Addictions in disguise
I never thought of myself as an addict before because I don’t have an unaccountable need for anything. Or so I thought…By Fouad Alaa @fouad_aka_fox
IN DISCUSSIONS or arguments about addiction, the spotlight is usually shed on substance addiction, like alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. However, there is a type of addiction that people see as just ‘bad habits’ or are completely oblivious about: behavioral addictions.
Unlike substance addicts, behavioural addicts are addicted to engaging in a particular behavior or action which becomes a part of who they are rather than as a result of some cause.
Similar to substance addiction, behavioral addictions are characterised by lack of control over one’s actions, compulsive or obsessive behavior and continuing to do something despite its negative consequences like shopping addiction or caffeine addiction.
The reason why these behaviors become addictions is because they appear as harmless pastimes, like surfing the internet, shopping or even eating. They also offer instant gratification, and act as endorphin triggers for some.
So how can we know the difference between normal habits and addiction? Here are examples of behavioral addictions that people, maybe even you, may be addicted to.
Workaholics aren’t just people who spend long hours at work, workaholics find reasons to work even if they don’t have to. Their minds are always preoccupied with work. Being a workaholic is a compulsive disorder, so a workaholic doesn’t even need to like his or her job. To them work is not a task or means to an end anymore, it is a life force.
When work becomes a part of you it becomes personal, a state of mind, the long hours given and the effort that have been put in are usually rewarded. Whether the reward is a bonus or a casual pat on the back from a peer, it acts as positive reinforcement for that behavior. Workaholics get their real high from two other sources: the state of being stressed out and/or the sense of accomplishment once the task is done.
Even though being a workaholic may boost your career status or bank account, its negative effects take a toll on your social life and physical health. The more time you spend at work, the less time you spend on anything else, and the more effort you put at work the less attention you give yourself. But because work ethics are highly valued by most people, being a workaholic is easily mistaken for being focused and devoted instead of as an obsessive addiction with a socially-accepted disguise.
So if your boss never scolded you for being hardworking… Congratulations, you are not a workaholic.
Some people just love to love. Bringing in love to a new relationship creates feelings of excitement and attachment. Those feelings are results of chemicals such as dopamine, which makes you feel happy, energetic and motivated, and oxytocin, which gives a feeling of attachment.
There are two types of love addicts, depending on what kind of ‘love high’ they get off on. The first can be referred to as the overly attached girlfriend/boyfriend. They are preoccupied or even obsessed about their partners; they feel that they can’t live without them and that they are their only source of happiness. The second type are the replicators, the ones who just don’t seem as happy with their partners after a few months when the chemicals, or rather the early stage high, wears off. They would be preoccupied with, and continuously, seeking out someone just to replicate the early stages in a new relationship.
Over-preoccupation with love is also a result of social interactions and early family life. The media’s portrayal and idealisation of love can lead some people to become overly focused on, as well as unaware of, love as an addiction.
So if your relationship is not quite the fairy tale you have always wanted but its working out anyway… Congratulations, you are not addicted to love.
We all know that one person who has always been a buzz-kill. To them the glass is always half empty and there has to be something wrong with everything. Negativity addicts can seek out the negative in every situation and are always reminding themselves of negative past experiences. . They tend to complain about problems rather than try to fix them.
So what is so addictive about negativity? Well, like all substance and behavioral addictions, negativity provides a mental stimulus that can be addictive. Our brains react more to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli, which is why negative reinforcement tends to have a stronger impact on behavioral change. Negativity addicts are addicted to the surge of brain activity that results from thinking negatively.
This overflow of negative emotions which paints everything else in a negative light can be deeply rooted and could have resulted from emotional trauma or dysfunction during their early stages of development.
So if your favourite sports team won in the last minute and you are celebrating not complaining… Congratulations, you are not a negativity addict.
Even though not all of us engage in it, exercise is a healthy activity which has positive benefits. But the need to blow off some steam and work out can turn a healthy habit into a dangerous addiction.
Exercise addiction actually has withdrawal symptoms. For exercise addicts who haven’t exercised for a day or more, they can suffer from anxiety, irritability or even guilt for not working out. Those symptoms appear when the addict is injured or prevented from working out due to factors out of their control.
Exercise addicts make exercise a priority even when it’s not advisable, like after an injury. They feel a constant need to maintain a regular exercise routine and can be stressed out if they don’t feel they have worked out enough. Some may never be satisfied with the amount of exercise they are doing.
So if you have gained some weight after the holidays and aren’t at the gym working it off on the treadmill… Congratulations, you are not an exercise addict.
There are many forms of behavioral addictions that need self-behavioral analysis in order to be aware of our own unique addictions.
I am a natural addict; I turn everything up to 11. It took me a long time to find out my type of addiction; at first I thought I was addicted to distractions. But analysing my behavior throughout my life I discovered that I enjoy testing my limits whenever I am introduced to any fun activity or habit. It has affected my life negatively in the past, whether it was the latest release of my favorite videogame franchise or a new TV series, I always over-dosed on any new type of fun until it turned against me and was forced to abandon it.
Too much of anything can be unhealthy. There is a difference between working a little too hard and being addicted to work, just like there is a difference between a really realistic view and a constant negative view. It is that grey area between accepted behaviors and their negative extremes that should be avoided regardless of how ‘harmless’ they may be.