What’s the Difference Between “Habit” and “Addiction”?

What’s the Difference Between “Habit” and “Addiction”?

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Addicts are prone to denial. In fact, denial is one of the hallmarks of addiction.  Addicts continue to use drugs and alcohol despite negative consequences, believing they can stop when they want to despite evidence to the contrary. Over time, addiction can cost them their job, health and family. Until they are willing to acknowledge the reality of their situation, the addiction will run its course and sabotage every aspect of their life. 

A common struggle we hear from the families of addicts is that their loved ones say they’re using out of habit. In other words, they deny the addiction, not the habit. So how do you know when a problem has gone from a habit to a full-blown addiction? 

Fortunately, there are ways to tell the difference between habit and addiction and recognize when it’s time to seek Phoenix outpatient treatment for drug abuse. Below we cover the differences between a habit and addiction and the questions to ask about your own behaviors. 

What is a Habit? 

A habit is a routine or regular behavior that gets harder to give up the longer it goes on. We all have habits, such as drinking coffee in the mornings or biting your nails when you’re nervous. Over time, these behaviors become second nature for people. 

Habits can be good or bad. But they are all created in the same ways. Every habit starts with a three-part psychological pattern called a “habit loop”. 

  • Trigger. First, a type of cue or trigger puts the brain in automatic mode and lets the behavior unfold. 
  • Routine. The routine phase refers to carrying out the behavior, such as by washing your hands or brushing your teeth.
  • Reward. After the behavior, there is some type of reward. This reward tells your brain that the behavior is good and helps it remember the habit loop. 

As soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain essentially goes into sleep mode. Now you can use this brain energy for other tasks, while your habits come automatically. It’s an interesting process, as it allows you to complete complex tasks without devoting energy to them. 

However, you can also pick up bad habits that are difficult to break. This is the case with substance abuse. When you use drugs and alcohol, it creates a surge of dopamine that makes you feel good. Your brain is then triggered to recreate these pleasurable feelings, and when you follow through, you are rewarded with pleasure and euphoria. 

What is an Addiction? 

No one becomes addicted to something immediately. It usually starts with experimentation and then progresses into the need to satisfy a habit. Addictions are much more powerful than habits, and people will generally make sacrifices in their life to pursue a substance. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, an addiction is a brain disease characterized by compulsive substance abuse despite harmful consequences. Addiction also changes the brain’s circuitry, leading to different modes of thinking and altered brain functions. This is what makes it very difficult to stop using the drug. 

Here are some of the reasons why people start using drugs in the first place:

  • To get high and feel good
  • Relieve stress 
  • Improve performance 
  • Curiosity 
  • Peer pressure 

girl worrying about addiction

What’s the Difference Between a Habit and Addiction? 

The main distinguishing factor between a habit and an addiction is the ability to make choices. With a habit, you are usually aware of your behavior and have more control over it. Habits can be difficult to break because they are automatic, but they don’t change the way the brain works. 

Addiction, on the other hand, takes away your ability to make your own decisions. It hijacks the brain and convinces you to put drugs and alcohol before everything else in your life. A little bit of training won’t stop an addiction as it can a habit. Instead, addiction requires intensive holistic outpatient addiction treatment

How Long Do Habits Take to Form? 

Whenever your brain is benefitted by something, it cues you to continue doing the behaviors. For example, if you smoke a cigarette after a stressful day, your brain will come to expect this action every time you feel stressed. 

Developing habits doesn’t take long. It can take anywhere between 18 days and a full year, though the average is just 66 days. Breaking a habit can take a few weeks or longer depending on the habit and why it began. 

If you don’t stop a bad habit, it can become an addiction. This happens when the brain believes that a harmful substance is beneficial. The brain is then rewired into thinking this bad habit is actually a useful one.

Habit vs Addiction: Which One are You Struggling With? 

When evaluating whether your drug or alcohol use is a habit or addiction, here are some questions to ask yourself. 

  • Is your behavior having a negative impact on your life? 
  • Do you experience withdrawal effects when stopping drugs and alcohol? 
  • Have you taken steps to hide your behaviors? 
  • Do you repeatedly put yourself in risky situations? 
  • Have you tried to lie or hide your substance use? 

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you probably have an addiction. However, if you feel that it’s just a habit right now, it’s still important to get help. A habit can very quickly turn into an addiction, especially when you’re using drugs and alcohol to achieve a desired state. Waiting to hit rock bottom is a myth. Addiction is most treatable when you catch it early on. 

Conclusion 

Addiction is a life-threatening disease that requires drug rehab in Phoenix. You can break a habit, but it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to break a true addiction without some help. Fortunately, you do not have to uproot your life and reside in an inpatient facility for an extended period of time. There are other ways to get help. 

By seeking treatment from an outpatient treatment center  like Continuum Recovery Center, you can access convenient, flexible, cost-effective holistic addiction recovery programs.. Contact us today to learn more about our program and how it can address your addiction and put you on the path to sobriety.