“an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”
“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma”
John Dryden: “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
Habits – or behaviour patterns are initially developed at an early age and it is generally believed that it only takes 21 days to create a habit.
Ask someone close to you what habits s/he thinks you have as you may be unaware of them! They have become so much a part of you that it may come as a surprise to have them pointed out! They become an integral part of you through repetition and practice which is not always deliberate. As children we often copy and learn behaviour patterns from parents or family and sometimes develop habits to meet a need for comfort or reassurance such as a dummy, comfort blanket or thumb sucking. We usually grow out of these early habits naturally but as we practice these behaviour patterns they become stronger and stronger. We cease to think or be aware of what we are doing…..Think about learning to drive. At first it felt impossible to co-ordinate the gears, mirrors, clutch, accelerator, brake…….suddenly it all seems to come together and becomes automatic. This is because the repetition and practice becomes consolidated and moves from the “thinking” part of your mind (the conscious) to the automatic part (subconscious).
Most of our habits are not harmful or damaging to our lifestyle or to others but sometimes they become annoying and need to be broken. We develop them through repetition and practice, just like learning our tables, until they become automatic. Common habits include nail biting, thumb sucking, nose picking, watching too much TV and of course social media!
A habit turns into an addiction when you are aware that you “need” the item to get through daily living and you feel out of control and panicky without it.
Common addictions range from alcohol, drugs, gambling, computer games, internet trawling (iphone, ipad etc) texting, to eBay, shopping, food and chocolate.
There is no single reason why addictions develop. Addictions to substances such as alcohol, drugs and nicotine change the way we feel, both mentally and physically. If the experience is a good one, then there may be a strong desire or need to repeat it. This also applies to Gambling and the “high” of winning which almost brainwashes you against the odds and the realties or fears of losing.
A good way of checking if you have a habit or addiction is to ask yourself to what degree you could do without this behaviour or substance The stronger the need, the more likely it is to be an addiction.