjoy a wonderful time at Christmas there are those for whom it is a desperate time. Admitting to a having a problem and consequently seeking treatment can be the first and most important step towards being able to enjoy the festive season in the future."

No comments: