When Does A Habit Become An Addiction?

You may be wondering when does a habit become an addiction, and the truth be told, if it is harming your life and you cannot stop, then it is an addiction. This could be in the form of alcohol, drugs or smoking, gambling, or sex. It could even be cleaning if it affects your normal life so much as in certain OCD scenarios.

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This is article is not to tell you what is right or wrong. It is to show you there is help out there if you feel your habit has become an addiction. My habit is smoking cigarettes; I did go through a stage many years ago with alcohol, but I realised that this was turning into an addiction as time was going by. So I knocked it on the head, and I no longer drink alcohol, not just because of that reason, but my body does not tolerate it anymore. You can read more about my journey with alcohol in the bipolar post I have written.

We enjoy many things in life, and the problem is when we discover something which used to bring us enjoyment and now we can only solace ourselves once we get our fix of that thing. This is when we can spiral into the negativity of addiction. You may find you lie about your use or action with a substance or that you hide from others, so they do not know the real truth. You might find you are withdrawing from your normal activities so you can focus on the addiction. If so, then you might want to read further on.

When Does A Habit Become an Addiction?

When does a habit become an addiction

Some people can sail through life never getting addicted, they may have the odd cigarette here, a little drink there, and all the while can quite happily never touch either again. An addict only has thought for it; it is an overriding feeling and compulsion; it is a medical condition.

Drug seeking begins as a goal-directed behavior, with an action (finding and taking drugs) leading to a particular outcome (the drug high). This type of associative learning is mediated by the dorsomedial region of the striatum, the area of the brain that is associated with reward processing, which functions primarily through the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Psychological Science

As you just read, our reward centre in our brain is the problem; it just can’t get enough of the substance or activity. This is why it is so difficult to overcome an addiction.

But not impossible.

The sooner you seek help the better, these are the signs you might be addicted:

  • Mood swings are common, along with irritability and snapping at loved ones.
  • Your work or school life may suffer, there are some high-functioning addicts, but this is not the case for most people.
  • Do you look different? Has your appearance changed?
  • Previously enjoyable activities no longer hold any appeal.
  • What is your sleeping pattern like? Are you developing insomnia, or can you not get out of bed in the morning?
  • Are you spending all your money on your addiction? Is this leading to financial stress, which in turn pushes you further into your addiction?
  • How is your relationship with loves ones? Strained, being pushed to the edge? Do they know about the addiction, or are you hiding it from them?

As you can see, there are quite a few symptoms, and you don’t have to have them all; these are the main ones. You might also note that it is not just the person’s wellbeing involved here; it is also their relationships and social abilities.

Here is a snippet from an interview via a podcast on the Duke University School of Medicine:

The most hopeful thing that I have learned in all of my years of research and getting to know people in recovery is that recovery is absolutely possible. But since it’s a bio-psychosocial problem, we have to bring biological and psychological and sociological solutions to the problem. 

Duke Med

What Help is There?

The first step is to tell those who love you; you have a problem. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. They might not know what to do, and they may have suspected long before you have told them, but with all of you working together, you can beat it.

The following is a list of places in the UK and USA that will help you with addiction, although the first one is global, and because most meetings are carried out online at the moment, you may be able to join one from another country.

A.A. – Alcoholics Anonymous (Worldwide)You can find your nearest support group by looking on their front page, and you will see an A.A. Near You box; choose your country, then add your postal code or zip code. This would be the main one I would choose if I had a problem with alcohol. I know many people who have been helped by taking part in their programme.
Smart Recovery (USA)You can find your nearest support group by clicking on the Find a Meeting tab at the top of the page, and they will help you with gambling to alcohol, to sex. They also do online meetings, so in theory, you can use the service if you do not want to use your local one or can’t because of Covid.
FRANK (UK)If you have a drug addiction, then Talk to Frank is one of your best options; you can find the local support you need by adding your postcode and choosing the service you need. Currently, they are for England only but use the side tabs for help in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Drinkline (UK)Phone 0300 123 1100 between 9 am and 8 pm weekdays, and at the weekends 11 am to 4 pm. This is a phone number where you can talk about your own drink problems, a loved one, or a person you are concerned about.
Woman For Sobriety (USA)If you are a woman and will feel more comfortable in a setting with other women, this is the best choice. Because of Covid, most of their meetings are online now, but you can still find your local one and when the meeting is being held by clicking on the link.
Cocaine Anonymous (UK)This is an organisation created for those who have become addicted to cocaine, and if you scroll down the page, you will find details about their latest meetings and the changes or rescheduling because of Covid.
Loosid App (Worldwide)If meetings are not your thing, you might want to start with the Loosid app, they are community-based, and you can also find out more details about places to help you recover. They also have plenty of articles to read on being sober and how you can live your life to the full.
GAMcare (UK)As someone who knows how addictive gambling can be, this is my first choice if you are in the UK and have a gambling addiction. Not only will they help stop you from online gambling, but you can access support and toolkits to help you recover.

I hope the above will prove useful to you or a loved one. If you need therapy, please read through some of my other articles as I am a great believer in addressing mental health issues with therapy and addiction needs some form of therapy to combat it.

Peace & Blessings

Lou x

Lou Farrell

Welcome to the mental health blog of Lou Farrell. I am a writer and copywriter who pens all manner of articles relating to mental wellness and mental illness. I write about my own experiences and the knowledge I have gained over the years as someone who has bipolar disorder. I hope you enjoy the website :-)

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1 Response

  1. Wow, what an informative post. I love that you included so many help resources for people suffering from addictions. I have known a few people in my time that have been addicted to alcohol but weren’t really aware they had a problem. It’s a difficult subject. I appreciate that you’re spreading information that can truly help someone or their family.

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