“Passion creates. Addiction consumes.” – Gabor Mate
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We often think of addicts in terms of extremes.
The jittery young guy that is compelled to steals his mother’s jewelry just to get a fix.
The shameless celebrity who is perpetually in and out of rehab.
The divorced middle-aged man who falls asleep every night with a bottle of bourbon on his lap.
But these stereotypes fail to capture the reality of addiction. And that is that it’s common in the lives of many of us who don’t feel we fit these strong images.
The definition of addiction is not completely clear cut. If we take it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) we’ll see that it refers to an engagement with either a substance or activity, in which the relationship is compulsive and results in an interference with ordinary life responsibilities.
With regards to substance abuse, the DSM-V classifies addiction as meeting three out of seven criteria. These criteria include;
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Replacement with similar substance
- Used in larger quantities or for a longer period of time than intended
- Unsuccessful efforts to control use
- Significant effort to obtain the substance
- Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced
- Substance use continues despite knowledge of it as a problem.
Taken at face value, we could probably apply this to many of our bad habits.
For example, if our aim is to be healthy and we continue to eat bad food with the knowledge that it is stopping us from being healthy, could this be considered to be continued use despite knowledge of a problem?
When we listen to the media talk about addictions, they usually focus on cigarettes, alcohol, or harder drugs. Though these fall under the DSM-V criteria for addiction and effect a large percentage of the population, there are dozens of other lesser or even unrecognized addictions that we almost never talk about. This is either because we aren’t aware of them, because there are financial interests behind their perpetuation, or they’re just normalized.
Here are 6 addictions you won’t hear talked about by doctors or in mainstream media. If you notice any that are in your life, go back through the criteria above and take a second to think whether you should take to cutting out these habits.
Drama in relationships
Romatic love is inherently addictive because it releases powerful chemicals in the form of dopamine and oxytocin. Unfortunately however, when a relationship starts to become toxic, it is the addiction to the previous positive states in the relationship that can drive couples to stay a lot longer than they should. Sometimes both partners have lowered their self-esteem to the point where the drama actually validates their importance. If there is no drama, they feel unimportant – and they start to believe they can’t get that feeling elsewhere.
In a relationship you are in a bubble, and you often won’t realize it till you are out of that space. Don’t let yourself become addicted to drama.
When you combine our natural cravings for fat and sugar with food that has been genetically engineered to make us want it, AND multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns to supplement the process, junk food addiction is no surprise at all.
There is a lot of talk about poor diets being a matter of choice – a bad decision – but that narrative fails to respect the powerful addictive nature of fatty food.
Start to see junk food as a drug, and you’ll be more conscious of the impact it is having on your body and your mind. Only then will you be able to start to make the lifestyle changes needed to cut it out for good.
Social Media Validation
Have you ever found yourself checking your Facebook with the slight hope that you’ve got notifications?
There are millions of people, primarily women but also men, who have become so conditioned to the small boost they get from an Instagram or Facebook like that they spend hours trying to take the perfect photo and refreshing the page in the hopes that they have more likes. Take for example, this Instagram model who made the rounds online after being visibly hurt when one of her posts only received 14 likes.
Even moderate exposure to pornography can have a negative impact on your sex life. Access to an unlimited number of scenes and scenarios puts your brain in a place where it always craves new stimuli and ultimately doesn’t get aroused without novelty.
This is finally starting to be talked about in the mainstream, with well-known Psychologist Philip Zimbardo dedicating a large part of his new book to exploring the adverse effect pornography is having on this new generation of young men. But many men, both young and old, are still completely unaware that their lack of sex drive is being caused by porn.
If you’d like to know more about the shocking science porn addiction and how you or someone you know could overcome it, check out your brain on porn.
Anger is a natural emotional response to an uncomfortable situation. It’s supposed to happen when people believe that their basic boundaries have been violated. However, it’s common for a lot of us in modern life to walk around in an almost consistent state of anger. Something as insignificant as a traffic jam – even when expected, or someone cutting in front of us in a queue, can set off rage.
Anger comes from our limbic system – the flight or fight part of the brain – and we spend so much time repressing our urges, that whenever they are released, positively or negatively, we have a dopamine rush and feel great.
The result is that we become addicted to these negative emotions because they are the only way we are capable of pure emotional expression.
When we consume media for recreation, whether it’s in the form of YouTube videos, T.V series, blog articles or movies, we’re supposed to be making use of our brain. That is the intention of art– to engage your neocortex and challenge you to think about something in a different light or from a different perspective.
But because our media is dictated by how much money it can make, the producers of our film and media make it their mission to create the most addictive and easily consumable content possible.
They do this by creating media that bypasses your neocortex and goes straight for your mammalian brain. With ideas that don’t require much thought but touch on basic human emotions; fear, greed, anger, envy, lust, they tap quickly into your emotions, giving you small dopamine hits and leaving you wanting more.
That’s why you end up watching 6 hours of Netflix instead of one, just to find out who is going to be killed by zombies next.
That’s why the average time it takes to check Facebook is 25 minutes.
That’s why Americans watch more than 5 hours of T.V a day.
Addictions are a real problem in modern society. The epicurean nature of western life means that it’s easier than ever to get sucked into a vortex of addictive behaviors. Take control by recognizing addictions in your life – and committing to correcting them – even if they’re only minor.
Featured photo by bark via Flickr