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What is addiction?

Addictions usually start out as enjoyable habits – like a smoke or a drink with friends, a flutter at the races, or taking drugs to relax. But if you’re no longer in control of your habit, or it becomes harmful, that’s an addiction. You may find you need more of something to get the same effect, whether that’s gambling, alcohol, drugs or nicotine. Some people are especially prone to addiction, too.

Addiction can have a lasting negative effect on your mental health. For example, the abuse of some drugs can lead to developing schizophrenia, paranoia or psychosis.

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In this 12-minute podcast, a Bupa colleague talks openly about how alcohol stripped him of absolutely everything. He’s followed by two of our experts who discuss finding the motivation to cut down on drinking.

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Addiction rarely gets better on its own. People need help and support to kick their habit. If your friend, colleague or family member is struggling with an addiction, there are ways we can help.

You don’t need to be a Bupa customer to use all the information and advice we provide here. You might also find useful.

Mind, the mental health charity, has a list of specialist organisations that help with addiction and dependency.

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What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is when you need to have a drink to keep going. You can’t control how much or how often you drink, and you may not realise at first that it’s becoming a problem − or you may be in denial. Unfortunately, alcohol addiction can cause a range of mental health problems. This article looks at some symptoms of alcohol addiction and its treatments.

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It’s important to get treatment for addiction, and admitting and exploring its effect on your life can be a good place to start. There are many different types of talking therapy, so even if counselling isn’t for you then there are other options you could try.

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There are psychological and pharmacological interventions for all addictions, whilst a pharmacological approach is usually considered in the early stages of treatment, psychological approaches such as CBT may be appropriate.

CBT teaches you to recognise unhelpful patterns in the way you think and behave. It also shows you how to challenge and change those patterns.

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Whether you're a manager or an employee, we're here to help support your wellbeing in the workplace, whether you have a policy with us or not.

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  • Discover how to implement a workplace wellbeing strategy
  • Get practical guidance on how to support your team's wellbeing.
  • Use our range of guides to help support your team
  • Read our informative blog posts covering a range of topics

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  • Learn how to set up a Wellness Action Plan
  • Improve your organisation's approach to mental health
  • Discover how to play an important role in supporting your team
  • Find out how to feel confident talking about mental health


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  • Break the stigma attached to mental health in the workplace
  • Find out how we are encouraging businesses to open up
  • Get advice on talking about mental wellbeing with your team
  • Listen to our podcasts covering mental health in the workplace

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^We may record or monitor our calls.

††Direct Access telephone services are available as long as the symptoms are covered under the policy. If your cover excludes conditions you had before your policy started, we’ll ask you to provide evidence from your GP that your symptoms are not pre-existing for a period of up to two years from policy start date (or up to five years in the case of mental health). We can then refer you to a consultant or therapist through the Direct Access service. Always call us first to check your eligibility.

Action on Addiction. Addiction widespread in society with more than half of Britons knowing a victim, new poll finds., published 10 June 2019.

Bupa health insurance is provided by Bupa Insurance Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 3956433. Bupa Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Arranged and administered by Bupa Insurance Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales No. 3829851. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London EC2R 7HJ.

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