The words that people use when describing maladaptive behavior can be confusing. This is because in normal speech certain words can be used interchangeably to refer to the same thing. So for example the individual who sometimes overindulges in food might say:
* They have a passion for food
* They are obsessed with food
* They are a food addict
There are important differences between the words: passion, obsession, and addiction. When these differences are ignored it can lead to a good deal of confusion.
The philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once stated:
> Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.
The word passion comes from the Greek word paskho which means to suffer. It is now used to refer to an intense emotion that involves a desire or enthusiasm for something. To say that somebody is passionate about something is often meant in a positive sense. In fact lack of passion can be a common reason for why people will fail at a project. When people are passionate it means that they are motivated and willing to go the extra mile to achieve their goal. If people feel a lack of passion for any activity they will usually find it to be dull and tedious. If the individual has a passion for food it does not mean that they are doing anything wrong – they are engaging in something that is bringing them pleasure.
An obsession can be defined as:
> The domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
It more medical definition of obsession would be:
> A persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.
The word obsession can be used in common speech to refer to a passion but strictly speaking it has a negative connotation. The individual who is obsessed is behaving irrationally and in a way that is detrimental to their well being. Such thoughts are a common symptom of different types of mental illness and involve a compulsion to engage in certain behaviors. A good example of this would be obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) where the individual is obsessed with unwanted and repetitive thoughts. If an individual was obsessed with food they would compulsive eat without having any rational reason for doing so.
There is no exact definition of addiction that is agreed upon by everyone. The word tends to be overused in the media and people can talk about addiction when referring to relatively harmless overindulgences. For example, the person who eats a chocolate bar most days might refer to themselves as a chocolate addict or chocoholic.
One way of describing an addiction would be to say that it refers to the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences. This definition is quite broad so it could include things like porn addiction, internet addiction, and workaholism. A more narrow definition of addiction would be to say that it involves a compulsive use of mind altering substances for non-medical reasons. With this type of addiction the individual will have usually developed a physical as well as psychological dependence on the substance. This means that:
* The have an increased tolerance for the substance. As time goes on they will need to keep on taking more to get the same effect.
* If they stop using the drug they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
* They feel psychologically dependent on the drug and do not know how they would cope without it. When they do try to stop they will experience mental cravings.
One of the key differences between passion and addiction is the presence of guilt. When people feel passionate about something they have an inner conviction that they are doing exactly what they should be doing at that moment. The addict does not have such certainty. Even when they are in the depths of denial they will still feel guilty about their behavior. This is what drives them to attempt to hide their addiction. If they didn’t feel guilty they would not feel the need to become defensive when their behavior was challenged.
Another important difference is that passion is an emotion while addiction is psychological and physical condition – it is usually classified as a type of disease. Even when the addict has decided that they no longer want to go where addiction is taking them they may feel helpless to stop the downward spiral. This differs greatly from passion which is all about following the heart’s desire. A simple way of differentiating passion for addiction would be to say that the former brings pleasure while the latter does not.
The main difference between an obsession and an addiction is pleasure. This is because an obsession usually refers to compulsive behavior that the individual feels driven to do. Even though the individual may know that engaging in this behavior will not benefit them, or may even be causing them suffering, they feel compelled to do it anyway. With addiction the individual always believes that they are seeking pleasure. The individual is deluded into thinking that these substances give them joy long after the cons of taking them far outweigh and pros. One of the biggest delusions held by addicts is that the more enjoyable early days of substance abuse will one day return.
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