An obsession is different than an addiction. An online dictionary defines obsession as an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. However, an addiction is an illness that affects the brain, causing a person to engage in compulsory substance use or compulsory behavior, such as gambling.
It’s important to know the difference between an addiction and an obsession, especially if you or someone you know may be facing an addiction. An addiction requires professional medical and mental health treatment; whereas an obsession in some cases can be healthy. For instance, the Wright brothers likely had an obsession with finding a way to fly.
It’s possible for an obsession to turn into an addiction if that person is obsessed with drug use, drinking, or another rewarding activity to which they can become addicted. Most people associate addiction to drugs and alcohol. However, addiction can also develop with gambling, shopping, sex, eating, and other activities that trigger the reward center in the brain.
Factors that Can Predispose a Person to Addiction
Although it’s possible for an obsession to become an addiction, there are many people who can have an obsession with gambling, for instance, who may never develop an addiction. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are certain factors that can predispose a person to addiction. These factors include:
- Experiencing aggressive behavior in childhood
- Lack of parental supervision
- Poor social skills
- Drug experimentation at a young age
- Availability of drugs
- Community poverty
- Parent or guardian drug use
- Method of administration
- Presence of a mental illness
- Lack of coping skills
- Unresolved trauma
Signs a Person is Experiencing an Addiction
At this time, the exact cause of addiction (sometimes known as substance use disorder) is not clear. Yet, the above factors have proven to have an influence on whether a person is vulnerable to addiction. Genetics can also play a role in the development of addiction for someone. To tell whether a person is experiencing an addiction, look for these signs:
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
- Cravings and urges to use the substance
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
- Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
- Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts the you in danger
- Continuing to use, even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
- Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.
So, although a person may be obsessed with drinking alcohol, using drugs, or a behavior that stimulates the reward center in the brain, it may or may not turn into an addiction. If you see any of the above signs in yourself or someone you know, call for professional help today.