Psyche logo

Understanding Addiction in All Its Forms

How do we become aware of the broader dangers of addiction instead of looking at it as somewhat of a taboo, that is associated with things that society deems as bad?

By Patricia SarkarPublished 6 years ago 5 min read

When the topic of addiction crops up, we know what everybody’s thinking—gambling, drugs, alcohol—all those things that are typically considered as “bad” on a large scale by society. What we do not discuss, however, is the many other things that seem harmless, but can actually turn into dangerous addictions. Not only do we look at these other things as “normal,” but in worse cases, we applaud them.

How many times have you heard or witnessed people applauding “hard work and determination,” even if they are taken to the most possible extreme, such as, having zero time for yourself or your family, constantly withdrawing from social interactions, becoming increasingly alienated and basically allowing your life to be dominated by one thing: work. What’s so harmful about this behavior is that, as I said previously, not only is it seen as totally “normal” but it is actually encouraged. From a young age we’re constantly told to “reach for the stars,” “keep going,” and “never look back,” etc., to the point where we grow up to become slaves to work and constantly hungry for more success.

In an article entitled "Society’s self-destructive addiction to faster living" by the New York Post, Dr. Stephanie Brown discusses one of today’s most vicious forms of addiction that is particularly common in America: faster living. Dr. Brown goes on to explain how this addiction has been developed and adopted by society as a whole and is consequently destroying people and ruining their lives:

“[...] Caught in a chaotic, frenzied spiral of a new addiction, people are chasing money, power, success and a wilder, faster pace of life. Just like any addiction, people are out of control in their behaviors, feelings and thinking, yet they believe they are normal.This is progress in America. You always move forward and there are no limits to how far you can go or how fast you can get there. Don’t pause, don’t reflect. You win or lose. You’ll fall behind and fail if you stop moving. Fast at any cost is the mantra of a stressed and distressed American society today.”

You might be asking yourselves, how is it even possible to become addicted to a “lifestyle” or “a way of living”? It’s so easy to overlook these types of situations because they do not typically fall under the category of “addiction” to our knowledge, but in reality, in these situations we begin to exhibit the same kind of behavior one would associate with gambling or alcohol addiction. We do not make the connection because society doesn’t recognize it. We’re not taught properly how to balance work and personal life, for instance, and we’re not told enough how important this is.

It’s the same thing with many forms of recreation that normally start out as a hobby, as a way to kill time or a way to unwind after a long stressful day, but then, somewhere down the line, things take a wrong turn. Take gaming, for example, a popular hobby common amongst people of all ages, that we all know very well by now, can easily turn into something more dangerous without us even noticing. One hour becomes two, two hours become four, four hours become a whole Saturday spent in front of a screen. There have been several cases of teens and adults who refused to budge from their seats for hours or days even, at all costs so as not to pause their games. Video game addiction has only recently been officially recognized as a mental health disorder by The World Health Organization after many severe cases were even broadcast on the news.

There’s also the issue of technology that is taking over our lives. The fact that we spend so much time on devices like smartphones and tablets tells us a lot about our dependence on these devices, the same way we would be dependent on a substance. So, the next question we should be asking ourselves at this point is, how do we wake up from this illusion and understand the dynamics of addiction in all its forms? How do we become aware of the broader dangers of addiction instead of looking at it as somewhat of a taboo, that is associated with things that society deems as bad?

First, we have to understand what exactly goes on in our mind when we become addicted to something, because what happens psychologically, regardless of whatever thing we become addicted to, is essentially the same. In fact, this is not new at all and has been shown by scientists over 68 years ago. Here’s a quick history lesson:

In 1950, psychologists James Olds and Peter Milner carried out an experiment with rats, whereby they placed a few electrodes on them and put them inside a cage with an electric switch that, once pressed, would send “pleasure” signals to the brain—in other words, release dopamine into their system. Before they knew it, the rats figured out that the switch was the reason behind their positive stimuli, and in order to keep receiving these stimuli, the rats kept repeatedly pressing the switch, as many as 7,000 times an hour. The worst part though is that they did not stop for food or water during the entire process.

In an article published on their website entitled "Psychology of Gambling,", an online casino guide, put forward the premise that “the mice’s behavior is exemplary of people’s behavior when they are addicted to something,” be it gambling or any other thing like sugar for instance. In fact, they go on to draw a comparison between the effects of sugar intake and gambling on the brain, showing that both cause the “reward center” in our brains to light up to release dopamine. Therefore, in this view, we can define addiction as a chronic disease of brain reward, that is motivated by memory and related circuitry. With this kind of reasoning, it becomes much easier to understand how addiction works, and how basically anything that gives us pleasure and triggers our brain’s reward centers—be it a substance or activity—causes us to keep pursuing it to gain relief.

With that thought in mind, then, we can finally answer the question we raised before. How do we shake off our preconceptions of addiction and look beyond what we’ve been told? Well, the first step would be to understand and acknowledge that as humans, we are prone to becoming addicted to anything. I can become addicted to fitness and spend hours in the gym every day, I can become addicted to food and might potentially end up developing an eating disorder, or I can become addicted to shopping and spend a month’s wage in a few days. We also need to realize that the times we live in also play a part in the whole process. There are a lot of “modern-day” addictions that are reflective of the modern lifestyle.

The second thing would be to understand that when taken too far, anything can become harmful, and that the key is balance. Everything in life requires balance, and it is through balance and moderation alone that we can truly have a healthy body and mind. Last but certainly not least would be to analyze ourselves and evaluate our daily habits—if we are not able to keep ourselves in check and practice self-control, then we have yet a long way to go to become better, wiser versions of ourselves.


About the Creator

Patricia Sarkar

Raised on a steady diet of makeup and games. Eager to share my experiences with the world and make a difference, article by article! :)

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Patricia SarkarWritten by Patricia Sarkar

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.