Everyone I would imagine is familiar with substance-based addictions such as alcohol or drugs. You are probably familiar with process-based addictions as well such as gambling. What is interesting about substance- and process-based addictions is that at the core they are all very tightly related, even if the method of 'acting out' is very different. So, for example, in a drug addiction the acting out behavior is getting high due to the effects of the drug itself. In a process addiction like gambling, stealing, eating, sex, etc the high is the result of the whatever the activity is being undertaken. I've always thought of process addictions as just getting high off of the body's internal chemical reactions based on acting out, as opposed to an external high from drugs or alcohol.
Anyway, at their root addictions develop as a coping strategy in order to cope or run away from something you can't or perceive yourself unable to handle. Addictions probably have a genetic component as well that make some people more susceptible to forming full-blown addictive behavior while others may be in a more escapism sorta thing. I guess what I am saying is that you don't have to be a full-blown addict whose behavior controls you to have some feel of what an addiction is like. Escapism has some on the tenants of addiction, particularly when that escapism is obsessive.
I believe that society has a pretty good grasp of drug and alcohol addiction, and that is a good thing for sure. What society does not have a grasp on is process addictions that are somehow viewed as a lack of will rather than something that is just as debilitating as a substance addiction. The stigma around these addictions is in my opinion the way the stigma around substance addictions used to be several decades ago. Let me give you an example, if a trusted friend of yours was to come to you one day and say 'I am an alcoholic.' how would you react? Now if that same person were to come to you and say 'I have a sex addiction' would that change the way you react to them? What if they said they have a problem with eating, would you view it as simply a will-power issue or something else?
The definition of addiction at Dictionary.com is:
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
The first part of that definition is right on in that anything can become habit-forming to the point of enslavement. This definition is probably somewhat out-of-date as a lot of the thinking on addiction has expanded to allow for process addictions that do not have the same sort of physical trauma associate with cessation. This goes back to the stigma around process addictions I was babbling about earlier. Anyway, the key point I want to make here is that process addictions can become every bit as enslaving as substance addictions and, additionally, a lot of substance addicts have process addictions and vice-versa.
Ok, so back to my original point now that I have some of the background out-of-the-way about process addictions. I believe that addiction, in particular process addiction, is pretty rampant in society. An addiction really becomes a problem when you obsess about it. When it start to interfere with social engagements and work or it starts to take over your thoughts. When you run into a stressful situation and the first thing you think of is that acting out behavior. When you start to isolate from people. Those are all signs that a behavior that has been escapist to you is or has crossed the line to an addiction. I'm willing to bet that a fair amount of people can associate with some of those things, particularly the bit about stressful situations. Does that mean you have an addiction? No. It doesn't even mean you may develop one. However, it does mean that something is going on there that needs to be looked at because rather than dealing with the situation you are looking for ways to run from it. For some, and I would argue a great many, that can eventually turn into addiction.
Anyway, look at TV, texting, video games and/or the Internet. Internet addiction is probably easily the number 1 process addiction that people just aren't aware of actually having. It has become pretty prevalent in our society. How many of you work at a company that have policies against using the Internet for anything that isn't work related? Those policies probably came into being because a few abusers were totally sucked in and either couldn't or wouldn't stop. There is a good reason why the porn industry is highly profitable and it isn't because of the story lines.
So why this post? This is a topic that I have found fascinating for many years because of the raw power that addiction has over people. It is absolutely amazing to me. The movie 'Fight Club' does a pretty good job a showing different addictions, the book does an even better job. People become addicted to power, to sex, to entertainment without ever really understanding that it is just as much an addiction as drugs or alcohol and just as hard to unravel.
I also want to see what kind of reaction it stirs up in people. There are a lot of opinions of addictions out there and a lot of experience with them directly or indirectly. If you feel safe, share some of those experiences here or with me in-person.