“I’m addicted to ‘The Bachelor’!” one girl exclaimed to me once. Others have “confessed” more standard addictions to their Blackberry, chocolate, or even frozen yogurt. I’m usually nice to the the guilty parties, but this stuff makes me mad. Why?
Addiction doesn’t mean really liking something
For one thing, this attitude trivializes addiction itself – It creates the belief that addiction is incredibly common and is just not that big of a deal. My Bachelor “Addicted” friend isn’t losing her job, her house, or even sleep over her terrible affliction and yet she has no problem putting it right there on the mantle next to a good old heroin habit. It’s not right. The more we trivialize mental health disorders, which are difficult enough to diagnose, the more of a misunderstanding we create about their true impact. If every one of us is addicted to every thing we find ourselves engaging in, or caring about, a little more than we consider healthy than all those people who keep telling me that “everyone in the world is addicted to something” might just be right.
A very small percentage of us actually meet criteria for dependence. When you talk about the chronically relapsing addicts, the one we all picture when the word comes up, the percentages are even lower. The loss of effect (tolerance) and the withdrawal symptoms when we stop using; the repeated negative consequences, loss of interest in other activities and the desire and unsuccessful attempts to quit are all part of the picture. The more symptoms, the more devastating the impact. It’s not about really liking something… It’s not AT ALL about that.
Addiction is not about doing something a lot
Every time I’ve written about what defines addiction I’ve made this point – Addiction is absolutely NOT about quantity.
I’m not saying it’s impossible for someone to be addicted to watching “The Bachelor.” But someone who finds themselves watching 10 episodes in a row because one is just not satisfying is simply a big ol’ The Bachelor fan. But, if that same person is repeatedly late to work meetings or has skipped out on work altogether to watch The Bachelor marathons, or if they have promised their significant other that they’d stop and gave it a real shot knowing it was interfering with their relationship but just couldn’t do it… Show me that person and you’ll have shown me a real Bachelor addict. I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of them out there…
So stop telling everyone you’re addicted to your Blackberry and take responsibility for the fact that you keep turning to your email messages because you like the satisfaction of seeing a new message or being able to check the latest NFL score. Feel good about and embrace your love for crappy television without having to resort to an explanation that makes it seem like your finger uncontrollably hits the right channel button… You’re lying to us, you’re lying to yourself, and you’re making those with a real problem seem like idiots.