Habit or Addiction?


What are ways for us to tell between habit or addiction? Habits are generally considered harmless, but over time habits can become addictions that change a person’s life for the worse. How does a habit become an addiction, and what’s the difference between the two?

Studies have shown that it generally takes 66 days to form a habit, although the length of time can vary per individual. Over those two months, a person will experience a process called the “habit loop.” A cue causes your brain to perform the habit, and since most habits are something pleasurable or beneficial to an individual, the action leads to a positive feeling that reinforces the behavior.

For some people, a habit stays a habit and doesn’t develop any further. The telltale signs of a habit becoming an addiction are:

  • An increase in time spent performing the habit
  • Unique chemical reactions in the brain
  • The presence of withdrawal symptoms

When an individual struggles to function as a result of not performing a habit, they are likely experiencing addiction. An individual can become addicted to caffeine or social media but the addiction may also be more sinister, as is often the cause with drug or alcohol use.

Over time, the pleasurable effects of the habit—or addiction—may wear off. This leads to an increase of drug or alcohol use in cases where substance use is the issue. Over time, this increased usage can lead to financial, emotional or social struggles, and an overall decrease in quality of life. However, the pleasurable feeling that comes from indulging in the addiction can be so strong that an individual feels they have no choice but to keep giving in. Addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine can release up to ten times more dopamine – a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with reward and pleasure – than natural rewards, according to Medical Daily. This explains why it’s so difficult for people to stop using drugs, alcohol and nicotine.

Research has found that it takes about 21 days to break a habit. However, overcoming an addiction is often not so simple as abstaining for 21 days. It’s recommended that those struggling with drug or alcohol use pursue a course of treatment that can help them identify any underlying issues that caused them to turn to harmful substances and rewire their brains to find pleasure in other, healthier things.

Pyramid Healthcare provides residential and outpatient treatment that addresses substance use and mental health issues. We offer programs for adults and teens and a variety of levels of care. For more information about how Pyramid Healthcare can help you overcome your addiction, call (888) 694-9996 today.

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