What is addiction? And when do you know that your habit has become an addiction?

It is true that there is nothing pathological about indulging and enjoying something. Engaging in pleasurable activity is not wrong in and of itself, but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, beyond which the activity becomes an addiction.


People sometimes assume that addictions are only related to substance abuse. While substance use disorder is a very common and extremely disabling group of addiction-related issues, there are several other types of activities that one can develop an addiction toward.

People sometimes assume that addictions are only related to substance abuse

Such addictions can range from otherwise regular activities, such as watching Netflix, social media, working out, shopping, eating healthy, eating junk food, pornography, having sex, or playing video games. These activities and many others like these are being recognized as potential addictions when users overindulge and lose their self-control and exceed all norms associated with them. However, it can be tricky to identify when someone has crossed that line.


Here are a few “diagnostic” approaches one may consider when trying to identify these forms of non-substance addictions.

  1. Ask whether doing that activity makes you feel better, or feel more in control. Figure out if avoiding it makes you feel worse.
  2. See if you find yourself performing that activity more often and for longer periods of time than normal. Notice if you are curtailing other important activities to make time for it.
  3. Figure out if it makes you feel anxious or uncomfortable if you are unable to do it or even just thinking about avoiding it. How does avoiding an activity makes you feel is a strong indicator of how deeply involved you are in that particular habit.
  4. Assess if performing or seeking to perform that activity has disrupted your life – whether it is sleep, marriage, other relationships, personal hygiene, social obligations, appetite/diet, and other routine activities.
  5. Notice if you try to avoid it but end up reverting to it and performing you’re going to do something different but then turn around and do it anyway, and perhaps even more so.


These are all concerning signs of addiction and when found, should initiate an intervention. If unaddressed or ignored, it can lead to serious personal, social and likely financial peril. It is very likely that the person may be in the state of denial. At least initially, there is little to no insight into such addictive behavior patterns. While it is true that such circumstances could require an intervention, it must be kept in mind that the approach needs to be supportive and nonconfrontational, as there is a risk that doing otherwise may alienate the person (especially when they are in denial). There are now several support groups that can help such individuals, and as the awareness for such conditions improves, addiction/rehab centers are likely to include programs that address such issues and provide therapeutic solutions.