Too much of anything can be poisonous; when a certain activity stops becoming positive it can become more of a compulsion, and an addiction can develop. Since addiction is traditionally believed to be something that can only happen with substances, many people do not realize they have developed an impulse disorder until it is too late. Whether it is social media, going to the gym, or even renting movies, any pleasurable activity has the potential to develop into an addictive disorder if left unchecked. Whether an impulsive activity leads to addiction is dependent on several factors, including the following six things:
- Importance: Asking oneself how important the activity is to one’s growth as a person and sense of self is an important step in assessing whether something is still productive or becoming an unhealthy influence. Measuring not only the amount of time one is spending doing the activity, but how little time they devote to other activities is critical to developing an accurate image of an impulsive hobby
- Reward response: An easy way of assessing the reward value of something is by thinking about how much more or less in control it makes you feel. At least initially, hobbies release neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, inciting euphoria and a sense of wellbeing in the same manner as regular drugs. A diminishment of returns as well as symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety and depression when not participating in the activity are signs of addictive or impulsive behavior
- Cessation: Sudden cessation of one’s impulsive hobby may lead to anxiety and compulsive thoughts about partaking in it. The potency of the desire to continue the activity is very indicative of the level of dependency on it. This provides insight into whether or not a hobby is verging on an addiction
- Prevalence: Since our reward systems develop a tolerance to stimulation, all addictions display a diminishment of returns when it comes to their effects. If you find yourself spending more time doing an activity, or telling yourself “Just one more,” then you are probably developing a tolerance (and thus, a dependency) on it
- Disruption: Hobbies already take time away from more productive things such as family, education and work. Looking at the degree that the addictive activity is displacing other ones is a strong indicator of how much damage (or potential damage) can be caused if allowed to continue. Taking part in any activity that begins to dominate one’s time is unhealthy.
- Reverting: A mainstay of all addictive disorders, the first thing people will do when confronted with the choice of having to stop or slow down is to rationalize it away. This is especially difficult with addictive activities that benign, such as email checking and going to the movies
Addiction is a problem mainly associated with neurochemicals and the brain’s reward system, making anything that acts on it (which is anything) potentially addictive if it can have an adverse effect on one’s life. Knowing when you are displaying any signs of addictive behavior can mean the difference between having a healthy life or enduring a broken one. Don’t fret over being dedicated to a hobby, but just know to take a break every once in a while.