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Susan Shapiro

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How To Tell If It's A Habit Or An Addiction

Posted: 04/ 4/2012 8:19 am

Many people assume that an addict only refers to someone like Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse, who overindulged in dangerous levels of hard drugs, excessive alcohol or prescription pills. Yet in Unhooked: How To Quit Anything [Skyhorse, $14.95], the book I coauthored with Frederick Woolverton, the addiction specialist who helped me quit cigarettes, alcohol, dope, gum, bread and diet soda, we define an addiction as a compulsive reliance on ANY SUBSTANCE OR ACTIVITY that harms or deters your ability to function in a major area of your life. This includes work, school, family, social and intimate relationships. Indeed, you can get addicted to such "soft habits" as video games, texting, television, Facebook, sugar, exercise, shopping, sex or pornography. Often, the substance or activity is used to regulate moods and emotional states that would otherwise feel intolerable. Here's how to tell if your little habit is benign or on the way to becoming a dangerous addiction you should curtail:

Take inventory
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Pay careful attention to all of your habits and activities. Are you sleeping through the night? Feeling well rested, well fed, and in shape? Notice how much you are eating, drinking and spending. Is there any illegal or unethical dilemmas that are bothering you (like drugs, debts or infidelity). Are there any recent changes - like a breakup, or weight gain, sleeplessness, or irritability - that you find troubling? If you had to give up one substance or activity, what would it be?
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