Most people have some kind of addiction. They find something they like that makes them feel good, and they may use it again and again as a kind of coping mechanism, says Tom Horvath, Ph.D.
We tend to think of addictions in their most severe forms: the drug abuser who craves the next fix, for example, or the compulsive gambler who empties the family bank account into the slot machines. But millions of Americans have milder addictions. They crave substances or experiences that make them feel good temporarily but that often have harmful long-term consequences.
If you suspect that you have an addiction—to cigarettes, gambling, food, the Internet, or anything else—ask yourself this question: Has the behavior caused enough problems for you to consider stopping or cutting back? If the answer is yes, it's time to make a few changes to break the addiction's grip.
Denial is one of the hallmarks of addiction. People with drug, alcohol, or other addictions often insist that their behavior is normal, even when the destruction is all around them.
Are friends, family members, or coworkers gently suggesting that you may have a problem? Listen to them. Look at your recent behavior. Ask yourself if they're seeing something that you don't.
"Try to solve the problems on your own," advises Tom Horvath, Ph.D. "Try cutting back or quitting entirely—and get the support of the people around you. If you've made one or several attempts that don't seem to be going far or fast enough, then it's time to get professional help."
Peter A. DeMaria Jr., M.D., is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Temple University School of Medicine and coordinator of psychiatric services at Tuttleman Counseling Services at Temple University.
Tom Horvath, Ph.D., is president of Practical Recovery Services, an addiction treatment center in La Jolla, California, and president of SMART Recovery, an abstinence-oriented support group for those with addictive behaviors.