When Bad Habits Become Addictions

When Bad Habits Become Addictions

What is the worst bad habit you have? I know. It’s a really hard question. Embedded in that question is another hard question: What is a bad habit? We can even go one deeper: What is a habit? Once you sort all that, then you have to figure out what makes one worse than another. Like I said, It’s a really hard question.

Even harder is determining the line between bad habit and addiction. Then, of course, there is the matter of what to do about it. Three more questions immediately spring to mind:

  1. What is an addiction?
  2. Are all addictions the same?
  3. Can a person be completely cured of addictions?

These are all excellent questions. And as you will see, there are no easy answers. But while the answers don’t come easy, there are clues to be gleaned. There are also wrong answers and dead-end pathways to avoid. Here is a closer look at the anatomy of addiction:

Coping Mechanisms

One popular center offering drug rehab for young men had this to say on the matter:

Sometimes life’s stresses push you over the tipping point: you find yourself employing unhealthy coping mechanisms that leave you feeling lost and frustrated. Dependence on drugs and alcohol can take a toll not only on you, but also on your family, your career, your pride—all the things you value most.

It is clear that the bad habits that later become addictions often start out as coping mechanisms. No one ever sets out to become an addict. Everyone always thinks they have it (whatever it is) under control. They never see it coming. And they are the last ones to realize they have a problem.

It all starts by leaving the underlying issue untreated and coping through self-medication. This never cures the underlying problem. It only leaves them with two problems. Coping with one problem with a chemical or behavioral habit is the recipe for a serious addiction.

Social Conformity

When referring to kids, they called it peer pressure. When referring to adults, it is more like social conformity. But whatever they’re calling it these days, it is what happens when the desire to fit in with a peer group is greater than the caution bells warning us against conformity at any cost.

We ignore the warnings of our better angels for the natural high of social acceptance. It may be for infatuation, or to fit in at work, or to feel less like a social misfit. We completely ignore the well-documented challenges and distractions of drugs and alcohol for the temporary satisfaction of fitting in. Unfettered social conformity is the gateway drug to gateway drugs.

Genetic Predisposition

Some people can drink excessively and never get drunk. They barely have a hangover the next morning. Others are completely useless after one beer. Similarly, some people can drink and use social drugs all their lives without ever becoming addicted. While others experiment just once and can never break free.

It is not a matter of being weak willed, a person of low character, or an addictive personality. It is very often a matter of genetic predisposition. The words, crack baby have become a part of the common vernacular. They are born addicted. While most genetic predispositions are not as severe, addiction can be triggered by the first use. If close family members have a history of addiction, take it as a serious warning to steer clear of the habit.

Beyond Drugs and Alcohol

For some people, it’s gambling. For others, is sex. And while there is a dispute in the medical community on whether there is even a such thing as sexual or pornography addiction, these, and other non-chemical behaviors can certainly pose a stumbling block for living happy and fulfilled lives.

Food is a reminder that anything can be taken to extremes, even things that are necessary for life. Whether or not it ever reaches the level of addiction, there are many habits that can still destroy your life if allowed to escalate.

Never ignore a habit when it is formed to cope with some other problem, when it is the result of social conformity, and when genetics may be involved. These are almost always present when bad habits become addictions.

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