I use to think that I knew the difference in a habit and an addiction. But as a few years went by and I still had a habit, I realized it might be an addiction. Smoking was my worst habit. And it did turn into an addiction. At first as a teen it was just to be like everyone else. Then when you try to lay them down it is too late. But lets get back to my story later.
A habit is something that you acquire by experience and by doing regularly or automatically. If you do something long enough it becomes a habit. And therefore easier for you to do. Addiction is excessive behavior that a person is unable to stop, despite its harmful consequences.
Habits can include mannerisms, such as moving the hands when talking: satisfying psychological cravings such as smoking or overeating: and even characteristic reading preferences, such as that for Shakespearean tragedies. The psychologist are interested in habits because of their function as a basic element of learning. Also as problems to be treated when they prove disruptive to a person’s well-being.
Now, all of the above,(except for the hand mannerisms) could fall under the category of an addiction. Anything that ends up being something that can cause you harm, is an addiction. Smoking or eating too much as we all know can be detrimental to your health. Even the Shakespearean tragedies could be considered harmful if you think about it. Reading about tragedy all the time could certainly put you into one deep depression.
Psychoanalysts consider habits as expressions of erotic and aggressive impulses. Repressed, these impulses find an outlet through the counterproductive discharges that comprise habits. A majority of contemporary psychologists view habits as learned or conditioned behavior over which one has little voluntary control. Some theorists even consider more complex human activities, such as playing basketball or speaking French, as composed of “habit hierarchies.”
Habits can begin as reactions to a major event, such as a bodily injury, and then continue on other occasions that reproduce certain cues or stimuli from the original event. A habit is influenced not only by elements that bring the behavior about but also by rewards or punishments that follow the behavior. An action that is rewarded as soon as it is performed is well on its way to becoming a habit. Once a habit is firmly entrenched, it can be sustained by cues different from those that originally created it, and it need not be rewarded so regularly or well. Indeed, the habit may become its own reward.
Psychologist can usually effectively help people in breaking such habits as hair and eyebrow pulling, fingernail biting, shoulder jerking, scratching, overeating, smoking, drinking, and exhibitionism. With children, self destructive habits such as head banging can be eliminated by behavior modification or counter conditioning techniques. These would involve increasing ones awareness of the act, interrupting its performance so that it no longer seems such a natural thing to do, and reinforcing another act as a competitor or replacement. Recognizing the social benefits of breaking an undesirable habit make doing so easier.
Some of those things I have spoken of will not only become a habit but an addiction if they are not broken before the person has gotten so emotionally hooked on the habit. Habits and addictions are not just something physical that we do. I would venture to say it is three fourths emotion. The smoking, over eating, drinking, those things are clearly some that will cause you to cross over from habit to addiction. Unless you are a very strong willed person you will not be able to stop without some kind of help.
My addiction to smoking lasted 30 years. I hated it but could not stop. But then one day I started having asthma attacks every time I would smoke. Then I started having problems with my heart going out of rhythm. So I had some incentive. I also have a strong faith in God and his strength. I quit cold turkey because I had already tried everything else out there. None of those worked. I think another reason I was successful was because I had already cut myself down to 3-4 a day. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to smoke for much longer and I was already preparing myself. I was not so sure that I would be successful at that time. But when your heart starts acting in a strange way you just do what you know you have to do. Were it just a habit, I am sure it would not have been as hard. As it was, it was the hardest thing I ever gave up. Doctors compare withdrawal of cigarettes to that of heroin. I do believe that cutting down to 3 a day helped me quit a lot. Mainly because, anyone who smokes will tell you that there are a whole lot of emotional habits with smoking that make it that much more addicting.
I think we are in a generation now that has a lot of new habits. They do not just have to contend with smoking while driving but now they have the cell phones, pagers, and text’s. Years before the texts started, I knew a lady who was taking her children to school. Her pager went off, she reached for it and crashed. That fast, only 5 seconds and she went over the line and was killed.
Habits sometimes cannot be helped. I also believe that we do not start out becoming addicted to things on purpose. It just happens. But there is help out there today with any habit or addiction that you may have. As most know; the first step to getting help is to admit you have a problem. At the first sign that you feel uncomfortable or upset with yourself, then you know it is time to seek help. Our telephone books are full of numbers for people who want to help you.