Sexual Recovery Blog

How to Tell if a Habit has Become an Addiction

Posted by Alan Godfrey on


The word addiction gets through around a lot in our lives. From the media, to pop culture, to psychology. Sometimes people might not know exactly what they mean by addiction. How do you tell the difference between a nail-biting habit, and something that’s crossed a very serious line? The literal definition of addiction from the American Psychological Association is “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.”

For your own curiosity and insight, generally the following 3 characteristics can be used:

  1. Using the behavior or substance has made your life unmanageable.
    1. Missing work, worse grades, financial consequences, emotional or spiritual unrest, etc.
    2. You feel guilt and/or shame afterwards.
  2. You have tried to quit and have failed.
    1. It feels like the behavior or substance has more power over you than you have over it.
    2. It is frequently on your mind and thinking about the next time or past uses.
  3. People in your life have been hurt or have a problem with your behavior or use of substance.

Often times thoughts like “If people knew, they wouldn’t care about me the same way,” or “This behavior is my greatest need, my needs won’t be met elsewhere” can come up as well. Sharing with people is the first step to getting help and admitting a need. Seek out your true worth and value and get the help for yourself or because someone else cares about you. There are many therapists, groups, and hotlines out there to call.

The best way will always be to seek sound clinical advice from a trained professional, and hopefully this article may get you to take a step in that direction.



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