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Habit or Addiction: What's the Difference?

by Arlene Taylor

It can be challenging to differentiate between a habit and an addictive behavior. One way to do this is to evaluate the outcomes of the habit in your life. Ask yourself, "Are the long-term effects of this habit positive and in balance, or negative and out of balance?" Also, evaluate the ease with which you maintain conscious choice over the habit. Below you'll see the subtle yet significant differences.

A Habit
A behavior pattern that:
* Tends to be repeated frequently and has become nearly automatic.
* Has developed by repetition (practice) or exposure, usually through conscious choice.
* Shows itself in regularity.
* Reveals an increase in facility and accuracy of performance over time.
* Allows an easy, conscious choice.
* Results in long-term outcomes that are beneficial and positive to the self and/or others (they outweigh the negatives) and typically are in balance.

An Addiction
A behavior pattern that:
* Has run away with itself or been taken hostage.
* Developed through physiologic exposure to a substance or initiation to something that provides a reward plus incentives that may be in the form of stored conscious memories or cues that are reminders of that reward.
* Shows itself in escalating frequency.
* Reveals a decrease in facility and accuracy of performance over time.
* Exhibits a diminishment of easy, conscious choice.
* Results in long-term outcomes that are negative to the self and/or others (they outweigh the positives) and typically are out of balance.



 
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