Is It Just a Phase or Is It Addiction?
In order to answer that question, it will be helpful to define addiction.
Definition of Addiction
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the simple definition of addiction is:
- a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do
something (such as gamble)
- an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something
Let’s start by saying that addiction is anything but simple. It takes on a life of its
own…essentially hijacking or overtaking the life of its subject.
It will be helpful to take a closer look at the definition to help us understand what
addiction is and isn’t.
Addiction is a Strong Harmful Need
Most people struggling with addiction will tell you that this is most certainly true.
An addict does not intentionally become addicted.
And, the addict didn’t start out needing a drug or behavior to feel better. They just
wanted some relief.
It typically starts with experimentation. It’s fun or soothing at first. It’s just those feelings of relief that interrupt the brain’s normal reward system making it extremely difficult to steer clear…even when you recognize that it’s beginning to cause more pain than it’s relieving.
The dictionary definition referred to a drug or gambling. This is a key point when
you’re wanting to understand or define addiction.
When most people think about addiction (if you’re here you’re one of them), you may
jump to the conclusion that addiction begins and ends with substance abuse…drugs and
alcohol. This understanding will leave you vulnerable to addictions that are
camouflaged by what we might think of as normal behavior.
Developing a gambling addiction, for example, doesn’t necessarily require that you
spend every waking hour in a casino. You could spend yourself into financial trouble
playing the lottery or lose yourself (and your zest for life) in video games.
So, an addict will find themselves abusing a substance or engaging in a harmful
behavior even when they KNOW it’s causing damage to themselves and their loved ones. It
If you try to make sense of it with your current level of addiction awareness, you’ll
still be scratching your head even as your hair falls out. Here’s another great example
Addiction is an Unusually Great Interest or Need
Addictive behaviors are some of the most challenging to address. The video below echoes
the thoughts of most people that haven’t had to deal with addiction personally.
Unfortunately, the addict has tried to stop many times. It’s just not that simple.
If you find yourself repeating a behavior to the point of causing physical damage,
you’re dealing with a compulsive or addictive behavior. Pulling at your hair or
scratching your head until your hair falls out would fit this definition.
Just about anything can develop into an addiction. If you think you’ve seen it all,
trust me, you haven’t!
A few of the most common behavioral or process addictions revolve around:
- Food (also known as eating disorders)
- Sex (pornography, extramarial affairs, chronic masturbation)
- omputer Use (video games are a common source of this addiction)
While the effect on the brain from certain drugs may be more intense, the very same
effect is created by any substance or behavior that is used to bring relief. This isn’t
necessarily a bad thing. As a human, it’s how we’re wired.
When we are hungry, we eat and feel relief. No problem.
If we’re eating to relieve something other than hunger, we will likely overeat. Food
only relieves hunger.
As an example, someone with an eating disorder will continue eating because the relief
isn’t coming. They may eat until they feel ill. Then, the shame follows which causes an
even greater need for relief.
It’s a vicious cycle. And, this is how addiction works.
How do you know if you’re addicted?
1. Do you NEED a harmful substance or behavior to feel relief?
2. Do you abuse the substance or behavior to the point where your life feels “out
3. Have you tried to stop and found yourself justifying with “just one more time?”
4. Have you traded one addiction for another…maybe something that’s easier to
5. Are you dealing with unpleasant consequences that are directly related to this
If you answered YES to one or more of these questions, you already know this is a
problem that requires immediate attention. Not just any attention…
You may recall that addiction is anything but simple.
The reason why so many relapse (sadly 90+%) is that addiction was not treated with the
respect it demands. It won’t give up without a fight. You need to arm yourself with the
help of people who know what you’re dealing with.
That doesn’t mean that all addiction requires formal treatment. In fact, most people
find recovery on their own. Will that approach work for you? It depends on how you
approach the problem. Are you ready to get real with yourself?
Once you’ve accepted that you have a problem that has taken control of your life, you
have a number of options including:
- Do-It-Yourself Recovery If you want to go it alone, you will need to learn
everything you can about addiction and determine what is at the root of your individual harmful need. Beware…addiction thrives in isolation. Support is not optional.
- Addiction Counseling If you’ve had some success controlling the problem, a
professional that specializes in working with people that are experiencing addiction
can help you gain some much needed insight.
- Out-Patient Treatment If you find yourself relapsing repeatedly, you will
probably need additional oversight until you’re firmly established in recovery. And,
you may find that you need to leave your familiar surroundings. Sober living isn’t just
- In-Patient Treatment One of the ways you know you’re an addict is by the
level of resistance you feel towards this type of treatment. For some, the idea of
withdrawing from the pressures of daily life sounds pretty appealing. For addicts that
are focused on their next fix, not so much.
Where do you start if you’ve come to accept that you’re dealing with addiction?
First, if you are feeling suicidal or your life is otherwise at risk, call for or seek
help NOW. Make your way to a hospital, call emergency services or reach out to family
members or friends to find the support you need.
Remember, addiction is not simple and demands respect.
Once you’ve established that your life is not being threatened in the moment, you can
consider your options from the list above. There’s no fault in starting at the top and
working your way down. You will know quickly if taking a do-it-yourself approach with
addiction is going to work for you.
To help you get the process started…to learn about addiction, you’ll want to watch the
short video that reveals the Top 3 Causes of Addiction. Even if you’re still not
convinced this is YOUR problem, understanding what causes addiction could help you
avoid it! It’s a few minutes of your time that could change YOUR life.