When does something become an addiction?

Diana Chang asks, “when does "liking/loving something" become an "obsession" or an "addiction”?” Let’s start by debunking a myth Most of us believe a thing causes addiction, like alcohol, smartphones, or video games

This is wrong Most people who drink, use smartphones, or play video games don’t getter addicted to them Addictions aren’t about something being added to your life Addictions are about things that are missing from your life We all want to experience joy, connect with friends and family, and find meaning in our lives

When we don’t have enough of these things, that’s when we’re vulnerable to getting it from something else This is how an addiction can form Now we have to define what an addiction is My favorite definition is “engagement in self-destructive behavior despite adverse consequences” You keep doing something that initially feels good but causes you a lot of long-term problems

I know it’s a broad definition but addictions are a broad thing Your brain doesn’t care if something’s a chemical like caffeine, marijuana, an opioid or a behavior like gambling, social media, or shopping – if it can make you feel good, it can lead to an addiction Here’s an example Maybe I’m lonely, I start binging my favorite shows on Netflix, I feel better because it distracts me from my loneliness, but it’s hard for me to stop watching, I go to sleep late, wake up late, get to work late, and spend a lot of my day thinking about what I’m going to binge next These are the types of problems that are common to addictions

You can also see how addictions keep someone from addressing their underlying problems The more Netflix I watch, the more lonely I become Technology is also making it easier to become addicted Autoplay on Netflix and YouTube makes it hard for you to stop watching videos The endless scroll of Facebook and Twitter fools you into thinking you’re making progress when the feed will go on forever

Notifications make you think there could be an important message waiting for you when it’s probably just a cheesy gif or bitmoji Diana also asked about obsessions When you’re obsessed with something you might think about it a lot, look up a lot of information about it, have strict routines setup around the obsession, and get anxious if something doesn’t go according to plan Obsessions become problems if you have a hard time controlling these thoughts, if your routines start to get in the way of your life, you experience a lot of anxiety, or if you lose a lot of time or money If I spend all of my free time thinking about Star Trek, avoid going to something really important because there’s a new episode of Star Trek: Discovery, get anxious because someone used my Netflix account and I lost track of where I was in my rewatch of Star Trek: Voyager, and I blew a ton of money buying starships, then I might have an obsession

If you are worried you might have an obsession or addiction, ask yourself and the people you are close to if the thing you’re into is getting in the way of your life If it is, understand how it might be fulfilling a need that missing – is it your only way you have to deal with your emotions, is it making you feel less alone, is it distracting you from the direction your life has gone? That’s how we treat these problems, not by eliminating a thing but helping people develop new ways to live more fulfilling lives Thanks to Diana for submitting this question! Ask your question in the comments below or tag it on social media with # The Psych Show QA and I might answer it on a future episode! If you like this video, be sure to subscribe to get more easy to understand psychology

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