Addictions: What, Why, and How to Recognize Them

What is an addiction? Why are some habits addicting for some and not others? Can a habit be an addiction or does an addiction depend on a tangible, measurable item someone consumes? I chose the word item cause for some this is an edible item such as food, while for others this item is a toxic chemical that is not edible, but provides a desired high as a side effect.

Breaking down the details:

It is easy to understand addictions to chemicals such as synthetic and/or natural drugs that are not necessary for the body. In fact, these drugs typically provide an out of body experience the user is seeking in hopes to escape the reality he or she is unable to accept, cope with, or wants to hide from. This is what most people think of as an addiction and typically look down upon those who struggle from these forms of addictions.

There are other forms of addiction that lead to an escape. For example, some people are addicted to the high from running, and while this is acceptable by society’s standards, those who need this “runners high” are seeking for an escape as well. This is seen as a healthier option, while I agree, I challenge; is this not an attempt to escape a reality? How is running to clear your head while continuing to avoid or hide from the challenges that life presents any different? Now if you are able to gain clarity, then work through these problems, that is a different story. But if running is an escape, then this is no difference.

Food is an escape for others, and most who are addicted to food find it is also a point of control. As living organisms, we need an energy source, food. As humans, we have physiological needs, but we also have the world of cognitive awareness; the mental game. The energy source, food, is both needed and seen as enjoyment by many people. We like to eat. In fact, there are lots of emotions that get tied up to food through way of memories. Think about eating this way, will we all survive if given a pile of nutritious slop for each meal and safe drinking water? Yes, of course we will. But won't you miss having your comfort foods that bring back memories, bring back tradition, and satisfy the tastes you are seeking? The emotional link to food makes some foods that are hard to walk away from. Add in the feeling of control of choosing to eat what you want, or the loss of control when you're being told what foods to eat. For some, food can provide an escape from a current reality, just as with drugs when they trigger your dopamine receptors. Combine everything together and there is a powerful set of circumstances for an addiction to begin.

Food addictions are very common. They are usually over looked as an addiction. But the truth is, food addictions are real; but unlike drug addictions, food addiction cannot be avoided. Think about us as a living organism; we will always need to consume energy and drink water. Food addictions are constantly triggered. This addiction can lead to health conditions steaming from both physical and mental distortion. Physical distortion in body manipulation to look a certain way based on distorted perception of how a person views themselves. Often times this leads to dangerous weight loss or weight gain as a result.

So what is an addiction? I suggest an addiction is a repetitive action, mental or physical, that results in a soothing of nerves to prompt contentedness. When people feel out of control or uncomfortable or a loss of content, there will be some sort of desire to return back to a state of contentedness. For some this results in not questioning why, but avoiding the “why”. Sadly, this pattern will continue until that “why” is addressed.

The next time you notice you're struggling with your addiction, know that you're not alone. Millions of people have addictions that they are struggling with in their own lives. Most of them don't even know it. Take time to ask why. Dive into the “why” and allow yourself the time to heal, accept, process, and regain control. You control your life if you choose to accept that control.

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