Habit and Addiction

Addictive Traits

What is the difference between habit and addiction?

Generally an addiction is defined as a habit that has become out of control to the extent that the sufferer is dependent on it for coping with daily life. It can also have negative repercussions on a person’s emotional well-being and physical health. The psychological link in particular is what separates an addiction from a simple activity that someone does on a regular basis. A standard habit is something that people can choose to stop, and will subsequently be able to do so successfully. Put simply, with a habit a person is in control of their choices, but with an addiction they are not.

Common addictions that people can develop include:

  • drugs
  • gambling
  • sex
  • alcohol
  • Internet
  • smoking
  • solvent abuse
  • food.

What causes addiction?

Nearly anyone can become addicted, and it is estimated that two million people in the UK are currently suffering from an addiction of some sort. The reasons why people become addicted vary, although they are not fully understood. Typically addiction tends to be a result of a combination of physical, emotional and circumstantial factors, such as the following:

  • Family history – Numerous studies have shown that children who have parents with addictions are more likely to develop an addiction themselves.
  • Mental health issue – Addictions tend to be more common among those who have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
  • Early use of substances such as drugs or alcohol – Evidence has shown that the earlier a person is exposed to certain addictive substances and activities, the more likely they are to become addicts.
  • Social environment – People are thought to be more vulnerable to addiction if they live, go to school or work in an environment in which use of addictive substances, and involvement in addictive activities, is common.
  • Childhood trauma – Extensive research has shown that children who suffer from abuse or neglect – or experience persistent family conflict, sexual abuse or other trauma – are more vulnerable to developing an addiction.
  • Stress – Science strongly supports a link between addictions and stress.