Whats The Difference Between Addiction & Obsession?

Whats The Difference Between Addiction & Obsession?

From an outside perspective, addiction and obsession seem similar. In fact, the words are sometimes used interchangeably. But despite looking the same, obsession and addiction have distinct differences. Just because someone is obsessed with something doesn’t necessarily mean they’re addicted to it, and vice versa. Someone may even believe that their behavior is purely obsessive, when it’s actually addictive. To receive the appropriate treatment, it is important for patients to be able to distinguish between these two complications.

What It’s Like to Be Obsessed

An obsession is the urge to do something, which usually leads to certain behaviors. A person who has an obsession will typically complete rituals to control compulsive thoughts. After time, these ritualistic routines become part of their everyday life. Some examples of obsessive behaviors include combing your hair the same way every day, checking the locks on all of the doors every night, continuously checking the curling iron, replaying conversations or sentences in your head, and even washing your hands immediately after a person touches you.

While obsessive behaviors vary from person to person, they are all rooted in fear. People with obsessions feel like if they don’t follow their routine, they will face some sort of consequence. These could range from realistic consequences like headaches to impractical outcomes like a house fire or even death. Whether a fear is real or imagined, it could lead to obsessive behavior.

The Definition of Addiction

Addiction is the process of someone becoming dependent on a substance or behavior. A person with an addiction will never feel truly satisfied unless they are giving into their vice. Examples of popular addictive behaviors include:

  • Drinking alcohol to relax
  • Taking prescription drugs to numb pain
  • Shopping to feel better about your appearance
  • Gambling to earn quick and easy money
  • Exercising for a rush of adrenaline
  • Playing video games to feel successful
  • Eating sugar to get energy
  • Watching porn to feel desirable

All addictions, whether they involve substances or not, are rooted in the desire to escape from somewhere undesirable to somewhere pleasurable. People with addictions carry around a daydream about living a life with less stress, less pain, and more energy. They then use substances or engage in risky behaviors to chase that goal. Seeking to achieve this fantasy life may result in addictive behaviors and, in some cases, physical dependence.

How To Tell Obsession From Addiction

Even though obsession and addiction are similar, there are a few ways to tell them apart. The biggest distinction between the two is that people with obsessions engage in habits to find relief, not to seek pleasure. People with addictions continuously seek a pleasurable sensation. Obsession is rooted in fear, while addiction focuses on desire. Additionally, people with obsessions are usually aware of their behaviors and will acknowledge their rituals. Those who have addictions, on the other hand, may hide their disorder or deny that they have a problem.
When someone has an obsession, they feel compelled to complete a routine or do things in a certain way. When they are addicted to something, they will chase out a fantasy life. If someone struggles with both obsession and addiction, both their desire to escape and need to avoid fear will intensify.

Treating Addiction & Obsessive Behaviors

Since addiction and obsession co-mingle easily, it may be difficult to recover from both. However, it is possible and will be extremely worth it. The key to treating both issues is to separate the behaviors and trace them back to the root of the problem. Once you understand the root, you can take steps to acknowledge where the issue came from and work on it.
To learn about the diagnosis or treatment methods for obsession and addiction, contact our team of substance abuse specialists by giving us a call at 267.209.7313.


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