04 Jun 2015
What Are Soft Addictions?
The term soft addiction is fairly new, and it can be misleading or even offensive to people with true addictions. A soft addiction is not really an addiction at all. It’s more like a bad habit, but like a true addiction, these bad habits can keep you from living a satisfying, happy and meaningful life. Consider the times during the day in which you zone out and try to de-stress. Maybe it’s when you lose an hour on Facebook or you sit down to watch a half-hour TV show and don’t get up for two hours. These moments are made up of soft addictions and they are preventing you from living your best life.
Soft Addiction vs. Real Addiction
A soft addiction can best be compared to a behavioral addiction. A true behavioral addiction occurs when you compulsively engage in some kind of activity. Let’s use shopping as an example. If you have a real addiction to shopping, you spend most of your time thinking about it. You spend hours each day shopping online. Your finances are in the tank because you get out of control when you shop. You try to ease off, but you can’t
If your shopping habit is more of a soft addiction, on the other hand, you aren’t out of control. It’s probably something you do to relax or escape from the day’s stresses. You might spend a half hour online browsing a couple days a week, or you spend Saturday afternoons at the mall buying a couple of new outfits. You spend more than you should, but you aren’t going into debt and you don’t feel out of control.
Recognizing Your Soft Addictions
Soft addictions are insidious and hard to recognize. Think of the times during the day when you engage in an activity mindlessly. It could be spending time online, watching TV, reading celebrity magazines or even gossiping with coworkers. These habits aren’t always bad. Some amount of mindless activity is helpful for coping with stress. But when you lose too much time to them, you need to make a change. Pick out what you think might be your soft addictions and then record how much time you spend on them, how they make you feel, and what you could have been doing instead that would have been more rewarding.
Changing Your Behaviors
When you start to recognize your soft addictions, you will begin to realize you are wasting time on meaningless things. You’re on Facebook when you should be productive at work. You’re watching mindless reality TV when you should be connecting with your partner. Changing these habits won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding. Start by setting time limits. When you sit down to watch those reruns you’ve seen a million times already, give yourself half an hour to relax and then turn the TV off.
At the end of your time limit, find something better to do, and make sure it isn’t another mindless bad habit. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Have dinner with your partner and have a meaningful conversation. Get started on that home project you’ve been putting off. Do something creative, like painting or writing. Read a piece of classic literature. The key is to do something meaningful.
When you start noticing your soft addictions and begin replacing them with more meaningful activities, you will realize just how rewarding it is to make these changes. Soft addictions try to fill holes in our lives, but they fail, and they can turn into true addictions. Be aware and start making changes now for a better life.
Read More About Behavioral Addictions
A new study has investigated the widespread use of cell phones and smartphones in the U.S., leading many experts to suggest taking some time out of each day to disconnect in order to protect against the potentially addictive effects of technology use. The findings may be a little basic—focusing about as much on connection problems and telemarketing as potential markers of addiction—but they still serves as a wakeup call to the impact cell phones may be having on both American youth and adults.
So does the risk of Internet and technology addiction mean you might need to disconnect? The evidence seems to say so, but precisely defining these addictions is harder than it might seem.
Cell Phone Use And Time Staring At Screens
The most basic finding from the research is that 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone, and 58 percent have a smartphone. In addition to many more mundane findings, the results strongly hint at a problem with excessive smartphone use.
In particular, the survey revealed that 44 percent of cell phone owners have slept with their phones next to their beds so that they wouldn’t miss calls, texts or other updates through the night. Over two-thirds of cell phone owners check for messages or updates even if their phones don’t ring, sound a tone or vibrate, and about three in 10 say they couldn’t imagine living without their phones.
Americans spend an average of seven hours and 24 minutes staring at screens each day, and for 8- to 10-year-old children, the average is eight hours. Teens spend the most time looking at screens on average, reaching a huge 11 hours per day.
An Overstimulated State
The increasing use of cell phones has many direct impacts, relating to both being connected and spending so much time looking at screens. Constant checking of your cell phone can make it harder to fall asleep, keeping your brain in an anxious, overstimulated state. This same effect occurs when messages you send aren’t responded to quickly—you find yourself checking your phone and possibly worrying that your message didn’t come across as intended. Research suggests that staring at screens makes people less creative and less productive.
There are also more obvious consequences of excessive cell phone use, in particular spending less time socializing with people in real life or engaging in hobbies. Even when people do socialize, it’s becoming increasingly common for a group of people to sit staring at their screens while ignoring the people around them.
Technology And Internet Use As Addictions
Internet addiction has yet to be officially acknowledged as a condition by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), but most experts—who are seeing increasing numbers of people seeking help for technology and Internet addictions—accept its existence. It might seem counterintuitive that an addiction can persist without a substance, but addiction really comes down to the effect something has on the brain, and other behavioral addictions such as gambling addiction have gained widespread acceptance because of these addiction-like effects on the brain.
Looking at the definition of addiction in a broad sense also reveals the striking similarities with excessive Internet and technology use. Addictions of any kind are characterized by an inability to control how often you engage in an activity, feeling urges or cravings to engage in the activity and continuing with it despite negative consequences.
Internet and technology addicts run into problems with work and school when they’re unable to stop surfing the Internet or using their devices. They may also jeopardize relationships and suffer withdrawal-like symptoms when they’re disconnected.
The similarities are hard to deny, but there are still some problems with classifying technology or Internet use as an addiction. First, the Internet (and technology used to access it) often serves as a method to access other addictive media, like pornography, online casinos or video games, so it’s hard to pin down whether somebody is addicted to the Internet or something else that’s accessed online. Additionally, it’s difficult to define just how much use is too much.
These problems are more technical than anything, however. Real-world examples of people ruining their lives over excessive Internet or technology use and being unable to stop speak volumes about the problem. Clearly, something unusual is going on.
Disconnecting To Protect Against The Risk
Internet and technology addiction are almost certainly real conditions, and we need to take the risks seriously because the vast majority of Americans now use Internet-equipped devices. Although full-blown technology or Internet addiction won’t affect most of us (like most addictions won’t), taking steps to guard against overuse is a prudent move. Many experts recommend simply disconnecting for an hour each day, preferably before bed, but doing so any time throughout the day is beneficial. There are apps designed to help you limit the time you spend on your smartphone.
There are many similar approaches available that are suitable for less severe cases, and many more professional counseling or rehab programs if you’re struggling with a more serious addiction. As we continue to spend more and more time online, thinking about the extent of our use and its consequences is becoming increasingly important.
Read Our Other Intriguing Posts On Internet Addiction
04 May 2015
New App Aims To Tackle Smartphone Addiction
The debate surrounding smartphone addiction is in many ways a sign of our times, but it also raises crucial questions about how we define addiction.
Are we addicted simply because we use our Internet-equipped cell phones a lot? Anybody familiar with addiction knows that it isn’t as simple as this, so the argument that our growing use of the devices represents a widespread addiction—while not necessarily wrong—oversimplifies the situation.
However, when you consider other behavioral addictions such as gambling—including the impact they have on the brain—it’s clear that smartphone addiction is a real condition. So how do we reduce our smartphone addiction? In this age where there seems to be an app for everything, it was only a matter of time before we encountered something like Instant, a new app that aims to tackle smartphone addiction.
Smartphone Addiction 101
The definition of addiction is the key issue when discussing smartphone addiction, and despite the historical viewpoint that only substances could lead to addiction, behavioral addictions to things like gambling or sex have forced us to reexamine that way of looking at things.
The reason relies on the neurochemistry of addiction: drugs are addictive because of the effect they have on natural brain chemicals such as dopamine. Other activities (like gambling or playing video games, for example) have a similar effect on these chemicals.
For smartphone addiction, it can also help to look at the situation in a more straightforward way. Addiction is characterized by tolerance (needing to do or take more of something to get the same effect), withdrawal (negative side effects when the substance or activity is stopped) and being unable to control the behavior despite negative consequences.
Signs Of Smartphone Addiction
Based on this, it’s clear that someone who has the following signs is potentially addicted to their phone:
- spends increasing amounts of time on his or her smartphone
- feels anxious or panicked when he or she is separated from it
- gets in trouble at work or school (or whose relationships suffer) due to smartphone use
Although only a small proportion of people are prone to full-blown addiction, as with alcohol, somebody who uses it too much could be considered a “problem” smartphone user.
Tracking Smartphone Usage In A Simple Format
Instant (available on Google Play for free and Blackberry World for 99 cents) is made by Indian startup Emberify and has fairly basic functionality. It records the number of times you unlock your phone and then keeps track of the amount of time the screen is left active. The accumulated data for each day is then displayed on a simple bar graph, making it easy to get the information you need at a glance. Other attempts at accomplishing the same thing, such as an app called Frequency, have focused on the time spent on specific apps, so Instant’s focus on overall smartphone-usage time makes it easier to digest what is effectively the same information.
According to company founder Shashwat Pradhan, “Instant works on the same principle of fitness trackers, with graphs and limit reminders.” The “limit reminders” basically allow you to set a limit on your daily usage and give you reminders of how much time you have remaining at user-designated intervals throughout the day. Pradhan has reduced his daily smartphone use from 120 to 50 minutes, which he attributes to an increased awareness of his usage habits.
New App, Instant Helps Problem Users, But What About True Addicts?
Instant is a promising development for more everyday users who’ve developed some problematic smartphone usage habits, but its stated goal of reducing smartphone addiction seems suspect. For a problem user, the regular reminders and daily limits indeed have the potential to promote awareness and thereby make it easier to say when enough is enough. This isn’t a trivial benefit—most people who use their smartphones too much will fall into this category, so it has the potential to avert growing issues for many of us.
The people Instant is highly unlikely to help are the addicts. To understand why, think about what the equivalent would be for substance users. It’s like saying to an alcoholic: you can drink five beers today, but no more, and I’ll give you reminders every few hours of how many drinks you’ve consumed. Would that defeat alcoholism? No! One of the hallmarks of addiction is attempting to limit yourself but being unable to do so. An alcoholic may have all the best intentions of drinking only five beers from a six pack, but the whole issue is that when that final beer is staring him or her in the face, best intentions are discarded and the remaining drink is cracked open.
Realistically, Instant is even more limited than the above example. For one, the limit is self-imposed, so individuals may not be strict enough in their goals. More importantly, the app is just that: a piece of software that you’re highly unlikely to feel like you have to answer to. You’ve gone over the limit? So what—nobody needs to know about it, and there is no punishment. Finally, as with all addictions, psychological support is a necessity to understand what drives the behavior and to teach the individual better ways to cope without it. Addicts struggle to get clean alone because addiction is a complex psychological issue that most people need professional support to effectively overcome.
Smartphone App Potentially Helpful, But Not For Everyone
There are many people whom Instant has the power to help, but sadly those who need it most will have inadequate support. Perhaps in the future, there will be a similar app incorporating psychological support with interactive lessons and coping tips that may actually help addicts. For now, Instant is a fantastic option for problematic smartphone users, but true addicts are still better off with traditional treatment approaches.
Find Out How Your Smartphone Obsession Is Bad For Your Health
You may be addicted to your smartphone, and if you are, your health is suffering. No, your phone is not a drug, but if you get anxious and panicky when you misplace it for two minutes or you check for new texts or Facebook updates every five seconds, you’re acting like an addict.
Sure, smartphones have made our lives easier and more convenient. They have even eliminated boredom from our daily existence, but at what cost?
Read on and you may decide to scale back your attachment to your favorite device.
Your Pocket Is Vibrating, Or Is It?
Phantom vibrations — when you think your phone just notified you of a message so you look at it and find nothing — are common among obsessed smartphone users. This phenomenon seems funny, but it’s a psychological disruption.
The next time you experience a phantom vibration, check your emotions. Did it make you feel anxious? Were you excited when you thought you had a new message or update, and were you disappointed to find you didn’t?
Did you then check your phone compulsively, sure that a notification was about to present itself? Anything that makes you feel this way is not healthy.
Your Smartphone Is Disrupting Your Sleep
Do you keep your phone on your bedside table? Do you scroll through it just before closing your eyes to sleep at night? Do you pick it up as soon as you wake up in the morning? While for safety and emergency purposes it seems justifiable to keep your phone next to your bed, your habits in using it are probably causing you to lose sleep. Studies have found that the type of light produced by your smartphone disrupts the production of hormones you need for good sleep. This means that it’s more difficult to fall asleep after screen time.
Another way your nighttime phone habit is interfering with your sleep is more psychological. You aren’t fully disconnecting from work and other preoccupations before you try to sleep at night. If you can’t detach, you will have trouble falling asleep, and your sleep may be disrupted because you are still thinking about work and other responsibilities. Stay away from the screen and turn off notifications two hours before bedtime to drastically improve your sleep and your energy levels during the day.
Your Smartphone Is Damaging Your Eyes
This is a scary one because it could have a lasting impact on so many people. The time you spend watching your phone’s screen is increasing your risk of eye damage. The bluish light from your smartphone that disrupts your sleep is also bad for your eyes. Exposure to it puts you at risk for macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of blindness. It is extended and frequent exposure to this light that causes damage, so if you cut back your time with the phone, you can cut out the risk.
Do You Have Nomophobia?
This modern problem is the fear of losing your phone: no-mobile-phone-phobia. According to a survey conducted by a British tech company, nomophobia is on the rise. Out of 1,000 people surveyed, two-thirds were seriously afraid of losing their phones. Nearly half keep two phones because of this fear, and young people are the most nomophobic. If you feel anxious and break into a cold sweat just thinking about misplacing your phone, you probably have nomophobia.
Tips For Those Struggling With Smartphone Obsession
Smartphone addiction is a serious problem for more and more people. To make sure that you aren’t suffering because of your phone use, cut back on your screen time. Stop using your phone before bed and refrain from touching it in the morning, at least until you are up and making coffee. Take breaks from it throughout the day and even consider taking one whole day each week away from your phone. It will be hard at first, but you won’t regret cutting back.
Learn More About Other Behavioral Addictions
30 Mar 2015
Do You Have An Addictive Personality?
You may have heard the term addictive personality when used to describe anything from heroin addiction to an obsession with powdered donuts. It may be overused, but there is truth in the phrase. We know that people with a family history of addiction are more likely than others to develop an addiction of their own. We also know that although there is no single gene causing addiction, there are several genetic factors that contribute to the disease.
Signs You Have An Addictive Personality
Do you have risk factors for addiction? Do you have an addictive personality? Here are some signs that you might.
You’re A Thrill Seeker
Adrenaline junkies, those who look for excitement and new experiences to get a kick, are more likely to become addicted to substances. In many ways this kind of behavior is healthy. Maybe you are a world traveler because learning about different cultures is exciting for you, or you channel your need for a thrill into activities like sky diving or competitive sports. Thrill-seeking can be a great way to try and experience new things, but sometimes this means trying drugs.
The good news is that adrenaline junkies are more likely than others to experiment with drugs, but without other risk factors they tend to remain only recreational users. They don’t become addicted in most cases, unless they also exhibit one or both of the personality traits below.
You Are Impulsive
Impulsivity means acting without thinking about the consequences. Some people would describe this trait as poor self-control. Maybe you are trying to lose a few pounds, but you get dessert at a restaurant anyway. Or you have that extra drink at a party even though you know you have to get up early the next morning. You might say something without thinking and end up putting your foot in your mouth. These are all signs of being impulsive.
Impulsivity combined with the need to seek out thrills and exciting experiences correlates strongly with drug or alcohol addiction. If you are an adrenaline junkie but have good self-control and are not impulsive, you might try drugs but not become addicted. Similarly if you tend to be impulsive, but you like to stay safe and not look for exciting thrills, you are unlikely to try drugs in the first place. If you seek out thrills and also tend to act without thinking, you are at a high risk for trying drugs and getting hooked as a result.
You Are Compulsive
Being compulsive means engaging in a behavior repeatedly in spite of negative consequences. This is a classic hallmark of addiction, but it can apply in many other situations. For example, you are compulsive if you bite your nails and cuticles until they bleed and get infected. You know it’s bad for you, but you keep doing it. Another way to think of compulsivity is having bad habits. Addicts use over and over again in spite of all the harm it causes.
How To Battle An Addictive Personality
Impulsivity, thrill-seeking and compulsivity have been found to be three common traits among addicts. If you recognize all of them in yourself, you may describe your personality as addictive, but it doesn’t mean you have to become an addict.
Fight your addictive instincts by being aware of your feelings, behaviors and choices. Check your impulsive decisions and analyze your bad habits. Figure out what your motivations are and work to change bad habits that you already have. Learn to cope with your negative emotions in healthier ways. If you are conscious about what you do and why, you don’t have to let your personality traits dictate the outcome of your life.
02 Mar 2015
How To Use Distraction To Avoid Relapse
Relapse is an inevitable part of addiction recovery for many people, but the goal is to avoid it. If you, or your loved one in recovery, can avoid using again you can avoid resetting the clock on sobriety. Not using again when you feel intense cravings or when a trigger makes you reach for a glass or a pill is difficult. It’s beyond difficult. It sometimes feels impossible.
Willpower is required, but as an addict you need what seems like an inexhaustible well of it. You need far more than most people need in everyday life. Learn from the experts on willpower.
The good news is that you can exercise it like a muscle, and part of that involves distracting yourself.
Learning About Self-Control From The Marshmallow Test
A famous study involving willpower and self-control has shown us just how important the ability to delay gratification is. The study used children to test willpower and then tracked them later in life. The kids were given a marshmallow and told they could eat it right away or wait 15 minutes and get a second marshmallow. Each child was then left alone with the marshmallow for the 15 minutes. Those that could resist the urge to eat the marshmallow and wait to get two were much more likely to be successful later in life. They did better in school and even earned more money later.
What addicts in recovery can learn from the marshmallow test is how to have self-control in the face of the intense urge to use again. Researchers observed kids using a variety of techniques to avoid giving in to instant gratification. What came up again and again, and what other researchers have found helps to strengthen willpower, is distraction. In the face of a craving, distract yourself.
Tips On How To Distract Away A Relapse
Of course, there is a huge difference between a child drawn to a marshmallow and a recovering addict facing a bottle of vodka, but you can still use the same technique of distraction. Distraction is used in a variety of settings to improve willpower, most notably among people trying to lose weight. Their techniques and rules can help you avoid relapsing. Remember that practice and repetition are important. The more you make these distractions into habits, the easier it will be to resist your cravings.
- Choose healthy distractions – For a distraction to be successful it has to be pleasurable, but you also don’t want to develop a bad habit. Don’t use junk food or cigarettes. Whatever it is you enjoy, use it when you feel a craving. It could be a walk in the park, a musical instrument, a cup of coffee, a good book or a movie with a friend. Whatever works for you should be your distraction.
- Use your imagination – If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get to your distraction, imagine it. Research has found that imagining a pleasurable distraction can be almost as good as having the distraction in hand. Get creative and think of anything pleasurable besides your urge to use.
- Solve a problem – Researchers have also found that engagement is as important as pleasure if a distraction is to be successful. If you have a problem to solve at work, or even just a crossword puzzle, use it as an engaging distraction.
- Plan your distractions – Don’t wait for a craving to hit, when you will be desperate for a distraction. Plan right now. What will your distractions be when you most need them? Have a variety ready to go.
As you make a habit of distracting yourself from cravings, it will become easier and easier to avoid giving in to urges. Choose healthy distractions, use them often and make a habit of not relapsing!
If you have a teenager in the house you have a lot of things to worry about. You want her to be successful in school, to have a lot of friends and to be happy. Whether you realize it or not, you also need to worry about substance abuse. You might think that your child is too well adjusted to ever try smoking, drinking, or using drugs, but you might be wrong. No teen is immune from peer pressure. Among the many worries we have as parents today, there’s a new one: e-cigarettes.
What Are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that deliver nicotine in water vapor instead of in cigarette smoke. Inside each device is a battery that warms up a vial of nicotine dissolved in water. The user inhales nicotine and exhales water vapor. Supporters of e-cigarettes say that the devices can be used to help smokers quit. It gives a smoker a safer alternative to use in order to be weaned from nicotine. Smoking an e-cigarette is called vaping.
Are E- Cigarettes Harmful?
One of the main problems with e-cigarettes is that they are new and not fully tested. While proponents say that they are safe and that even the second-hand vapor is safe, we really don’t know for sure. What we definitely know is that an e-cigarette delivers hits of nicotine, a mind-altering, highly addictive substance. They may be free of all the toxins in cigarette smoke, but if your teen vapes she will become addicted to nicotine. We also know that nicotine can cause cognitive defects in young brains that are long lasting.
Another concern is the possibility of e-cigarettes acting as gateway drugs. Research has shown that people who abuse drugs or are addicted follow a pattern. They start with cigarettes or alcohol, and then move onto illegal and harder substances. Teens using e-cigarettes because vaping seems cool and largely safe put themselves at risk for future substance abuse.
Are Teens Using E- Cigarettes?
It may seem unlikely that teens would be interested in a device designed to help smokers quit, but the statistics say otherwise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of a million young people used e-cigarettes in 2013. This number represents only the teens who had never smoked a real cigarette before. This means that e-cigarettes are responsible for getting a huge number of teens hooked on nicotine who may never have tried smoking otherwise.
How Can I Protect My Teen From E- Cigarettes?
The best way that you can protect your teens from the potential dangers of e-cigarettes is to talk to them. You can’t always be watching and guiding them, but they do value your opinions. You have the potential to influence their choices, even when you aren’t by their side. Let them know that you don’t want them to vape or use real cigarettes.
By talking to your teens about e-cigarettes you also give them the power of information. Many teens start using these devices with the false assumption that they are perfectly safe. They may be safer than cigarettes, but they are not safe and there are many risks involved. Educate your teens and help them to be aware of the risks and you will empower them to make better decisions. E-cigarettes are likely here to stay, and they are useful tools for smokers, but they pose risks to our young people. By spreading awareness we can all do our part to protect them.
E-Cigarettes Being Secretly Used To Hide Drug Use – See How They’re Getting Away With This!
09 Feb 2015
Are You Enabling Your Partner’s Addiction?
If your partner is using drugs or alcohol, there is a chance that you are enabling his habit. It may sound ridiculous at first. Why on earth would you want him to use? Why would you encourage him? The truth is that enabling is subtle, and you may be doing it in ways that even you don’t realize. Take the time to consider your role in the relationship and decide if you are an enabler or if you could be doing more to help him stop using.
What Is An Enabler?
An enabler is rarely overt. You’re probably not feeding your partner drugs or alcohol. You’re not likely to actively encourage him to go out and drink or to spend more money on drugs.
In most cases an enabler is someone who is more subtle. This is someone who takes away the consequences of drug or alcohol use so that the user doesn’t experience the full costs of his choices and behaviors. Enablers often believe that they are helping their loved ones, when in fact they are causing more harm. It is those consequences that should be an addict’s biggest motivation to stop using.
Signs Of Enabling
How can you tell if you are enabling your partner’s habit? Think about your actions and how you respond to his drug use or drinking. Consider whether the choices you make minimize the consequences he should be experiencing. Here are some concrete examples of what you might be doing if you are an enabler:
- You give your partner money when he’s desperate. Money is the fuel for his addiction. If he runs out and you give him more, he will never experience the total loss of money caused by his habit.
- You make excuses for him. When he misses appointments, days of work or school, or when he behaves inappropriately, there should be consequences. If you make excuses for him, he won’t feel the repercussions.
- You drive him wherever he needs to go. Whether he lies about it or not, chances are you are driving him to places where he uses or buys drugs.
- You help him when he gets into legal trouble. Legal problems are often a consequence of drug use or excessive drinking. If you help get him out of it, you’re enabling his habit.
- You keep quiet and don’t confront him about what worries you. Not talking to him about how often he passes out, how badly he behaves when high or drunk or how he is draining your bank account isn’t helping.
How To Stop Enabling And Start Helping
If you recognize yourself in the signs of enabling, you need to stop supporting your partner’s habit and start helping him get over it. Know that it isn’t easy to change your own behaviors, but it is crucial. Stop actively doing things that help him use, such as giving him money, transporting him, or making excuses when he messes up. He will be hurt, upset and even angry with you, but you have to remain strong in the face of his pushback.
Once you have made it clear that you will no longer be actively helping him use, sit your partner down for a frank talk and provide options for him to get help. If you are struggling with this or if you are afraid you’ll back down, enlist the help of other people who care about you and your partner. There is strength in numbers. It will be difficult, but if you are persistent your loved one will eventually feel the consequences of his habit and will have no choice but to make a change.
If You Need Help With Your Partner’s Addiction Or With Setting Up An Intervention – Call Us Now!