Addiction or an Everyday Compulsion?

February 12, 2022 | Eric Anderson, LMFT, CSAT

Addiction is a word that has been thrown around a lot over the past decade. You hear it all the time. “I’m addicted to chocolate” or buying new clothes, or working too much, or video games, etc…. However, there’s still a stigma around the word addiction and what it really means. 


The word is often used to mean a pattern of getting wrapped up in something so compulsively that you lose control of some behaviors around it. Like with technology, how often do you check your phone without even getting an alert?


However, everyone who experiences compulsive behaviors is NOT a full blown addict. Yet, I do think it is helpful to recognize the potential for compulsive patterns in our life. What separates a clinically addictive process vs. an everyday compulsion? 


Addiction is primarily an illness of consequences.

While many would say in jest, “I’m addicted to video games,” because they can get so wrapped up in it that they lose track of time. This alone doesn’t necessarily mean they are an addict. Unlike, someone who plays video games for several hours a day, neglecting responsibilities with work and family. This is a different story. Overtime, this person will start experiencing consequences as a result.


Addiction is marked by several factors including:

  • Unsuccessful efforts to stop or curb a behavior.
  • Continued behavior despite consequences it has caused.
  • Escalation of the behavior or a diminished effect of the behavior over time.  

Identifying problematic behaviors.

Honest answers to these questions are often a good place to start when trying to differentiate between an addiction and compulsion. It’s always best to work with a specialist or trained profession to help you determine if these or other factors are present in your life. 


It’s easy to compare your behaviors to more extreme examples to minimize the severity of your actions: “I’m not as bad as those people” or “I would never take it that far”.  An outside perspective can help you objectively look at your behaviors.


Addiction is such a loaded term and it can be difficult to fully identify with the term. Nevertheless, these are important questions that we all need to ask ourselves to gain awareness of our own patterns and compulsions. Additionally, you can decide how to move forward and live your best life once you identify any problematic behaviors. These are worthwhile questions to explore regardless of where you might fall on this spectrum.


if you would like help working through these questions and identifying problematic behaviors, please contact us here at Banyan Therapy Group. We are here to listen.  

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