It’s hard when your family doesn’t “get” you. “Get down from there, David,” my mother would always yell to my brother. She was constantly chasing after him. He was, and still is, the crazy one in the family. David grew up to be an “adrenaline junkie” and developed hobbies like skydiving and swimming with sharks.
We all have our hobbies, but do we ever stop to think we might be developing addictions? What defines “addiction”? One definition of addiction is a “three-stage cycle: binge/ intoxication, withdrawal/negative affect, and preoccupation/ anticipation” (1). The criteria included in this definition suggest that various factors are involved in the pathological state of addiction. These factors include binging of a certain activity, avoidance of withdrawal symptoms, and preoccupation with the activity. Many people are quick to think of drugs or alcohol when they hear the word “addiction” but it is possible to be addicted to more than just these substances. For instance, about one in twenty people meet the criteria for food addiction (2). There has also been speculation that extreme sports, such as rock climbing, are addictive.
In an article by Heirene, Shearer, Roderique-Davies, and Mellalieu (3), researchers studied the symptoms rock climbers experienced when abstaining from climbing. They featured three core categories: anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), craving, and negative affect (physiological or mood change). They interviewed ten male rock climbers to gain insight into what these athletes were experiencing internally in regards to this activity, which led them to risk their lives for this sport.
After analyzing the data, researchers found support for all three categories. Some participants mentioned very strong urges when abstaining: “You end up climbing anything you can get your fingers on”. We don’t always reflect on our behaviors and why we spend our time in the ways that we do. Unfortunately, there lies the possibility that you might one day be kept from a certain activity for a period of time. Only then do you realize how fundamental it has become to your life, in comparison to how insignificant it once was. Now you struggle to be without it. This was what these athletes experienced. There are also the aforementioned categories that come into play and influence whether or not we decide to “quit”.
It’s scary to think that you could experience craving and mood change as a result of not being able to rock climb or perform another activity to which you have grown accustomed. However, it’s important to be aware that we can form these habits without realizing. Stop to think every once in a while about the underlying reasons for why you are doing something. Why are you eating a midnight snack? Are you hungry, or eating out of habit? Be mindful of your actions and decide whether you are helping or hurting yourself. Also, consider how your behavior is affecting those around you. An important characteristic of addiction is that you continue the act despite negative consequences, such as pushing away loved ones. None of us intend to become addicted to fun activities but we must be cognizant of the fact that a hobby can develop into something more problematic.