Addiction is when you want to keep doing something so much that you start to lose control over how often you do it. If you’re addicted to something, it can start to feel like it’s taking over your life. People can be addicted to lots of different things

What is addiction?

An addiction can start if you often want to do a certain thing. Or if you do something to help you cope in difficult situations. It could be smoking or drinking alcohol. But it could also be playing online games. If doing it gives you a ‘high’ or makes you feel good, you might want to keep getting that feeling back.

At first this might just be a habit, where you keep doing that activity a lot. This is different from addiction.

An addiction is usually when someone feels like they can't stop doing that activity - like smoking or gambling. They might get withdrawal symptoms if they stop. For example, someone who's addicted to smoking might get angry or stressed if they stop smoking. And you might think you need it to feel normal.

An addiction can be strange. Because you can get addicted to something if it makes you feel less stressed - like smoking. But that doesn't actually change what makes you stressed in the first place. In fact, being addicted to something can make you feel more stressed.

Things to remember:

  • people can get addicted to anything
  • it’s always possible to take control of an addiction and get help
  • it's really important to get help if you're addicted.

What can you be addicted to?

People can get addicted to lots of different things. Different young people have told us  that they want some help because they are addicted to:

No matter what you're addicted to, there's support and advice to help you stop.

How you can beat addiction

If you feel seriously addicted to something, it’s a good idea to get support. Talking to a professional – like a doctor or counsellor – can really help. But there are some ways you can help yourself and take control of your addiction.

Try these ideas:

Remove temptations
If you’re addicted to alcohol, try not to meet up with friends when they’re drinking. If you’re addicted to gaming, give the games to someone to look after for a while so you can’t play. Think about the times when you’re most likely to do the thing you’re trying to stop. This can help you stay away from those situations.

One step at a time
Stopping something you’re addicted to can feel miserable at first. If you feel addicted to alcohol or smoking, stopping could make you feel ill or angry. But the longer you stop for, the easier it'll get. And the better you'll feel. Treat yourself with other things if you manage to stop your addiction for a while. But try not to worry if you can’t do it straight away.

Make a plan
When you get tempted to do whatever it is you’re trying to stop, what’s your plan? For example, if you get tempted to harm yourself you could punch a pillow or listen to music. Everyone’s different, so your plan will be personal to you. But think about what you can do to distract yourself if you get tempted. Get some ideas from our hobbies and interests message board.

Think about the future
You can do it. You can take control and your life can get better. Write down what you want to achieve in the future. And read this every time you find it hard to cope with your addiction. Having a goal for the future can help you get past your addiction.

Write down why you want to stop or cut down
There must be a few reasons why you want to stop being addicted to something. If you’re addicted to smoking, drugs or alcohol – you might want to stop because it has a bad effect on your health, or because it can lead to other problems. If you feel addicted to the internet, you might want to cut down because it’s stopping you spending time with friends. It’s good to write these reasons down. You could even carry them around with you on a piece of paper or save a note on your phone, to help you if you ever feel tempted.

Don't give up
It's common to have times when you relapse. That doesn't mean you can't quit. 

Getting anonymous help:

Childline counsellors are here to listen to anything that's on your mind. They can help you think about ways to start improving your situation.

Doctors can talk to you about what's going on. They might give you treatment and advice.

Frank can give you friendly advice if you have an addiction or problem with drugs.