Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of Addictions

By Jim Orford | Go to book overview

Preface

Some 15 years have passed since I wrote the Preface to the First Edition of this book. Since then 'the addictions' have continued to flourish—not only in the form of very troublesome states of being that affect very large numbers of people, but also as a clinical and academic field of study and practice. While millions of people have become addicted in the last 15 years, and been hurt in the process, more and more research has been carried out and yet more has been written on the subject. Although the phenomenon of addiction appears to be universal and timeless, it is surprising what a difference 15 years can make to the appearance of the field. At the time of writing the first edition of Excessive Appetites, cocaine, for example, merited only limited attention, but within only a few years cocaine, and then crack cocaine, would constitute possibly the most worrying addiction of all, at least in some parts of the West. Binge eating disorder, to give another example, had not yet made its appearance as a term in the professional literature on eating disorders. When it came to constructing a psychological model of the addictions, learning based upon the relief of withdrawal symptoms was probably still the leading idea 15 years ago. Since then withdrawal relief has become less prominent, and positive incentive explanations more so. Cognitive science has started to provide some of the leading ideas in the field.

The core ideas around which this book is written have, nevertheless, remained the same. An addiction, or an 'excessive appetite' to be more precise, is the same whether its object is alcohol, gambling, heroin, tobacco, eating or sex. It is best thought of as an over-attachment to a drug, object or activity, and the process of overcoming it is largely a naturally occurring one. In that sense the Second Edition is in essence no different from the First. To do justice to some of the developments that have taken place in the meantime, however, it has been necessary to substantially rewrite the book. When I embarked on preparing a second edition I naively assumed that this would be a comparatively easy task. I was quite wrong. If references are a rough guide to the extent of rewriting, then the following figures may be of some interest. Of 640 works referenced in the First Edition 280 have survived to appear in the Second. In the process 590 new references have been added.

One thought that has haunted me in preparing this edition is that the basic idea of excessive appetites is now well accepted. If it needed to be articulated in the

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