Cravings, Needs and Soft Addictions - How Our Behaviors Affect Our Health - More Than Just Habits

Addiction in Harmless Habits

You can be addicted to almost anything. Addicted people become physically and psychologically dependent on their habit. Often we think addiction refers to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and other destructive behavior. Sometimes, we can be addicted to things that seem harmless.

It is those harmless habits, done in excess that can adversely affect our health. Hooked on coffee, the internet, video games, and more lifestyle habits, they are known as soft addictions.

These patterns affect our lifestyle by draining our energy and get in the way of leading a fulfilling life for ourselves.

Often we choose consciously or unconsciously to adapt these habits as away to escape from our uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes people reach for that cup of coffee. In time that coffe becomes a relief from the stress at work. Soft addictions can give us a short temporary emotional high or a numbing of our feelings.

Hard addictions usually involve alcohol and drugs. The health risks are far more serious with hard addictions. Soft addictions, although they can affect our health, our not as life threatening.

Soft Addictions and Our Everyday Activities

In a Harris Poll of about 1,000 participants, nearly 90% had some kind of soft addiction.

Common soft addictions:

  • watching tv
  • social networking
  • emailing
  • drinking coffee
  • shopping
  • mindless snacking

It is detrimental to to put these addictions above the people in your life. Soft addictions can impact relationships, interfere with our productivity, and compromise our well being

Soft Addictions and the Reward Centers in Our Brain

Soft addictions are often related to some kind of stress that may be going on. Soft addictions increase in poor economic times. People will keep candy like M&M’s nearby and eat them by the handfuls without even being aware they are doing this.

It is important to be aware of soft addictions to avoid, for example finishing the M&M’s without being aware. It is not the bowl of M&M’s. It is the idea that you can control your behavior so that you can get more out of your life. The very activities that seem innocuous, harmless in nature, can and do get in the way of our happiness. You can change things and make them better for yourself.

Soft addictions affect our brain. Our brain has reward centers that respond to things we like. They are called pleasure centers located in the middle part of our brain. For example, while shopping you find something you like and buy it. To make things even better, it is on sale. You get a temporary high which makes you feel momentarily better about other things that are bothering you. Our brain tags this feel good moment. Every time we reinforce this good feeling, we strenthen the connection between doing the pleasurable experience and what feels like a survival technique. Stress makes us turn to the soft addiction more.

Caffeine Gives a Temporary Relief to Stress

Soft addictions can block intimacy similar to hard addictions. Instead of dealing with the feelings and emoitons, we busy ourselves in the pleasurable activity, like social networking on the internet. In reality these habits can promote procrastination, over snacking can add needless pounds, shopping can ruin our finances. Staying awake because we are playing video games or watching tv, can cause us to lose sleep, increase our anxiety and make us more irritable. These can lead to interfering with our relationships, and lack of sleep can affect our health.

Reaching for that cup of coffee might be a temporary stress relief
Reaching for that cup of coffee might be a temporary stress relief

Caffeine can trigger a stress response by stimulating the adrenal glands that make stress hormones. These stress hormones, epinephrine ande norepinephrine, set off physiological responses in our bodies. From muscle tension, to increased respiration, rapid pulse, and elevated blood sugars. Temporarily you feel an acute mental sharpness because your brain is responding to the adrenaline. Should the stress hormones stay high, the body is thrown into a state of persistent stress. People who sip coffee all day long are imposing the adrenal glands to continually pump out these stress producing hormones.

The Real Issue is Balance

The majority of people can admit they have a soft addiction, and many will even laugh about it, but the question is, should we limit these activities so that they do not cause additional problems and issues.

Let’s say, you would like to quit your soft habit. What can you do? Start with thinking about what made you susceptible. What feelings may have been evoked that led you to feeling vulnerable?

  • become aware how you feel before, during, and after the activity
  • note the feelings, confront the emotions, identify your thought processes
  • what do you think you need, what relief are you seeking before you shopped, or went on Facebook, etc?
  • be in touch with your needs so that you can seek a healthier substitute
  • try to connect with a real person instead of relying on the soft habit
  • soft addicitons are energy draining, but human connections can create new connections that will lead to the pleasure center in your brain.

It really is okay to go on Facebook, and enjoy shopping, tv and video games. The issue is balance. If you are doing too much of one thing or always relying on that cup of coffee or M&M’s for temporary relief may lead to bigger problems.

A fulfilling life is in the choices we make
A fulfilling life is in the choices we make

Remember, it is balance and moderation. You don’t have to cut out what you are doing completely. Just make sure you are not doing in excess, that it is not assisting you to procrastinate, and not interfering with healthy relationships sleeping, and increasing your anxiety. If the soft addiction helps you to be more productive because it was a break, than it is good. If the soft addiction monopolizes your time as a way to delay or keeps you have from having a more fulfilling life, than it pays to make some changes in your patterns of behavior.

Do You Have a Soft Addiction?

How to know if you have a problem with a soft addiction:

Question: do you hide your shopping purchases from your spouse, or buy what you can’t afford or don’t need?

Solution: budget yourself on a weekly basis and cancel your credit cards if you need

Question: Doy your eat mindlessly? Do you eat when you feel anxious, stressed, overwhelmed?

Solution: Keep a log before you begin eating about what you think you are in the mood for. Write down how you are feeling, or call a friend. Try to delay eating for at least 15 minutes. Often the craving will go away. It may return in a short while, try to deal with your feelings and reach out to someone. If you must eat, try to eat healthy snacks.

Question: Do you need the television to fall asleep with?

Solution: Limit yourself to one hour of television per night. Try to read instead. One night a week, have a family game night

Question: Do you spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, HubPages, and other forums, and internet sites? Do you surf the web instead of getting other things done?

Solution: Limit the time you spend on the web, and use your time constructively. At the end of the day pat yourself on the back for getting something useful done.

Question: Do you need coffee to start your morning? Do you reach for coffee at work, when you are stressed?

Solution: If you are consuming too much caffeine in the course of the day, it is probably best to wean yourself off of the coffee. Too much caffeine can have many detrimental health effects. If you are addicted to caffeine, you may suffer some withdrawl symptoms such as headaches, mood changes, irriability, fatigue, drowsiness, slight depression and muscle stiffness or pain. Sometimes people can even feel nausea. The symptoms of withdrawl can happen anywhere from 6-18 hours after you have stopped drinking coffee.

Question: Do you always have your cell phone, ipad, blackberry, close at hand? Do you use it while at the dinner table and the big no no, while driving?

Solution: Turn off your electronic devices when you eating dinner, after 8 p.m. if possible, and in social situtions. Don't bring it on vacation, and check it only when it will not interfere with other things that take precedent at the moment.

Even Exercising Can Be a Form of Addiction

We all have soft addictions, even exercising can be considered an addiction. Compulsion and need characterize addictions. Even with soft addictions, there is an aspect of withdrawl, as there is with hard addictions, so if you are trying to change your habits, even with soft addictions, be kind to yourself. It is not an easy feat to make changes, especially ones that give a sense of pleasure. It may even be helpful to talk to a psychotherapist so that you learn about the underlying reasons you do what you do.

Having a responsible attitude is thing you can do to create a balance in your life so that you can keep enjoying pleasurable activities without them being in excess.

Our Actions Can Interfere With Our Happiness
Our Actions Can Interfere With Our Happiness

Gain Control in Your Life

There are many support groups you can join that can help with getting over soft addctions.

  • reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program
  • Overeaters Anonymous
  • Clutterers Anonymous
  • Debtors Anonymous

We also imitate what we saw. If your parents relieved stress by eating, cleaning, shopping, etc., you may very well do the exact same. If your behavior is having a negative impact on other aspects in your life, it may be time to make a change for the better. Becoming aware, and admitting that there is a problem with the behavior is the first step towards change. By making yourself accountable, you will feel more like you can change things. Trying to delay the behavior is a good start. If you think about it, you will be more in control of your choices. Allow your rational thinking to be in charge. By substituting the behavior, you for another behavior you can give yourself more control over your choices. It is never easy, but it is worthwhile to make constructive changes in your life that will help you feel like a more contented person.

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Comments 51 comments

Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

Awesome hub. So many good tips in here. People don´t think they are addicted to anything , sometimes.

They need to read this.

Great article. Thank you.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

This is a very thorough hub on addictions. Rated up and awesome.

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 5 years ago from Minnesota

You said it so right when you talk about having balance. It's telling how tough it is for most of us to stay balanced in this society. Great information on soft addictions. It is a constant struggle for most.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Dim, I am glad you see the value in this hub. Thank you for your kind comments. I always appreciate when you stop by.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Pamela, It is always nice for me to see you. Thanks for your kind comments and up ratings. I am glad you enjoyed this hub.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Minne, Balance is so important when we look at many things. Many people are not even aware about the soft addictions that sap energy and time from their day. Hopefully, some people will see themselves in this article. It is always nice when you stop by and comment. profile image 5 years ago

Great hub got me thinking TKI. We all have addictions or perhaps are prone to an addiction. Putting aside the hard ones - drugs and alcohol - whether something like workaholism driven by caffeine is maladjustment is a question one could ask. It depends on your value system whether that addiction is destructive or creative - you may not see your family enough but there is plenty of food on the table, for example!

Aris Budianto profile image

Aris Budianto 5 years ago from Lying along the equator Country

Great hub, I am working so hard lately, that can be a soft addiction, thanks for the tips.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Interesting Hub. You have pointed out many warning signs.I answered yes to so many of the questions.

amillar profile image

amillar 5 years ago from Scotland, UK

I'm a tea-drinking junky, the symptoms of which I blame on my age. I suppose I'm in denial.

Maybe I'd better bookmark this one.

Thanks for the info. Up and useful.

Betty Johansen profile image

Betty Johansen 5 years ago

A GREAT hub, toknowinfo. I was aware of soft addictions, but didn't know there was a term for them - soft. They don't feel so soft when I'm trying to deal with them. Thank you for the section on identifying and resolving soft addictions. Really effective suggestions! And speaking of balance - your hub is balanced. We don't have to avoid these fun/pleasant activities completely, just make sure we - not they - are in control.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Pdog, Soft addictions and responsibilities are separate things. The difference is when we feel stressed, what are we doing about it. If we are reaching for a cup of coffee to alleviate the stress, we might be addicted to the caffeine. I know you are a hard working guy - you work like a (psychic)dog. You are doing the right thing by taking care of your family. If soft addictions are loving our kids, and doing things for their good, I am glad I am addicted.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

HI Aris, I am so glad you stopped by. I am glad this hub is helpful to you. Working hard is okay, as long as you are not too stressed. Working to keep busy so we don't think about the things that bother us is a soft addiction.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

An excellent Hub. Well done!

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Amillar, So you have a tea addiction. Admitting it is a great start. Although, I must admit I am addicted to your humor.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Betty, It is always nice to read your comments. I hope this hub is helpful to you. I am glad you found the suggestions effective.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Will, Thanks for your kind comments. I am glad you enjoyed this hub.

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Wonderful and Thought provoking Hub, toknowinfro. I'm sure I have a few "soft" Addictions...Could they also be Habits...Mmmm. Anyway this Hub gives us all lots to think about.

Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Great hub and lots of useful information. There is a lot to think about here, especially our motivations for doing things that seem harmless. Many thanks for sharing.

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Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Excellent hub! I had an addiction to coffee to the point that if I didn't have it, I would get a roaring headache. I finally beat it. A cup or none and I'm cool.

up and very useful

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi B, Well there certainly is a fine line between habits and addictions, and the words are easily interchangeable.

More importantly than the words, is what it is doing to us. If it is destructive,excessive,or compensating for something perhaps we need take a look at it.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Seeker, Thanks for adding your comments. I am glad this hub helped create some self awareness. It is always nice when you stop by with your kind words.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Fay, Being addicted to coffee can be nasty. It is much healthier limit our intake. I am glad you beat it and I think with or without a cup, you are a cool person. Thanks for the up rating.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

This is so informative toknowinfo, I was just thinking about this the other day - so true, things that we don't consider harmful in moderation can become quite disruptive to our lives in excess. The key is balance and when you can't go without, it's a problem. It is also very subtle. Almost anything can become a soft addiction too. Very good hub!Rated up and useful.

LULU SUE1987 profile image

LULU SUE1987 5 years ago

We tend to each things that are not good for us because they taste good.

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

amazing what we can become addicted to these days

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Kath, It is nice to see you again. I am glad you found this hub helpful. And I appreciate the up rating.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Lulu Sue, It seems like the fun and good things aren't good for us. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Ruby, I guess it is human nature to become addicted. Since we all have these tendencies in common.

midnightbliss profile image

midnightbliss 5 years ago from Hermosa Beach

i think everyone of us has his or her own little soft addiction but we should know where to draw the line that it wont affect our life in a negative way.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Midnight, You are so right. We all do things to excess, especially when we like the things, but balance is always important.

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Multiman 5 years ago

What a really good article I just found out I was addicted to a lot mmore than I thought I was! I don't know if I'm too happy about that, but the article was great, voted up.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi MM, Thanks for stopping by and your comments. I am glad you like the article and found it helpful. Sometimes we are not aware of what we are doing and why, and I am glad this hub got you thinking. I appreciate the up rating.

L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

You hit the nail of the head, so to speak, with this information of soft addictions and how they can adversely affect our lives.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi L.L., Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Perhaps if we become more aware of what we are doing, we can be more constructive in our behavior. Awareness can hopefully lead to balance.

Courtney L J profile image

Courtney L J 5 years ago

so true! less about the m&ms and more about what they represent. love this.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Courtney, Glad you love this hub. Right, it is about what the soft addictions represent. Remember, you don't have to give up m&m's, just have a balance. Thanks for your comments and welcome to HubPages!

Mico 5 years ago

Coffee is indeed an addiction but is very good as well, it is full of antioxidants that drive away any harmful free radicals.

Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

Thanks for the reminder.... reading this reminds me of my addiction to coffee, and I should try to keep it under controlled.

Well written !

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Mico, The thing with soft addictions is that there are lots of good things about them, but in excess the positives get eradicated.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Ingenira, I am glad you stopped by. I hope my hub helps motivate you in many positive ways. Thanks for your kind comments.

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Spudman 5 years ago

well i for one am a ivorywave bathsalt qaddict myself. ive been institutionalized 2 times in an asylum and a 1 month in rehab just to relapse less than a week out. im fucked, i relapsed yesturday on purpose cause i cant fight the temptation anymore. i payed my friend 250.00 to drive me the 3 three miles just to garentee that i would have my shit. well 6 bags later in exchange for 200.00 cash up front, i can proudly say ive reinstated my dependency and have researched about long term warning signs of cocaine use just to cover my ass alittle bit more to prev ent detechion while im still in the early faze of this absolutly horrible disease called addiction. im gonna go all in, wrap all my finances around it and invest in secrete squirrel moves to insure my colorful future is on a one way stop in my nose. the only thing that will save me is concerta or adderall, because stimulents suppress my addictive personality that ive had all along giving me the ablity to better control my impulsive behavior. its rather paradoxical, for drugs like cocaine and other forms of speed enhance my character and make the quality of my life better. so wish me good luck on getting prescribed the concerta on top on my bipolar meds. ive tried every other approuch in trying to bounce back. its as if im perfectly content with being an addict.

jseven profile image

jseven 5 years ago from Michigan

So true and I found out how addicted I was to sugar when I stopped it completely for two months. I became addicted unknowingly to topical steroids after using them for years and now I'm in my seventh month of grueling withdrawals. I wrote a hub about that. Thanks for a good hub. Voted up and useful.

Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 4 years ago from London

A really great and insightful hub. The soft addictions which we just accept as part of normal life, can in fact make us really unhealthy.

Being on my computer too much stops me from exercising so much, drinking caffeine stops me from hydrating properly, and both stop me from getting nearly as much sleep as I should! I am trying to kick these damaging habits. I think reading this will help inspire me to do this. And great to know that I'm not alone!!

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago Author

Everyone is addicted to something. It is just how much it can interfere with the other things we are trying to do.

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

Yes, balance is the key. Great hub!

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago Author

Hi Ruby, Thanks for reading and commenting. Balance is important in everything we do. I am glad you liked the hub.

Jeff 4 years ago

Soft Addictions - 2 months a ago I gave up meat. I accidently gave up video games and sodas. However, It seems like I am losing my mind. I wasn't crazy before, but now I am more manic and moody, I am not too unpleasant now, but will it get worse? or better in time. Cause it feels like my mind is ALWAYS ON. I am always thinking about something. anyone have any answers

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago Author

Hi Jeff, Wow, it sounds like you have given up a lot. How did you accidently give up both things? You may be going through some withdrawl and that may be why you are feeling the way you are. If that is the case, the symptoms should subside soon. You may also be having some vitamin deficiencies from not eating meat. It might be a good idea to see a doctor to eliminate any physical causes. After that it might be good to talk to a therapist, to do something to relax yourself, and to look for ways to change your routine. Whatever you do, make sure you take care of yourself. Best of luck and keep in touch.

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

aw, yes, Don't put off your happy life. I really liked that little picture and the colors on the letters. My style.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago Author

Thanks for your kind comments and for noticing the images I added.

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