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Cravings! You know that feeling, when you get a strong desire for something that just won’t go away. It niggles at you, playing havoc with your rational thought processes. The thing you desire takes on monumental importance. You can think of nothing else until your need for it is satisfied. For most of us cravings are a minor irritation, easily satisfied and controlled. But for some cravings can start to affect normal life, and this is when they need a little more attention.

What is a Craving?

A craving is a powerful emotional experience that consumes your entire body. In its most extreme form a craving can also lead to physiological effects. These feelings create a behaviour motivator – a need to seek out the thing that will satisfy the craving. This need often overrides rational thought.

Drug addiction is perhaps the most recognisable form of craving. Certain drugs produce highly pleasurable sensations, and the memory of these cause the body and brain to seek out a re-run. You are driven to recreate those sensations.

How it Works

Different substances leave different memories (chemical and emotional) in each individual. A craving is generally established when someone is exposed to something that gives them so much pleasure their neural pathways are altered, building a desire to recreate that sensation whenever possible.

Stress is a major trigger for addictive behaviour and cravings are a part of that. This is because stress can inhibit the function of the prefrontal cortex in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to concentrate, plan, and make rational judgements. This allows impulsive behaviours to come to the fore, making it more likely that a craving will be acted upon.

Also, once a craving has been established in the brain even the slightest suggestion of the availability of the substance that created it can be enough to kick that craving off. For a sweet-toothed craver the smell of a cake baking can be enough to see them rushing for a slice, or three.

Common Cravings

cravingsSmoking creates one of the most common cravings. The nicotine drug creates a pleasing experience in the user, which causes them to seek out a cigarette when they feel the need to experience that feeling again. It quickly becomes habit. Cannabis and alcohol are other low-grade substances that create similar effects over time (compared with heroin and cocaine, for example, which are known to be highly addictive after just one hit). Some individuals have also reported craving foods such as chocolate, or high-calorie fatty foods, for the feelings of comfort that consuming these foods delivers.

Triggers for Cravings

We’ve already touched on stress as a trigger. But additionally, cravings are related to memory. So when a user finds themselves in a setting where a substance has been used or consumed previously with happy consequences, a craving may be triggered. Even the mere sight of a bottle has been shown to trigger an emotional need, a craving, in the mind of an alcoholic.

Research has also revealed that the person experiencing a craving needs to believe that it is possible to satisfy that craving in any given circumstance. So, when a smoker is faced with an eight hour flight where smoking is banned, the craving is suppressed. But it will resurface with vigour upon arrival at their destination. This creates an interesting pattern that illustrates how cravings can to a degree be controlled.

Controlling a Craving

Addiction is a serious business, and this article in no way intends to bypass that fact. Addicts need professional assistance to help navigate their problems. It has been shown via research that by removing an individual from the circumstance that’s associated with their craving, it’s possible to suppress the desire.

The smoker-on-the aircraft is a good example of this. And many soldiers returning from Vietnam were hooked on opium and heroin, following treatment and withdrawal,, they were found to be less likely to relapse upon their return to the US, unlike home-based addicts who remained in the environment where their cravings began.

Next time you find yourself driven to reach for your substance of choice to satisfy a craving, take a little time to check how you’d feel if you couldn’t satisfy the need. Mild annoyance is normal. But if you feel significantly stressed or ill at the prospect of denial then please do seek help. Your craving may be in danger of affecting your life in a negative way – that pleasure you seek is a trick that’s playing with your mind, don’t let it win.





About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, whatsapp plus,travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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