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Habit vs addiction

Discussion in 'General Substance Abuse Discussion' started by LilAnn, Jun 10, 2015.

  1. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    I found this explanation for the habit/addicted questions. Maybe it'll help

    "Key Difference: Habit is a behavior pattern developed by frequent repetition of the act over and over to the point the brain does it automatically. An addiction is a compulsive need of a certain thing or substance to the body, which when deprived causes horrible effects. A habit can be controlled or modified, while addiction cannot be controlled and requires professional help for modification.

    The difference between Habit and Addiction has been under constant debate. There is a fine line between habit and addiction, and if crossed a habit can easily turn into an addiction. In order to understand the difference, let’s look at the terms separately.

    [​IMG]According to Merriam Webster dictionary, a habit is defined as, “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance; an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.” A habit can be made from constant repetition to the point where a person is not even aware that they are doing it, ex: biting nails, taping their feet, etc. Habits can be both positive as well as negative, but they are not destructive in nature. The act gets imbedded in the brain after continuous repetition that the brain automatically sends signals to the body to perform that act.


    An addiction is defined as, “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.” An addiction is an extreme form of habit, and the fine line ends when a person loses control over the act. Most addicted people know that they are addicted to certain substances, but they can not turn away from that act or substance even if they want to. During an addiction, a person is willing to go to great lengths in order to consume that substance. Addictions also have horrible withdrawal effects. A person, who suddenly stops drinking after being addicted to it for a certain number of years, exhibits psychological and physical effects. An addiction also affects a person’s memory, ability to make decisions and learn.

    A habit can be changed or modified, while addictions are hard to let go off and require professional help; but both require determination and hard work. Habits are developed from people we meet, actions we perform or decisions we take, while addiction are habits that are taken to the point where the person can no longer live without it. The most dangerous fact about an addiction is that most of them cause your body to deteriorate and can also cause death in the long term. In order to tell habit and addiction apart, there is a simple test. Can the person live without it? If something is a habit and it is stopped or skipped one day (ex: biting nails), it won’t cause any physical or psychological effects. If it is an addition and is skipped a day, it can cause withdrawal effects.




    An act performed by a person that is built by repetition to the point where the person is not aware they do it

    An extreme form of habit, but the person has no control over the act. It becomes a need of the body


    A person has complete control over the habit

    The addiction has control over the person


    Positive, Negative


    Mental status

    Mental ability, memory, mental functions are normal

    Mental ability is hay wired, person loses control over memory, actions


    Can be modified or changed

    Can be changed, however takes time, patience and determination


    Biting nails, tapping feet, tugging earlobes, putting on t-shirt before pants"

    Drug, alcohol, sex, exercise, gaming
    missbishi likes this.
  2. missbishi

    missbishi Community Champion

    What a great post, it really does explain the difference between habit and addiction and hopefully, will stop people worrying unnecessarily.
    LilAnn likes this.
  3. pwarbi

    pwarbi Community Champion

    I have to admit, that's a question that does often get asked quite a lot and I think that article pretty much explains the difference completely.

    I think a lot of people say they aren't addicted to something, and hide behide calling it a habit. Now we can see what the difference is, that won't be as easy to do.
    LilAnn likes this.
  4. dyanmarie25

    dyanmarie25 Community Champion

    Interesting read. Thank you for sharing this one to us. Well, as for me, a habit is more like doing the same thing over and over again out of being used to it. On the other hand, an addiction is more fatal and your body would always be craving for it.
    LilAnn likes this.
  5. whitenoise

    whitenoise Senior Contributor

    I share everything of what this article said. It was a pleasant reading actually, lot of new ideas to think about it, thanks for letting us know!
    LilAnn likes this.
  6. zaerine

    zaerine Community Champion

    Very interesting and useful article.
    Right that habit can lead to addiction and there are good and bad habits. Habits can still be controlled or one can go on in life just fine not doing a habit for a period of time. While addiction could have bad side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
    LilAnn likes this.
  7. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    When I tried to decide what the difference was, I drew a complete blank. Now that's its posted ill probably refer to it often. Lol
  8. Winterybella

    Winterybella Community Champion

    This is quite informative. It's the kind of thing I like to research. Thank you LiAnn. I am sure many will find this useful and a great reference tool.
    LilAnn likes this.
  9. CallipygianGamine

    CallipygianGamine Community Champion

    Agreed, this is a super handy article. I hadn’t really thought of addictions as habits taken to their logical extreme, but it makes sense now that I’ve seen it explained this way. And I’d actually say a lot of the things I did when I was younger were more habits than addictions, since I was able to stop fairly easily. Not that it didn’t uncover some underlying issues anyway! So it was still somewhat of a process.
    LilAnn likes this.
  10. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    I can remember when smoking was just a habit... 22 years ago. That lasted all of a week, it seemed like. ​
  11. jteezymob

    jteezymob Member

    A word of advice from a former smoker:
    At various times you may be tempted to light up. You might feel that you can smoke just one cigarette, or just one pack, and then quit. Don't do it! You can quickly become addicted all over again. Even when you have kicked your addiction, there can still be a small demon buried deep inside of you that wants you to light up. It will poo-poo the threat of addiction. It will try to make you feel you can light up "just one" and then quit once again.
    One piece of evidence that the demon still lives in you: you're trying to make a false distinction between a habit, a craving, and an addiction. THEY'RE ALL THE SAME THING. Don't tempt fate.
  12. I really thought habit and addiction are the same. Or is it possible that one's addiction has become a habit? Or one thing lead to another and a habit became more of an addiction? I don't mean to confuse the two, seeing that clear explanations were given. But I'm just curious as which one came first - like the chicken or the egg? I feel that this would be helpful in our quest for recovery.
  13. dyanmarie25

    dyanmarie25 Community Champion

    Probably it is more like a habit becoming an addiction. For example, I just tried smoking cigarette once or twice a week, but this habit of mine suddenly turns into an extreme craving which has lead to addiction.
    wife of recovering likes this.
  14. JonnyMacdonald

    JonnyMacdonald Community Champion

    Very interesting stuff!
    Took me a while to get to the end but it was worth the read!
  15. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    I'm really glad you said that! I'm always trying to define these things as one or the other. but you're right. when it comes down to it, they really are the same.
  16. CrowdedHighways

    CrowdedHighways Active Contributor

    Great post! But I would say that many addicted people might recognize this difference in theory, but would still claim that they have just formed a habit, and are not actually addicted. A great many people in my university would always talk about drinking, in fact, they would not stop talking about drinking, but they would always claim that they were not addicted.
  17. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    It took me a lot of years before I would admit I was addicted to smoking cigarettes. No ay would I be able to admit addiction to something heavier.