By Christine Hill
Nowadays, it seems as though you can become addicted to anything, from the internet, to food. Of course, we all have things that we turn to for stress relief and decompression. But how do you know if it’s gotten to an unhealthy level or not?
One woman, a mother of two, knew that she had a weakness for chocolate. However, it wasn’t until one day a craving for a candy bar compelled her to bundle up her kids and drive to the corner store in unsafe blizzard conditions just for a fix when she realized that it was actually a problem and had to take a good look at her habits.
A young man put gaming away for the first year after his marriage. After a while, though, job stresses started to pile up, and he didn’t find as much pleasure just spending time together with his wife. He logged on again. Eventually, he realized that the only thing that he ever looked forward to in his day was getting home so he could get online and compete against his buddies on his favorite game. Hours would pass without him noting them and one day he realized that he hadn’t said a word to his wife in a week.
Speaking of marriage risks, Terry Crews’ video caused a lot of buzz a while ago when he got very real and honest about his struggle with pornography addiction. “It really really messed up my life in a lot of ways… some people say ‘you can’t really be addicted to pornography’ but I’ll tell you something, if day turns into night and you’re still watching, you have a problem…It changes the way that you think about people. People become objects… they become things to be used rather than people to be loved.”
Check out the whole video here:
Here’s the hard and fast rule: if it’s keeping you from achieving your actual goals (whether that’s being successful in business, having a healthy marriage, being a good person or simply having self-respect) then you need to make a change.
The clinical definition of addiction is as follows: compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite risk or adverse effects. When we say “drug” we don’t just mean cocaine or something like that. It can be just about anything that you compulsively seek despite knowing that your attachment to it is dangerous and harmful. Addiction is classified as a brain disease because it can actually change the way that your brain is wired, whether this is substance abuse like alcoholism, or something more like gambling. Either way, the pleasure center of our brain becomes trained to look at the reward of the drug as disproportionate to what the actual benefit is, and it can become fixated on that, to the exclusion of everything else.
How Do You Know If You’re At Danger Point?
There are a few things that you can do to check your own behavior. First of all, run a test on yourself. Redirect your thoughts, efforts, and stress-relief patterns for a month without seeking that kind of behavior. Depending on how much you struggle to resist the compulsion, you can get a better idea of how firmly embedded it is in your brain patterns.
The second thing you can do is bring it out in the open. All addiction needs in order to grow is shame and secrecy. However, much like bacteria, if you bring addiction out into the light of day, you’ll find it unable to thrive. Talk with your friends and loved ones about your struggle. Check and see if they believe that it’s altered your behavior and relationships, if it’s holding you back from being the person you want to be.
Taking Steps to Fix It
If after these steps, you learn that you really do have a problem that can be classified as addiction, it’s time to seek help. While some people grow out of addictions, or find ways to curb the behavior themselves, most of the time addiction requires professional help. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- There are a lot of help groups, even anonymous online ones.
- TALK about it with friends and family.
- Seek professional counseling.
- Set limits on yourself. Filter your computer usage, don’t keep junk food in the house, get rid of your gaming console, whatever you need to check your behavior so that you can make a transition from compulsive behavior to conscious decision.
- Treat the underlying cause. Usually, addiction is the manifestation of another underlying problem. Is it a crutch for love, connection, or prestige? Do you use because you seek excitement, or stress relief?