We often use the words habit and addiction interchangeably, yet there are significant differences between the two terms. Habits can be both positive and negative whereas addictions by their very nature are only negative. One of the most important identifiers of a habit vs. an addiction is the amount of effort and time required to change the learned behavior of the habit or addiction.
Habit vs. Addiction and Their Impacts
Like with addiction, you may wish to change a negative behavior that you habitually do. A habitual behavior can typically be modified with fairly minimal concerted effort, time, and attention. An addiction, on the other hand, will manifest itself through major negative impacts on your health, relationships, employment, spirituality, and life, despite even the most dramatic efforts to change or stop the addictive behavior.
The source that drives negative behaviors is sometimes hard to identify. When you are abusing a substance or behavior that is negatively affecting your life, it is extremely important to determine whether or not you have developed a habit or an addiction. If you or a loved one strongly suspects you have developed an addiction, we urge you to quickly seek professional guidance rather than try to diagnose and treat it on your own. If left untreated, addictions can be life-threatening.
Habit vs. Addiction and How To Tell The Difference
First, you should be aware that both habits and addictions are a result of behaviors that you participate in on a regular basis. These may be actions that you do as a part of a routine in your daily or weekly schedule. A habit is generally considered to be a part of an addictive behavior, but the creation, manifestation, and cure of an addiction is much different than that of a habit.
When you are addicted, it is typically to a substance or behavior from which your mind and body experience a great sense of temporary pleasure and fulfillment. Addictions are physiologically created and reinforced in the brain when you take a substance or participate in a behavior in order to mask or numb yourself from underlying emotional turmoil or discomfort, despite negative consequences.
For example, you may be in the habit of brushing your teeth every day and although it may give you a feeling of cleanliness and overall good health, you are not addicted to this behavior. On the other hand, you may regularly drink wine to relax or take the edge off after a rough day. This behavior can be harmless if done in moderation, however if consistently done or exaggerated for the express purpose of numbing yourself from emotion, trauma, or depression, this behavior can turn into an addiction almost immediately.
Drinking wine or alcohol can transition into an addiction the moment you start drinking it to mask difficult emotions; this pleasure-seeking pattern can create neuropathways in your brain that associate negative emotions with an overwhelming desire, need, or craving for alcohol.
When you feel that you must complete a behavior in order to feel a certain way, it is a sign that you may be addicted. It is also important to note that there are often negative physical symptoms associated with being addicted to something. For example, if you are addicted to alcohol, you may feel an overwhelming sense of stress or anxiety if you are not able to drink alcohol.
Are You Addicted?
If you or a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, you may be wondering if you need to seek help. It is important to note that it can be difficult for an addict to determine or even admit that an addiction is driving their behavior. Seeking professional input and guidance can help make that diagnosis more clear. However, if you feel that you cannot stop using a substance and it is negatively affecting your life, if you are exposing yourself to risky situations, if you are having withdrawal symptoms without it or if you take steps to conceal or stop your behavior, you may have an addiction.
If you are concerned about the possibility that you are addicted or are becoming addicted to a substance such as drugs or alcohol, you can seek guidance and support from an addiction advisor. They can help direct you to an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program that can provide the help you need.
Are you or someone you love suffering from addiction? Call our addiction advisors for help, 1-800-259-1361