What’s your addiction?

By: Carley Borrelli

Photo credit: entonceeees / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: entonceeees / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

When people think of addicts, the first things that come to mind are vivid post-use images of heroin and cocaine addicts. While such dangerous and illegal addictions do exist, any substance or behavior can become addictive.  Everyday activities such as exercising, playing video games and even eating can be types of addictions.

What makes these seemingly harmless activities addictions and not just habits? A habit occurs by choice, and an individual can make the conscious decision to stop the habit if they so choose. They maintain control. On the other hand, an addiction contains a psychological component, where an individual is unable to make the decision to stop the activity or substance abuse without help. Addiction  perpetuates a strong mental and physical dependence in addicts from which they cannot escape.

This dependence can lead to tolerance, where an individual needs increased amounts of the addictive activity or substance to feel the same way they did when they started the addictive behavior.  Drawing the line between a habit and an addiction can be tricky, but the following actions can serve as distinguishing factors:

  • Drop activities and hobbies: Individuals may begin to cut out activities that once made them happy in favor of the addictive behavior.

  • Denial of the addiction: If anyone tries to help the individual, he/she may become angry and refuse to believe that they have a problem.

  • Avoidance/Secrecy: The individual may try and hide the substance or activity from friends and family who may try and intervene.

  • Obsession: The individual may spend increased time and energy trying to obtain the substance or means to continue the activity.

  • Excessive consumption: Through increased obsession, the individual will spend more time performing the addictive behavior or using the substance to the point of detrimental effects.

It is important to keep in mind the symptoms of addictive behaviors, as they can lead to negative effects in physical, mental and emotional health. Sometimes, these symptoms may be brought on by stress due to an upcoming paper or presentation at work. Especially in college, students can become overwhelmed with balancing their plate of classes, campus organizations and social involvement. By managing stressors, individuals may ease the trigger of addictive behaviors. However, some individuals may have genetic predisposition to addictive substances, such as alcohol and other drugs and should see a physician for detailed ways on how to manage their predisposition. Either way, it is essential to be able to recognize addictive behaviors in any situation.