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Definition - What does Addiction mean?

Historically, an addiction referred to the uncontrollable desire or habit to ingest alcohol or drugs. Now certain medical experts and social scientists believe other actions can also be addictive, although there is some disagreement about whether activities can truly be scientifically addictive. Common activities which may be addictive, according to some scientist, include shopping, eating, gambling or exercising too much. Scientists are not sure why, but some individuals have developed addictive tendencies to engage in these activities due to the feeling or satisfaction they receive from them.

Experts suggest a behavior may be addictive when it is maladaptive and undermines their ability to live life socially, emotionally, and financially in a healthy manner. For instance, individuals who drink too much hurt their families. Gamblers spend family resources, and a sex addict loses the ability to have meaningful and healthy physical relationships. A behavior also may be an addiction if the individual is unable to curtail it, despite the negative influence it has in their life.

Is an addiction always harmful?

Although addicts may not be hopeless or unhappy, and their world may not be falling apart, addictions are harmful. If the addiction is to an illegal drug the consequences can often be a loss of freedom or imprisonment. At the very least an addiction robs the addicted individual of the ability to live their life to the fullest extent possible.

At its worst an addiction hurts other people, including friends and family members. Often it is the family who is hurt the most through neglect and abuse. For instance, drug or alcohol addicts with children may neglect them and ultimately lose them, driving them into an overcrowded foster system. Spouses can also be neglected and eventually leave marriages unable to cope with the addicts behavior.

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