Addictive Behaviours


Living under public health restrictions over the last few years, all of us have had to change many behaviours for the greater public good. Many of these behaviours were mandatory and temporary but similarly many of our behavioural changes may have been self-driven and continuing. If you think you have developed a pattern of unhealthy addictive behaviours this piece is to support you in taking stock, looking at your problematic behaviours and if change is needed supporting you towards making positive change.

Abstract image which is a shortcut to jump to the paragraph on Alcohol Abstract image which is a shortcut to jump to the paragraph on Drugs Abstract image which is a shortcut to jump to the paragraph on Media
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Abstract image at the beginning of the Alcohol paragraph
You don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to have a problem with drinking. The Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 reports that many people’s pattern of how much and how they drink alcohol changed during Covid-19 public health restrictions. For some this was an opportunity for positive behavioural change but for others it made for a more problematic relationship with alcohol. Drinking to relieve boredom, loneliness, grief and anxiety are particular causes for concern. So how do you know if you have a problem with drinking and if you want to change that what can you do?
Signs drinking behaviour has become problematic

• Causes you to avoid or disrupts relationships with family or friends.

• Have trouble cutting back despite wanting to stop.

• Neglect work to engage in the behaviour more often.

• Makes you feel depressed, angry or violent.

• Spend money you don’t have and creates financial troubles.

• You make unsafe decisions, such as partaking in unsafe sexual relations.

• Minimise or hide the extent of the problem.

What you can do to change the behaviour?

Know your pattern and triggers. Is it particular nights of the week, when watching tv, with particular people, a reward for hard work, a stress response, etc. you need to recognise your patterns and triggers before you can change them.

An earlier bedtime. Evenings can often be triggers, when people are tired, sitting on their couch, scrolling and trying to turn off their minds. Heading to bed early can remove the temptation to indulge and give your body a reset that allows you to wake up earlier. Use your refreshed mornings to practice healthier mood boosters such as exercise or meditation.

Replacing alcohol with other beverages. Sometimes people drink alcoholic beverages just because they are looking for a treat. Instead of a glass of wine, try something non-alcoholic such as herbal tea, sparkling water with lemon, or a fresh juice.

Alcohol-free socialising. Connect with a supportive friend over a walk or exercise class, rather than over drinks.

Know what to say. You’re not obligated to offer details, but it can help to have a go-to response ready like “I’m cutting back for my health.”

Don’t stock up on alcohol. Only keep small amounts at home.

Focus on the gains and benefits of changing, for example, your health, self-esteem, relationships or career.

Ask for Support. Therapists and counsellors work on reasons, coping skills and goals.

Where you can go for further support


• HSE – Self assessment Tool –

CSEAS – Positive Habits

Citizen’s Information services

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Abstract image at the beginning of the Drug paragraph
There are various reasons why people become interested in using illicit drugs. There include curiosity, boredom and for social reasons. Drugs can become part of a person’s social life. Recreational use can facilitate a degree of escapism. Over time, habitual use may lead to dependency. Dependency on drugs can be psychological, physical or both. The misuse of drugs can have serious consequences in the workplace, impacting on performance and relationships. For Health & Safety reasons, it is very important that you do not attend the workplace if you are unfit to do so.
Signs of misuse of drugs

• Mood swings

• Irritability and/or aggression

• Differences in energy levels

• Difficulties with concentration

• Inability to perform at work etc.

• Poor time keeping

• A pattern of sick leave absence can emerge

• Strain on relationships

• Dishonesty and deceit may occur

What you can do to address misuse

• If you are concerned about your drug use, you are encouraged to disclose this and seek support at the earliest opportunity. Support is available, and issues can be addressed

• Review your behaviour and the effects of drug use

• You may wish to speak with a line manager or HR

• Seek information in relation to addictive behaviour and supports available

• In some cases treatment and rehabilitation may be required

• If attendance for treatment is necessary, Sick Leave may be approved for this purpose

• Review your self-care and see if you can better take care of yourself

Where you can go for further support
You might wish to discuss your concerns with a GP. The CSEAS will be happy to provide support, and can assist if referring you to an appropriate support service. Self-help and support groups are available. Further information and supports are available from the HSE.
More information
The Civil Service Alcohol & Drug Misuse Policy

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Abstract image at the beginning of the Media paragraph
Social media has a role in connecting people to their online communities. This role became even more important during the Covid 19 pandemic, when social isolation, physical disconnection from others and loneliness negatively impacted many people. Social media gives people an online voice, allows people to build relationships and connect with others they may not ordinarily meet and is almost always ‘on’ and available.
Excessive use of social media can lead to low mood, feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation. There is also the possibility of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out). Due to the frequent number of clicks, beeps and swipes when using social media, and rapid switches of attention, this can lead to habit of continuous partial attention. This constant division of your attention can lead to lower ability to focus, concentration and ultimately, to a reduction in productivity.
Signs your social media use is becoming problematic

• Feelings of inadequacy about your appearance or your life

• Giving disproportionate time and attention to virtual relationships and activities over real-life ones

• FOMO – social media may suggest to us that everyone else is having more fun that we are, generating anxiety and insecurities

• Social media use may actually increase feelings of loneliness and isolation

• You may find yourself impacted by cyberbullying

• You may engage in risky behaviour which is out of character, or causes regrets

• If you engage in continuous self-promotion, this can create an unhealthy self-absorption which may alienate you from family and friends

• Distraction at work – difficulties concentrating

• You may notice your time-management is worse

• There may be a negative impact on sleep patterns

What you can do to change the behaviour/break the habit

• Review your behaviour: what are your habits and how much time are you giving to social media?

• Seek information on what is healthy and unhealthy online behaviour

• Make changes and review progress

• Take breaks from social media

• Reach out and seek support if necessary

• Mind yourself and actively engage in activities that promote your wellbeing

Where you can go for further support
Consider contacting the CSEAS. The CSEAS can offer you support and refer you to an appropriate service. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, it might be helpful to discuss with your GP.

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Abstract image at the beginning of the Gambling paragraph
Your gambling is a problem if it causes problems.
Gambling is more accessible, advertised and across more formats than ever before. The traditional bet on a horse or football match has been swamped by gambling on every aspect of almost every sport. Beyond the world of sport gambling comes in the form of cryptocurrencies, premium phone services, lotteries, scratch cards, investments, etc. During the public health restrictions of the last few years the temptation to gamble has increased for many. This may be due to wishing for better, boredom, fun or desperation. Gambling can provide a dopamine hit to the brain that for some becomes a feeling to chase despite the personal and financial costs. So what should you look out for and what can you do to change your behaviours?
Common signs of problem gambling include:

• Feeling the need to be secretive about your gambling

• Having trouble controlling your gambling

• Gambling even when you don’t have the money

• Family and friends say they are worried about you

What you can do to change the behaviour/break the habit

Understand the Problem. You can’t fix something that you don’t understand. Keeping a diary or note of where, when, with whom and most importantly why you are gambling will show you patterns of mood and behaviour.

Avoid Temptation. Once you have identified your triggers and habits decide to avoid certain unhealthy situations by having a plan in advance of contacting a supportive friend, doing a different activity, limiting access to funds and credit.

Postpone gambling. Tell yourself that you’ll wait 5 minutes, fifteen minutes, or an hour. As you wait, the urge to gamble may pass or become weak enough to resist.

Find Alternatives. Distract yourself with another activity, such as going to the gym, watching a movie, or practicing a relaxation exercise for gambling cravings.

Think About the Consequences. Visualize what will happen if you give in to the urge to gamble. Think about how you’ll feel after all your money is gone and you’ve disappointed yourself and your family again.

Strengthen your support network. If your support network is limited, there are ways to make new friends without relying on visiting casinos or gambling online. Try reaching out to colleagues at work, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, or volunteering for a good cause.

Seek Professional Help or join a support group if needed.

Where you can go for further support

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Abstract image at the beginning of the Online shopping paragraph
When the Covid 19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns forced non-essential retailers to temporarily close their doors, online shopping provided us with a safe, convenient way to purchase what we needed.
But when does online shopping become problematic? With its 24/7 availability and purchasing only a ‘click’ away, for some consumers online shopping has become an addictive behaviour.
Compulsive Buying Disorder is defined as ‘an obsession with shopping and buying behaviour that leads to adverse consequences’ e.g. financial problems, marital conflict etc.
Signs online shopping has become problematic

• Compulsive buyers often purchase things on impulse that they can do without.

• Buying that is seen as irresistible and/or senseless.

• Consistently overspending and running up significant debts in order to fund your purchases.

• Concealing your shopping habits by hiding your purchases or lying about how much you spent.

• Experiencing a rush of excitement when you buy. For some, the pleasurable feeling rapidly declines, sometimes as soon as they’ve clicked to make an online purchase. This leads compulsive shoppers to repeat the process to experience the same ‘high’.

• Shopping to dampen unpleasant emotions e.g. loneliness, low self-esteem or lack of control.

• Purchases are followed by feelings of guilt, remorse, embarrassment or confusion.

What you can do to change the behaviour/break the habit

• Seek support.

• Be aware of triggers.

• Block your favourite shopping websites. Delete their apps. Unsubscribe from their e-mails.

• Get rid of credit cards. Use of cash reduces excessive spending.

• Set constraints on how much you can spend.

• Implement a mandatory waiting period before you buy something you have seen and want.

• Steer clear of ‘buy now, pay later’ services.

Where you can go for further support
While compulsive shopping is not widely treated in Ireland, it is recognised as an addiction and joins alcohol, drug and gambling as a serious emotional and mental obsession which can require professional help. Please seek the support of your GP or the CSEAS, who can refer you to an appropriate service that deals with this type of addiction.

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Abstract image at the beginning of the Boredom and comfort eating paragraph
Weight that was gained during the Covid 19 pandemic was often affectionately referred to as the ‘Covid stone’. The National Covid 19 Food Study found that nearly a third of people in Ireland gained weight during the pandemic. Lockdowns, working from home, disrupted daily routines and decreased movement made it challenging for people to eat healthy and keep fit. Boredom/comfort eating were seen by many as the contributor to their weight gain. As a return to pre-pandemic times begins, many are seeking ways to resume or adopt healthier eating habits.
Sign that you may be boredom/comfort eating

• Eating without thinking.

• Not remembering what you ate throughout the day.

• Eating when you don’t feel hungry.

What you can do to switch behaviours/break habit

• Keep a food diary. This will make you much more aware of everything that you are eating and help you identify the times of the day that you are most likely to eat out of boredom.

• Eat mindfully. To do this means to be conscious, aware and focused on what you are eating. This can be useful in allowing you to differentiate between boredom eating and hunger.

• Plan your meals ahead of time and eat at regular intervals throughout the day.

• Set yourself daily achievable tasks to combat boredom and to enable yourself to feel satisfaction from something that isn’t food.

• Be kind to yourself. Changing your eating habits can be hard work. If you have a slip up, learn from it and make a plan to achieve it the next time.

Where you can go for further support
If you are concerned about your eating habits and feel that you are in need of specialised support, please reach out to your GP or get in touch with Bodywhys, the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland. You can visit Bodywhys at for more information or contact their helpline on 01 2107906.

The CSEAS is also available to support you and to request an appointment or make an enquiry please contact us:

Tel: 0818 008120
Monday – Thursday: 9am – 5.15pm
Friday: 9am – 5pm

Appointments are available evening and weekends if required. Video conferencing is also available.