Are your "harmless" obsessions actually ruining your quality of life?
We insist to our best friend that though we may obsessively check Facebook, it isn't an addiction; it's just a habit. And who would ever say that hitting the gym for two hours a day and carefully monitoring what you eat is anything but a good habit?
After all, "real" addictions are things like showing to work drunk or on drugs.
Besides, in the clinical sense, an addiction develops when a person desires to shield painful feelings. And you're pretty darn happy, right?
But the truth is, any activity that numbs shadow emotions — frustration, sadness, anger, disappointment — can mutate into compulsive or addiction-based behavior.
And, in that light, a host of modern day habits are emerging in first world societies that not only change the way we live, but are also morphing into real addictions. You can joke #FirstWorldProblems all you want, but our little "innocent" habits definitely mimic the same kinds of brain activities or dopamine releases that drug use or gambling do!
From obsessing over our bodies to a variety of tech tool compulsions, when habitual behaviors affect our ability to fully engage in our lives, our work, or our relationships, they could definitely become addictions.
So, what are these modern day addictions I'm talking about, and how do you know if you have one? Check out the gallery below!
I love a sexy new pair of shoes as much as the next gal, but an addiction to shopping isn't about sprucing up your wardrobe; it's the compulsive need to buy things. Shopaholics get a high from experiencing shopping, the transaction, and the shiny new thing in their possession.
But just like an alcoholic sobers up, the shopping high wears off and out this addict goes again with credit card in hand. Shopping addicts often get into serious debt, destroy relationships by lying about their shopping, and become hoarders, with their treasures tucked into every nook and cranny of their home.
Do you obsess over the next big sale you'll hit, typically shop alone, and hide purchases from your significant other? You could have oniomania.
Society doesn’t consider the craving for sexual gratification a modern addiction, but the ease of access to internet porn and other sexually explicit materials can increase typical, normal urges for sexual pleasure.
But is that real addiction? Doctors say that just like an eating disorder isn't about food, a sex addiction isn't about sex. Yet, it's a real problem if it interferes with living life and causes risky behaviors.
3. Love (Limerence)
Robert Palmer was onto something when he sang about being addicted to love. Love CAN be an addiction, and it's different from a sex addiction. The love addict becomes infatuated and can't seem to let go. Just like an alcoholic focuses on the next drink, a love addict's dependency is on another person.
Being addicted to love causes a rise in phenylethylamine and shares similar symptoms with cocaine abusers. Love addicts often felt abandoned by (or that love was withheld by) a parent. Learning to love yourself as you are (without the need for being loved by others) is part of the healing path of love addiction.
Do you find yourself hyper focused on getting someone to love you? Do you believe that being loved will solve all your problems? Do you believe that getting an ex back will make you whole again? You’re addicted to love.
We all want to do well in our jobs, but is work more important than loved ones? Being a workaholic isn't exactly a new concept, but it’s been exasperated by our modern society's ability (and encouragement) to always stay connected to the office.
Are you unable to take a weekend off, let alone go on vacation, without working? Do you miss important family functions because work is more important? Workaholism is likely an addiction for you.
Being industrious is great. Yeah, we all have a lot to do and the requisite 24 hours to do it in. I know, you're "crazy-busy." Being busy is good ... when it's purposeful, but too often, it leads to burnout.
Do you need to keep cramming more into your day to feel a sense of satisfaction? Do you equate your worth with how busy you are? Are you using your "crazy-busy" schedule to avoid relationships or unpleasant truths? Not good.
6. Always Being Right
We have a plethora of information at our fingertips, which has led some folks down the path of always thinking they're right. Though being smart doesn't sound like an addiction (and who wants to end up being wrong about stuff?), an addiction to being right leads to overstressing about mistakes (we all make some), rebellion against your boss, and destruction of inter-office relationships.
Can you go a week (or even a day) without criticizing others? Can you let someone else shine in your next meeting? Always needing to trump everyone else is the wrong path to healthy connection.
We all have fears; it's a part of being human. But do you put your fears on a pedestal and focus so diligently on how flawed you are that it interferes with your ability to succeed? Being addicted to fear is a branch of negaholism—addiction to negativity, the tendency to see the negative side of every situation. Writer and speaker Elizabeth Gilbert often says that you need to stop cherishing your fear because "your fear is the most boring thing about you."
Don't let ordinary fears turn into an addiction. It causes you to make excuses, remained focused on your "flaws", and keeps you from moving forward. Fear and love cannot exist within the same space, so choose love.
8. Healthy Eating
Sure, it's wise to care about the foods you eat; a healthy diet and lifestyle is important. But overly strict self-imposed food rules can lead to obsessiveness. With the sheer volume of scientific information about nutrients available on the web, combined with the fact that humans need to eat, what can begin as a desire to eat healthy leads to an obsessive fixation on eating perfectly clean, "pure" foods.
Do you bring your own food to parties, or avoid parties altogether? Are you afraid to travel because you may not have healthy enough food options? Do you believe that your consumption of clean food makes you more worthy? You could suffer from orthorexia.
9. Compulsive Exercising
We all need to move our bodies regularly. Science says that exercise makes us healthier, but does hitting the gym interfere with time with your family or your job? Do you feel anxious if you miss your spin class (and the ensuing hour of running on the treadmill afterwards)? Do you work out even when you're sick or injured?
Do you fanatically focus on the number of calories you burned in a workout and push yourself beyond comfort if you haven't hit your magic number? Then, darling, your healthy exercise habit is becoming an addiction like Anorexia Athletica or Exercise Bulimia.
You don't have to quit exercise completely, but putting it into perspective allows you to live a healthier and more balanced life.
10. Television and Binge-watching
The new season of Orange is the New Black is out soon, and it's become normal to plan a whole weekend around binge-watching the entire season. Sure, the occasional binge of a show isn't deadly, but when one show leads to another and becomes the drug of choice to soothe your nerves is television, you’re on the edges of healthy watching and addiction.
Though you can argue that a little (or a lot) of TV shows isn't truly addictive, the current version of the psychiatric diagnostic manual broadens its addiction definition from being a substance, to any compulsive behavior relied upon, despite interference with living life.
Besides, binge-watching consumes a show in a way the show creators didn't intend, so breaking your addiction to television (and especially binge-watching) will allow you to enjoy all the highs and lows of your favorite show without it becoming a fixation.
11. Smartphones (Nomophobia)
Our love for connection has gone from love letters in the mail to the instant gratification of having everything in the palm of our hands. We may joke about being addicted to our Smartphone, but Dr. David Greenfield says his research shows that the ease of access, availability, and portability makes it twice as addictive as other ways to connect to technology.
If forgetting your cell phone at home makes you feel panicked, or your obsessive checking for updates is interfering with your ability to connect to real people (especially when they are across the table from you), it's time to cut the virtual cord and break your addiction.
A recent Penn State study revealed that college kids have confessed to texting while on the toilet, showering, while driving, and during sex. Yes, during sex! When you consider the claim that a text addiction gives you the same pleasure as an orgasm, isn't the real thing better?
Research by Baylor University found that students spent between eight and ten hours a day on their phones, most of which spent texting. Though it's similar to being addicted to your smart phone, being addicted to texting leads to risky behaviors, like texting while driving.
Do you obsessively text? Have you sent or replied to a text while driving? Do you feel compelled to send or reply to texts while eating, at the movies, in bed, or while partaking in regular self-care activities? It's not a habit, it's an addiction.
Though it's hard to argue you take more selfies than Kim Kardashian (whose new book Selfish comes out May 5th), has your occasional vacation photo of yourself in front of a famous landmark morphed into multiple daily photos of you from various angles?
According to a study by Ohio State University, men who posted selfies regularly display psychopathic tendencies, narcissism, and self-objectification. And while some may argue that selfies are a path to a better acceptance of self, psychiatrists say that compulsive selfies lead to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, depression, and eating disorders.
The occasional selfie can improve your sense of self and connection, but when it becomes an addictive behavior, you're setting yourself up for dissatisfaction with your appearance ... if it isn't seen through an Instagram filter and the perfect angle.