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Published on April 1, 2021

How To Identify Addictive Behaviors And Get Rid of Them

How To Identify Addictive Behaviors And Get Rid of Them

There are times when you need activities that bring your relaxation and allow for release. Exercise, writing, playing, creating, and reading are all examples of healthy behaviors that provide an escape—but only to a point.[1] Some pursuits can quickly turn costly if the behavior causes harm or is used as a coping or escape mechanism or if it becomes an unhealthy obsession. If you find yourself engaged in costly addictive behaviors, then it’s time to create a positive change.

Here are some tips on how to identify addictive behaviors and get rid of them.

1. Heed the Warnings

Right off the bat, I’m going to urge you to gauge whether this behavior has become harmful to you or someone else. While this article is not designed to address or diagnose unhealthy addictive behaviors, it is a wake-up call.

If you or someone you know is compulsively engaging in a detrimental behavior, heed the warnings. Your first step should be to contact your local mental health provider or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline1-800-662-HELP (4357). Addictive behaviors that call for integrated treatment require more than self-help mechanisms and should always be handled by a professional.

2. Identify the Addiction

If the addictive behavior is something you can self-manage, then the first step is to put a label on it. Overeating, overworking, or spending too much time engaged in a hobby to the detriment of obligations are just a few examples.

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I want to stress once more that even though these may often require professional support, some activities can help you thoughtfully manage them. Start by defining what that addictive behavior is. If you are over-stressed but find that eating gives you a pleasurable escape, then overeating may have evolved into that addictive behavior. If you are constantly on your phone or find yourself searching social media platforms all day long—and it’s not your job to do so—that could be a sign of another addictive behavior.

3. Understand the Addiction

The next step in getting rid of an addictive behavior is understanding whether or not it is classified as an addiction or simply a bad habit. If the behavior has a pull so strong that you cannot separate yourself from it for very long, odds are it’s an addiction and will require professional support.

If you can, say, turn your phone off for several days without feeling anxious, depressed, or acting out or uncomfortable, then it may be something that you can control. If it is simply a bad habit, then practice separating yourself from the behavior for stretches of time until you no longer turn to it as an instant stress-releaser.

4. Know the Risks

Poor health, lost finances, and broken relationships are just a few of the costs associated with addictive behaviors. One of the most compelling reasons for change often lies in understanding the risks involved. Gambling is an addictive behavior with enormous costs, but some cannot see the risk behind the potential reward.

If you are challenged in identifying why change is necessary, talk to someone and let them help you see how costly the behavior can be if left unchecked.

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5. Understand Your “Why?”

Working too many hours, while seemingly a noble activity, can be a sign that you’re avoiding other activities in your life. It could mean that you are unprepared and disorganized or lack confidence in your abilities. Filling your void in your life with work, substances, and activities is either a sign that something is missing or a mask to avoid facing the truth. Working with a trained professional can help you uncover your “why” and healthily process the systemic issue that could be causing the addictive behavior in the first place.

6. Avoid Toxic People

People are often surprised to discover that relationships can also be addictive behaviors. Deep connections with friends or loved ones that partake in unhealthy addictive behaviors can be a slippery slope to adopting one for yourself. This kind of affiliative or peer pressure style addiction can prey on a weakness or need to feel a sense of belonging. Even the relationship itself can be unhealthy. Allowing a relationship with a negative or addicted person to continue is fostering a pattern that may eventually result in emotional pain.

7. Clarify Your Triggers

Triggers can be internal or external, and they can occur at any time and in any place to reinforce the addiction. Triggers cause stress which provokes addictive behavior that serves as a coping mechanism for calming the nervous system.

For example, if one is sensitive about their weight, unhealthy internal and external dialogue can lead to overeating or avoiding food altogether. Work-related stress such as having an overbearing supervisor could be the trigger that causes someone to either work themselves sick or shut down and fail to perform. There isn’t always a drastic reaction when a trigger takes place, nor does the trigger need to be catastrophic.

A friend shared that he ate most of his meals while watching television. He lives alone, so it helps him relax and he feels less guilty watching shows while eating because he’s doing something, rather than laying listlessly on the couch. But television also became his trigger. Every time it was on, he wanted to eat. So, watching and eating became an addictive behavior that he eventually needed to address.

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8. Find a Substitute

Socially responsible addictions—like consuming caffeine and sugar—are still difficult behaviors to change. And they do have their downsides. While you may not see the immediate downsides, failing to take into account the long-term effects of overindulging can be detrimental. Occasionally substituting decaf, tea, or fruit instead of candy is a gentle way to get rid of the addictive behavior without going cold turkey.

9. Find Some Support

People need people. And when it comes to addictive behaviors, the best way to get rid of them is with the support of others. In addition to professional care, connecting with others that share the addiction can be comforting and supportive.

Communities exist in your neighborhood and online for all types of addictive behavior and there are plenty of people to support your positive change and hold you accountable to your goals. Remember, this also includes your friends and family. While they may not share the same addictive behaviors, they will be there for you when you need them.

10. Apply Healing Techniques

Some mild addictive behaviors can be thoughtfully managed without the support of a professional. But it begins with understanding your “why.” When you define the underlying reasons, you might find there are healing techniques at the ready to help you overcome.

Take social media addiction. For some, the compulsion to always be on Facebook or other platforms can be tempered with practice, accountability, substitutions, and support. But digging a little deeper, you may find that your “why” is centered around a need to be liked. Applying positive self-talk, biofeedback, positive reinforcement techniques, exercise, and meditation may help shore up your confidence and self-image.

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11. Build Your Willpower

It’s a known fact that when you can build your willpower through less daunting challenges than overcoming a more substantial one—like addictive behavior—it’s more likely that you’ll succeed. Navy SEALs in BUDS training go through grueling tests, challenges, and exercises to build up their stamina and willpower so that when faced with real-time adversaries, they are conditioned to respond at a high-level.

While you don’t have to become a SEAL to overcome addictive behaviors, you may find that smaller willpower-building exercises will help you manage bigger challenges over time.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are struggling with addictive behaviors is to get the support that you need. That begins with identifying whether or not the behavior needs professional care. And of course, building on that professional care by employing personal management strategies, like those listed above.

Remember, if left unchecked, addictive behaviors can grow more engrained and may have bigger costs over time. Therefore, it’s important to identify them early and work on getting rid of them.

More Tips on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: Umur Batur Kocak via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Healthy habits for healthy families

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Kim Monaghan

Career Happiness Coach, HR Consultant, Trainer & Speaker

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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