Am I really addicted?

Am I really addicted? I work with a lot of individuals who are coming in due to a variety of compulsive behaviors that are interfering with their functioning, goals and overall peace of mind.  Naturally, the question comes up quite frequently and early on….So, am I really addicted?

It’s a fair question – afterall, the word “addicted” seems to carry so much weight and heaviness to it.  The word can imply meetings, therapy, forever abstinence and much more.  And, that scares the heck out of a lot of people.  I get it.

Let’s try to right sized this a bit and also come up with a helpful litmus test on whether we may have too much of a ‘relationship’ with a substance or behavior.  First of all, we are ALL addicted to something.  It may be your morning coffee and paper.  It could be the first wave of social media.  You could be addicted to the adrenaline of your job or your workouts or so much more.  If we have even a small amount of self-awareness and honesty most of us can see that we are far too dependent on certain rituals in our life. 

But when people ask that question - “Am I addicted?” - usually what they are really after is how deep is this relationship?  Do I have control over it?  Am I powerless?

When addiction is present it usually means we have lost control over the relationship to some extent.  We may have started to try and curb the behavior unsuccessfully or

At a recent conference I was at I thought they presented the best “test” about whether an addiction is present or forming.  It centers around 2 qustions:

1)    Do I consistently engage in the behavior more than I plan to?

2)    Do I feel shame about it afterwards?

If the answer to these two questions is Yes then consider it a warning signal – something more deep is going on with the relationship and is possible progressing.  Addiction is a disease.  It resides in the body and is upheld by vast neural networks.  We have to view it through this lens. 

Addiction however is also progressive – it’s grows and pushes out boundaries as continued neural networks are formed and strengthened.  Many “high bottom” addicts are able to enter treatment and recovery far before significant consequences build up – and that’s a very good thing.

Whether you feel too attached to food, work, people-pleasing, sex or anything else it will serve you to think about the above 2 questions – and if the answer is yes to both what might be a next step to explore it further?

Let us know if we can help.  To you and your journey.

Eric Connor, MS, LCPC, CSAT