Healthy addictions may or may not be beneficial. It all depends on what they are and how they affect you and those in your life.
Addiction is a word that does not conjure up the words positive, beneficial, or healthy. In fact, you probably have seen and read so many news stories about addiction and different substance use disorders that you may think there is no such thing as a healthy addiction.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances, or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”
How could that definition possibly apply to something considered healthy or beneficial?
You might think that certain activities, behaviors, foods, or beverages can lead to a healthy addiction. After all, exercise is a healthy activity to engage in, and more of it is probably not bad for you. Also, how can a few cups of coffee or a few cans of an energy drink every day be bad for you? The caffeine in it wakes you up and keeps you going when you start to get tired. So what’s all the fuss about healthy addictions?
A healthy or “positive” addiction is one that adds value to your life. In this Psychology Today article, the writer mentions a book written by William Glasser, which assigns six criteria to “positive addiction.” These are:
1. It is noncompetitive and something you choose to do, and devote at least one hour a day to it.
2. It is done easily and doesn’t take a lot of mental effort.
3. You can do it alone.
4. You feel it has some physical, mental, or spiritual value for you.
5. You feel that if you keep at it, you will improve. And, you are the only one who measures improvement.
6. It must have a quality to it that you are the only one who can do it without being critical of yourself.
These “positive addictions” do not dominate your life. The benefits of healthy or positive addictions can seep into your life, but the addiction is time-limited.
Healthy addictions can also have a downside. If, for instance, you are glued to your smartphone for hours at a time and ignoring personal or work responsibilities, the addiction to the activities you do on your phone will take over. The consequences could be neglected children, your boss scolding you for spending too much time on your phone, and an angry spouse or partner.
A healthy addiction to exercise may not sound so detrimental, but too much of a good thing can be harmful to your health. People who excessively work out are prone to injury and exhaustion. Those who exercise regularly can attest to the endorphin rush they feel. It can be harmful to you if you become injured and keep on working out to get that endorphin rush.
Caffeine is an ingredient in coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. It provides a quick wake-up boost. Two cups of coffee in the morning can get you going. However, if you keep drinking it all day, it can dehydrate you. If you stop drinking it for a day, you may feel a withdrawal symptom of a pounding headache.
Energy drinks also contain a high amount of caffeine. One can of a popular energy drink contains 80 milligrams of caffeine. If you drink more than that per day, you risk irregular or fast heartbeat, seizures, insomnia, fever, dizziness, hallucinations, confusion, chest pain, or uncontrollable muscle movements.
This is a good question, and you have the answer. Do you exercise excessively to the point of injury or working out when injured? Do you feel you need to keep exercising no matter what? Do you do everything you can to keep exercising? Are you the person who must have more than a few cups of coffee a day? Do you drink it all day long and into the evening? Do you find yourself thirsty all day long? Have you felt your heart beating a little fast and were alarmed by it?
Are you consuming more than one or two cans of an energy drink per day? Have you ever felt dizzy or a bit confused after drinking several cans of energy drinks? How many hours per day do you spend on your smartphone? Are you glued to social media notifications and must see what each one is? Are you regularly perusing the news online via your phone at work, at home, in your vehicle, or someplace where you should not be using your phone?
A healthy addiction can be beneficial to you as long as you can keep it in control. If you feel that it is taking over your life, it might be best to seek advice or help from a licensed behavioral therapist. These professionals can work with you to find alternatives to your healthy addiction and get you back on a path to a more balanced life.
Addiction plays on the reward system in the brain, therefore, the repeated behavior. Ending an addiction can be a challenging step to take. There is no right way to stop a healthy addiction. It can lead to you to feel depressed, anxious, and really wanting to go back to whatever it is you were doing,
Addiction is a chronic and complex disease of the mind, whether the addiction is alcohol, substance use, or behavioral. There is help for everyone, and Delphi Behavioral Health Group can help. As an organization with treatment centers across the country, we offer therapy options for everyone that fit their needs. Healthy addictions that have taken over your life can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be a good starting place to overcome troubled areas of your life.
Many groups meet online or in-person for those who seek guidance and advice about ending a positive yet chronic condition that can ruin lives. If you or someone you care about is engaging in an ongoing struggle with what might be considered a healthy addiction, reach out, and find support. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
ASAM. (2019, September 15) Definition of Addiction. What is the definition of addiction? from https://www.asam.org/Quality-Science/definition-of-addiction
WebMd. Could You Be Hooked? Surprising Addictions (slideshow). from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/ss/slideshow-surprising-addictions
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
Psychology Today. (2041, November 19) Are There Positive Addictions?. O'Connor, P. Ph.D. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/philosophy-stirred-not-shaken/201411/are-there-positive-addictions
Healthline. (2018, December 6) Caffeine Overdose: How Much Is Too Much?. Rivers, A. from https://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-overdose