Habit & Addiction: All You Need to Know

Dr. Semra Salik, CEO PsychCare is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Hypnotherapist working in the field of mental health. With her expertise, we learn about habit and addiction.


What is the difference between habit and addiction?

The comparison between addiction and habit is an ongoing debate. According to my perspective, habit is a behavior pattern created by continuous repetition of an act again and again to the point that our mind does it naturally. Addiction is an impulsive need of a specific thing, habit or a substance in the body, which when denied, can cause a dreadful impact.

A habit can be controlled or altered while addiction can’t, and requires support for modification. Moreover, habits can be positive or negative, and normally don’t influence mental capacity or memory. Addictions are generally negative and can influence mental capacity, memory, and drive control.

Can habits be as bad as an addiction?

Though not as dangerous, habits can also be bad for us in many ways. Most habits performed excessively can affect us negatively. For example, nail biting, smoking or trying to achieve perfection in any task. Striving for perfection is a good thing but trying to do every basic task in life with this attitude can be troublesome. Any habit that is damaging for us emotionally, psychologically and physically is bad. One can say that obsessive, negative habits later transform into addictions. Addictions are basically habits that are too hard for us to give up on. They will always affect our mind and body negatively.


How do we know if something we do is habitual or part of a larger problem – addiction?

Time span of performing a specific behavior and how it impacts our life are important to consider while differentiating between habit and addiction.


Here are a few inquiries to ask yourself while assessing whether your smoking or liquor use is a habit or an addiction. Is your conduct negatively affecting your life? Have you tried to hide your behavior? Have you attempted to lie about your excessive smoking and liquor use?

In the events that you answered yes to a majority of these inquiries, you can presumably have an addiction. Nonetheless, in the event that you feel that it is simply a habit at this moment, it is still critical to find support.

A habit can rapidly transform into an addiction, particularly when you are utilizing smoking and liquor to accomplish an ideal mental state. Waiting to hit rock bottom is a myth. Dependence is most treatable when you get it at an early stage.

How do habits and addictions form?

Every habit is formed with a three part psychological pattern called “habit loop.” First is the trigger (cue), second is routine (behavior) and third is the reward. For example, stress could be played as a cue that one responds to by nail biting or smoking, which produces reduction in stress (reward). Such rewards may be temporary. All behaviors are created in a similar manner.


Some good habits can also become problems. Should people change them or live with them?

As the famous saying goes, “Excess of anything is bad.” This also applies to our good habits. Washing hands after using toilets or before and after eating meals is a good sanitary habit but if it starts taking up too much of our time, it is no longer a good habit anymore. We may end up constantly being late for other tasks.


As long as it is not negatively affecting our emotional, psychological and physical well-being, it is a good habit but as soon as it starts to affect or we see ourself obsessing over a habit, it is time to address the problem.


What is the common age group where we see habits transforming into addictive behaviors?

Teenage is the most common age group when habits start taking root. Whether positive or negative, these habits can transform into addiction if not monitored carefully. The most common example of transformation of habits into addiction is that of smoking, which changes overtime into an addiction of drugs like marijuana or cocaine.


How do we get rid of bad habits and addiction?

Breaking bad habits or giving up on an addiction can’t happen overnight. It takes time and is a constant struggle. People who relapse or only give up on their bad habits temporarily often have unrealistic goals in their minds.


For instance, a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes every day finally decides to quit smoking within a week. The next day, he doesn’t smoke a single cigarette the whole day. This way, he would barely be able to hold back on smoking for a few days before he reverts to his old habit. Why? Because his goal was too unrealistic. His body can’t adjust to an abrupt halt in smoking after being accustomed to it for years.


In an effort to quit bad habits or get rid of an addiction, it is important to set realistic goals, take smaller steps, remain consistent, praise your efforts with rewards, love yourself, and stay away from temptations. By following these steps, one can achieve their desired goals.


“Waiting for My Most Challenging Role” In conversation with Vasia Fatima