Addiction is used very commonly referring to smokers, alcoholics, drug abusers and gamblers. For the most part the word “addiction” carries a negative overtone.
The list of addictions or what is classified as one has grown over time. A smoker a generation ago was not an addict. An individual who drank more than three drinks a day was not an alcoholic a generation ago. The opium user two generations ago was not a drug addict. A perpetual losing gambler was not classified as an addict two generations ago.
Webster’s Dictionary defines addiction as compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful. The American Heritage Dictionary includes another definition to the word addiction as the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something. They actually even gave an example: addiction to fast cars. This addition to the definition allowed compulsive behaviors, such as gambling, to be classified as addictions. This also allowed other compulsive behaviors to be included, such as; sex, violence, athleticism, diet, etc..
Almost every habit or ritual could be classified as some sort of addiction with The American Heritage Dictionary’s further definition. After using the restroom most of us look to wash our hands. If we are unable to wash our hands, typically we will feel a slight anxiety over contaminates on our hands. Since we feel a form of anxiety over not being able to wash our hands, this would classify this habit as an addiction.
Most people’s lives revolve around daily rituals and habits. If our daily ritual is to wake up and immediately brush our teeth, what happens if we don’t have any toothpaste left? We will feel anxiety over our potential bad breath. Most habits and rituals can be labeled as addictions.
The medical community validates these classifications of addictions by labeling them as:
Positive Addiction – This addiction’s benefits outweigh its negative ones.
Negative Addiction – This addiction’s costs do no outweigh their reward.
Neutral Addiction – This addiction is unclear whether there is a positive or negative effect.
The medical community takes our addictive personalities and labels and classifies them. Today every twitch, bump and noise must have a label. Our addictions are just ‘normal’.
When most of us think of a person with an addiction, we picture a drug addict in a back alleyway gazing into oblivion or an alcoholic passed out by the curb. This image of an addict is really just a person who has taken a common addiction to their limit. All addictions have a starting point. An action becomes an addiction (habit) when we no longer think about it. When we think about an action it is not an addiction. Most of the addictions we have peak at some point. This peak of an addiction may or may not be harmful or socially unacceptable. A runner starts out by running several miles. A runner will continue to run more and more until it hurts. Society believes running is healthful, so therefore this addiction is acceptable although this runner is hurting him or herself.
We all have habits and rituals, therefore we have addictive personalities. Addiction is “normal”.