Are you addicted or do you just really enjoy it?

By Megan Smiley, Mar 2 2015 04:50PM

What with New Year's resolutions still clinging on and Lent in full swing, there is an air of abstinence around at the moment. However, I'm confident in predicting that many of these self-issued challenges will not be achieved, but why? Too much temptation? Too little willpower? Or are these things we're trying to give up actually an addiction that need more help than an agreement made with yourself in a moment of slightly unrealistic aspirations.

Addiction is often a taboo subject; something that is not spoken about or not even accepted that it exists. Saying that, you also have people throwing around the statement that they're addicted to something or another: “I'm literally addicted to exercise/ food/ a TV programme”. I can hear myself harping on about my 'addiction' to a can of diet coke.

So what is an addiction? Have we high-jacked the real meaning of the word like we have with the word 'literally'? Definitions of addiction include:

"The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity" 1

"Physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance" 2

"An unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something" 3

So it's a severe connection to a particular thing, and usually a negative connection. Although the last definition doesn't really have a negative connotation and is actually the one I think best describes what I class as an addiction.

As I believe an addiction to be the uncontrollable need for a particular thing: you have to have/do/ consume that certain thing, in my opinion you can categorise addiction into two main types: physical and mental. Of course these types aren't by any means mutually exclusive but for the purpose of this blog I'm looking at them as separate issues.

Physical addiction is perhaps the more straight forward of the two. Your body physically needs a certain thing to keep operating without causing you severe discomfort. I guess with a physical addiction, it's a spectrum of severity and also down to the individual's willpower and support.

Mental addiction, as with all mental health issues, is a very complex matter and there's a lot we still don't know or understand. It's something I know little about therefore will not expand much here apart from saying that in my opinion it is potentially the more difficult side of addiction. For example changing your habitual behaviour could prove much more difficult than giving up a physical need for a substance or thing.

So when are you actually addicted to something and when do you just really like something? A lot of people say: I could stop if I had to but I don't want to. But could they really?

For example, when people say that they're addicted to exercise and need to do exercise, is that true? Or do they just really like doing it? The body releases hormones called endorphins when you exercise. These create a euphoric feeling, so the more exercise you do, the more endorphins released and in that case your body will get used to that level of endorphins. It could therefore become a physical addiction to this increased level of endorphins. If that's the case I guess people can be addicted to exercise, and really like it too!

BBC's Horizon Special 'What's the right diet for you?' is interesting as it looks at a group of overweight people identifying specific reasons for their overeating, from physical issues: genes that don't make them feel full and misfiring gut hormones, to mental issues: emotional eating. Maybe if we used a similar approach to working out the reasons for your addictions, then these vices we have may be easier to give up.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if the outcome of your addiction isn't harmful to you, others or your environment, then it isn't really a problem, and if you could, if necessary, give it up then you are ok. And things such as New Year's resolutions and Lent provide a great opportunity to prove that.

If you're one of those people who say “I could stop if I had to but I don't want to” and you tried to do so for as a New Year's resolution or for Lent and haven't succeeded then please stop saying that, as it's blatantly not true, and maybe take a more in-depth look at your addiction to understand why you have such a 'severe connection' to that particular thing. And for those who are succeeding, well done and keep it up!




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