How Should the Term Addiction Be Used?
How should the term addiction be used? This is a great question and one that receives moderate support in the research literature. Many of us might use the term “addiction” to refer to how much we work (“I am addicted to work”) or how much we engage in other seemingly benign activities (“I binge watched 20 episodes of that television program”). Are these true addictions or just activities we engage in periodically for fun or entertainment?
The word addiction or addict is used in many contexts. We may be overusing these words to the point where they lose meaning, which is not something mental health professionals wish to lose. Addictions are real problems to many individuals.
For some, watching 10 hours of television might seem okay or exercising every day for 2-3 hours is acceptable behavior. To others, it may appear addictive. Where is the line drawn between enthusiastically engaging in an activity versus becoming addicted to it? One answer may be what engaging in the behavior is doing to other parts of a person’s life. If someone is exercising to the point where other responsibilities are being neglected, there could be a problem. There are however other considerations.
If a person has a preoccupation with an activity, which conflicts with other activities and relationships, or if the person experiences symptoms of withdrawal when unable to engage in the activity, there could be a problem. Feeling a loss of control or having cravings can also indicate an addiction.
Any individual who thinks they might have a problem, should consult a mental health professional for further evaluation. Even if one does not have an addiction per se, an individual can still engage in behaviors that are problematic for which treatment should be a consideration.
When thinking about a behavior, one needs to fully understand the difference between an addiction and problematic activities. If someone enjoys binge watching a Netflix program and can experience no other problems in their activities of daily life, it is probably not an addiction. To consider an addiction, the behaviors must cause significant psychological and/or physiological impairment to the point that the individual is unable to perform other activities.