It seems addictions are spreading to so many behaviors today. I know of several people who claim to be addicted to one thing or another. Can you explain addictions a little and help clear up my confusion?
Historically and medically, an addiction results in a craving for a substance with physical withdrawal distresses such as nausea, head or body aches and other extreme reactions when abruptly discontinued. When an eating disorder, drug or alcohol addiction begins, the physiological and/or psychological dependency that follows can be extremely difficult to overcome. However, in recent years some psychological circles have stretched the definition to include behaviors that were formerly referred to as bad habits or sins, such as gambling, sex, pornography, shopping, overeating, overworking, exercise, etc.
When people regard their behaviors as an addiction or a "disease needing treatment" their "addiction" can become an all purpose excuse. They can blame more abuse, betrayal, theft or lies on feeding their "gambling or sexual addiction." They can gain sympathy and attention rather than take responsibility or face judgement.
The saddest part of all is that the more the person believes "their addictive behavior" is a disease, the less power they have to overcome it. That belief undermines self-confidence and robs them of hope. A diabetic cannot choose to stop their disease or to stop being a diabetic. Whether the root of a person's addiction or bondage is physiologically or psychologically based, that individual is still able to take responsibility and initiative to make positive changes in their behavior. For people who struggle with dependent behaviors, there is good news! Their condition is not incurable! There is much hope. Millions of people gain victory daily. Remember there is no need to struggle alone.
Answered by: Robert Rice, M.D.