Is it a compulsion, habit, or addiction that’s increasing with your Covid 19 stress and life changes? Are you confused about how  habits become compulsions and then addictions? If you’re wondering about the too-muchness of your new habits, definitions might help. After awareness, you can create an action plan to make changes.

A habit is different from a compulsion

A habit is something we do over and over that may be unconscious and automatic. Everyone has a wide variety of habits, some of which like washing up or turning off the lights, or checking emails are harmless, beneficial, or necessary. Others like nail biting or drinking to excess can have negative consequences. But if someone can stop from repeating the action, it’s not considered an addiction. It takes 30 days of hard work to stop a bad habit.

What is addiction

An addiction is an extreme habit. Addiction is a continued behavior, activity, intoxicant, or substance use despite ongoing and increasingly negative consequences. That means you can’t stop no matter what. An addiction to substances, or behaviors, tends to get worse over time. Addiction is brain disease that is both physical and psychological. It is chronic and progressive and needs treatment for recovery and long term management.

What is compulsion

Compulsion is an uncontrollable urge to do something, and when considerable discomfort is experienced if the action is not performed. Compulsions come in all forms. Not all compulsions lead to negative consequences. What are some simple compulsions that you may do but don’t cause any harm?  With addiction, however, there is a loss of control of actions and a compulsion to do something or use a substance no matter how dire the consequences may be.

Compulsion and addiction go together

When someone suffers from an addiction, they cannot control their compulsion, no matter how hard they try or how determined they are to stop. Even though the person may know the devastating effects of their addiction, they do not have the means to stop. Either the person’s mind is so attracted to the substance or the activity, or the person may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms (if they abuse drugs or alcohol) if they stop.

How addiction begins

Often the first steps to addiction are habits or behaviors that give pleasure like Tuesday night gambling, or snacking at night that someone does without knowing it can get out of control. This is especially true about process addictions. Addictions such as gambling, compulsive overeating, excessive exercise, and Internet overuse are called process or behavior addictions. These activities often begin as a habit, but progress into an addiction. Instead of chemical dependency that people addicted to drugs and alcohol experience, individuals suffering from process addictions are addicted to repeating an action. The action is more than a habit, because the person cannot stop doing it.

What causes a behavioral addiction

Process, or behavioral, addictions often meet a need for the individual, such as managing stress, relieving emotional pain, or helping the person cope with negative thoughts. Examples include online shopping for hours, digital and gaming, eating when you’re not hungry. All addictions are diseases of brain reward. Something makes you feel good so you do more and more of it. You become habituated and then addicted and feel withdrawal when you stop. Which means ultimately that you can’t stop.

Both behavioral addictions and chemical addictions cause serious effects, such as health issues, mental health problems, strained relationships, loss of productivity, and financial issues. Even though addiction has such negative consequences, the person is powerless to end the addiction on their own.



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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation. Leslie is a proud member of Rotary International.

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