A habit is a simple behaviour – something you either do without thinking, or as a simple response to a situation. Addiction is at the edges of losing control.
It is not fruitful to say that everyone is addicted to something, I am weary of hearing this useless comment. Consider this chart:
When considering behaviour:
- If I am healthy and I experience pain or discomfort I will react appropriately. Example – I am tired, so I have a coffee.
- Habit – Over time we may develop a pattern of behaviour based on predicted pain or discomfort or develop a habit of addressing pain or discomfort as it arises through a reward model. Example: I am tired, so I develop a habit of having (needing?) a coffee every morning – if I don’t get my coffee I may be grumpy and get a head ache. Next morning the cycle repeats. OR I am feeling gloomy so I reward myself with some trinket and that simple act makes me feel better.
- If I am an addict and I experience pain or discomfort my reaction is illogically amplified. Example – I am tired, this triggers a feeling of being ripped-of by life in general, now I feel even worse. Subconsciously I turn to a behaviour that I think is pleasurable or helps dull the pain – I indulge in my addiction to avoid the pain that being tired triggered. However, the addictive behaviour has other consequences, and now I feel even worse, so I try it again, and again, and again.
It is of little value to say that the habitual need for coffee compares with the addict’s perpetual, unsatisfiable need to dull the pain in their life. This thinking leads to condemning coffee drinkers while diminishing the seriousness of life altering addictions such as pornography, alcohol or drugs.
It is also important to note that some habits are not healthy and some addicts deny that their addiction is destructive. Which is why we need to see these things on a scale. Porn addiction’s destructiveness is more subtle than a meth addiction, but both have a far greater chance of ruining your life then drinking too much coffee.
The cause of “habits” are usually pretty obvious and can almost always be dealt with through some relatively simple behaviour modification. Although it carries its’ own baggage, addiction is not the cause of our problems, but rather addiction is a symptom of something deeper. Simple behaviour modification techniques do not cure addiction. They are good and useful in promoting harm reduction, but not a cure.