Addictions and addictive behaviors are often defended by the addict. When you defend, it usually means you fear there is a problem. A healthy person doesn’t need to defend an annual indulgent evening on New Year’s Eve, an occasional cosmetic procedure, or hanging on to a tacky, old chair.
All regularly repeated, nonessential behaviors need to be explored for the degree of their addictive nature. For example, feeling compelled to jog daily for an hour may be a bit excessive, but feeling bad about yourself if you don’t train every day for weekly triathlon events is clearly an addictive pattern.
Brain Chemistry’s Role
The main role of the neurotransmitter dopamine is to signal the frontal lobe that a behavior is desirable, important, or better than most, which causes heightened awareness and a craving for more.
All natural pleasures produce dopamine, including drugs and addictive behaviors. Drugs induce a very large release of dopamine, which serves to intoxicate the brain into thinking that the experience was overpoweringly wonderful. And, indeed, perhaps it was. However, with enough use, the brain’s pleasure center becomes rewired to believe that use of mind altering chemicals is the highest form of pleasure, and when triggered, your chemical response eventually becomes, “I must use to survive.” This results in persistent using and a loss of control, even when there are significant negative or even disastrous results.
The term positive addiction sounds good, but if something is a true addiction, it’s not positive. Some maintenance addictions, like exercising or dieting, have positive aspects, but can be unhealthy when done in excess. It creates an unclear gray area where addiction problems are compared to the added value of the addictive behavior, resulting in an almost equal balance of cons and pros. This is especially tricky when dealing with addictions related to everyday tasks like eating and working. If your behavior falls into this category, consider cutting back when possible and getting involved in another positive activity.