There’s a fine line between a bad habit and an unhealthy addiction. This post explains exactly how to tell whether a bad habit has become an unhealthy addiction, and what you can do to put things right.
Have you tried to give it up and failed?
The biggest difference between a habit and an addiction is that you can easily break a habit if you choose to.
Let’s imagine that you’ve got into an unhealthy routine of playing video games until 2am when you have to be up at 6am the next morning. At some point, you’ll have to face up to the fact that this is a negative behaviour and will have to make changes to quit playing video games earlier so that you can get a good night’s sleep. If it’s simply a bad habit, you should be able to correct this behaviour by yourself. However, if you find yourself compulsively staying up until 2am gaming despite taking measures to stop (such as setting an alarm at 12) it could be an addiction.
At this point you may have to take extra steps such as getting other people to intervene as it shows that you do not have the willpower to quit yourself.
Do you continue to indulge in secrecy?
Some people will claim they have broken bad habits to please others, when in fact they’re continuing the habit in secrecy. This is a clear sign that a bad habit has turned into an unhealthy addiction.
An example of this could include telling loved ones that you’re no longer drinking during the week, but hiding alcohol in the house and taking swigs when no-one is looking. This shows a clear physical need to keep drinking.
Once you start lying to people about breaking a habit, you should consider whether it’s time to get more professional help as it shows that your friends and family may no longer be sufficient enough support in helping you to stop.
Are you neglecting other responsibilities?
Neglecting responsibilities such as your job, kids or bills in order to engage in habits could be another sign that your habit has become an addiction.
This could include falling behind on important work projects because you can’t get off social media, forgetting to pick up the kids from school because you’ve been drinking or not being able to pay bills because you’ve been gambling away more money than you can afford to lose.
Neglecting responsibilities can have serious negative consequences and could be a sign that it could be worth looking into professional treatment such as gambling counselling or even social media addiction therapy.
Is it negatively affecting your relationships?
If relationships are being strained because of your bad habit, this could be another sign that it has become an unhealthy addiction. Bad habits can be annoying for others, but they do not cause breakdowns in relationships unless they have turned into something more harmful.
For example, when it comes to a relationship with a partner, certain sexual habits may irritate your partner but may not cause a massive strain on the relationship. However, if sexual behaviours consistently lead to partners threatening to leave you and you cannot quit them, it could be a sign of a sex addiction.
In these cases, sex therapy may be needed to help preserve future relationships.
Is it causing clear damage to your mental/physical health?
Finally, you can also tell when a bad habit has become an unhealthy addiction because it will start having negative impacts on your physical and mental health.
For instance, a gambling habit can quickly become an unhealthy addiction once you start becoming depressed or anxious as a result of it.
At this point, it is usually time to get professional help, as your physical and mental health may only decline if not treated.