Addiction is the physiological and/or emotional dependence upon a substance, an activity, or a modus operandi that is so strong as to have a harmful physical and/or emotional effect, and which keeps the individual from dealing effectively with his own life and with interactions with society. The addict often loses his power of self-control and his behaviour becomes determined by the source of his addiction and increasingly inconsistent with his personal values, leading him to become more compulsive and obsessive. The two main types of additions are (a) substance addictions (ingestive addictions) which are addictions to substances that are almost always mood-altering and lead to increasing physical dependence (alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, food); and (b) process addictions (almost any specific set of actions or interactions can be an addictive agent, for example gambling, accumulating money, sex, work, religion and worry).
Manifestations of addition as individual dependency relationships are: alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sexual and gambling addictions. Addictions also manifest as symptoms of mental ill health, in conditions such as manic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, narcissistic personality and phobias. Addiction on the interpersonal plane may be expressed as dependent relationships (co-dependency), such as marriages where one partner cannot function without the other. On the systemic plane, addictive behaviour may be expressed through compulsive overwork and careerism, or dysfunctional and rigid families, where people have lost true self-determination and effectively become zombies addicted to serving societal norms rather than in touch with, and acting on their own true needs, feelings and values.
The system in which we live is an addictive system. It has all the characteristics and exhibits all the processes of the individual alcoholic or addict. It functions in precisely the same ways, demonstrating the typical addictive behaviours of denial, projection and blame used as defence mechanisms, dishonesty, crisis orientation, confusion and forgetfulness, depression, fear and negativism, ethical deterioration, frozen feelings, tunnel vision and judgmentalism. It calls forth addictive behaviours in susceptible individuals (e.g. addiction to materialism). The promise of an addictive system is that it is possible to have everything we want and need as long as we accept and conform to the system. The promise of an addictive system is that things are going to get better. In the same way as any individual addict, the addictive system engenders and supports co-dependency in all citizens as a positive way to function within it, producing such pathological social diseases as despairing individualism, institutionalized deception, 'chic' nihilism, 'keeping up appearances', escaping reality through popular psychological frameworks, and so on. The awareness that society has an addictive disease is what is missing from other explanations and treatments of the problems we are facing today.