What sparked this article was a therapy session.
As many of my blog readers know, my husband and I are in therapy and have been for a few weeks. One of the reasons is my husbands excessive use of alcohol. He doesn't classify himself as an alcoholic. But I say he needs help with it nonetheless. To at least cut back. During the session, the therapist remarks that my love of photography/urban exploration and spending as much time as I do taking pictures is an addiction. I don't take pictures every day. I take about one day a week, maybe two, to devote to finding those great photographic opportunities. Those center around finding old, abandoned houses mostly although I photograph other things too.I don't do it professionally and never want to. I like it as the hobby it is. Granted, there are times when taking pictures takes more than one day a week. Sometimes, it consumes the entire week. As a general rule, that happens when my husband goes on a runner(drinking and staying drunk for days on end). When this happens I often leave rather than staying and putting up with the drinking. Most people would have lost patience long ago and called the relationship quits which for some reason unbeknownst to me I haven't yet done so.
The whole premise here, "Can photography become an addiction?" Well, I didn't find much information on this particular subject so most of what I offer up is pure speculation and opinion. My honest opinion is no. Unless photography starts to fill some void that a drug would fill and photography is no longer enjoyable and it is simply done out of an addiction to it then I would classify that as an addiction.
To just be addicted to it like alcohol or drugs, I don't think so unless as a friend put it, you are no longer able to function and photography is something you do in spite of everything else that must be done. Much like a drug addict, alcoholic or gambler. Addicts don't care or think about the repercussions of what is going to happen if they show up late to work, can't do their work, must have a drink or hit while at work, don't pick up their child from school on time, drink and drive, are high and/or drunk all the time, etc. In fact, for the most part an addict thinks the problem lies with everyone else and it is that person's problem if he/she has a problem with his drinking. When in reality the problem lies the with addict.
I told a friend about our therapy session and he completely disagreed. He believes that photography can be therapy.
Since there is no information on the psychology workbooks as to what exactly, other than alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex(I dont't even know if they have a good definition of that), constitutes addiction, we are left to our devices and to what therapists call addictions for the answers.
There is no hardcore evidence that says hobbies can be addictions and which ones so this leaves it up to the therapist in question to decide what is an addiction and what isn't. Anything can be an addiction but indulging in it in free time and not all the time in my opinion cannot be an addiction. I'm referring to hobbies not alcohol or drugs.
One of the things I've found, is that people who suffer from addictions classify everyone is the same category as them. For instance, anyone who drinks(even if it's only a glass of wine occasionally) is an addict. If they don't indulge in drinking, drugs, sex, exercise, etc. then something else is an addiction. If they spend many hours researching history then they are an addict and this addiction must be dealt with and they must ask for help.
With this idealogy everyone in the world is an addict because most everyone has something they can't live without. For some, it's their favorite TV program, others it's a particular food, for some it's sex(that's most people), for some it might be walking their dog, some might want that nice glass of wine with the fish they just consumed.
Are these addictions? According to some therapists, if you can't live without it, it is. If you overindulge it is. Now who decides if you are overindulging? The psychology community? If the average male wants sex six times a week and the therapist says three times is normal, does this make him an addict? If the exerciser wants to walk twice a day but the therapist says once time a day is normal, does this make him/her an addict?
Does photography, painting, stamp collecting, restoring old cars, etc., constitute a mood altering substance? Do these things even if done in excess alter one's mood?
There is some debate over what constitutes an addiction and what constitutes an impulse control disorder. Some behaviors like excessive sexual behaviors, shopping, stealing, even gambling are now being classified as impulse control disorders but they still don't know if it's simply two different names for the same problem. Some of these behaviors may have a obsessive quality but aren't classified Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
It seems most anything can be an addiction today. Hobbies that turn into addictions are categorized as behavioral addictions.
The therapist did make one statement that I completely agree with and that was that whether an addicted person's recognizes it or not his behavior is abusive. My husband wasn't pleased to hear that his excessive use of alcohol was an abusive behavior. He isn't a physical abuser. I would classify it as more neglect than abuse but those are the words of the therapist not me.
There isn't alot of information online about behavioral(hobby) addictions so it's pretty much just a hit or miss guessing game as to what constitutes addiction. Everything I read says to apply the same principles as with alcohol or drug addiction. I just can't see how painting or stamp collecting can somehow alter one's personality and give him/her a sense of euphoria(high as in taking a drug). Of course, denial is a hallmark symptom of addiction so I'm failing to recognize my addiction is I truly have one. And if truly addicted does this mean I have to give up photography altogether? It would also mean that I could never take up another hobby as that too could become an addiction.
Every drug addict knows he can't take up alcohol because that's just another mind/mood altering substance that he doesn't need and only furthers his addictions. If you apply these same principles then one who is exercise addicted would have to give up exercise yet that is not recommended by any medical professional(at least not any who want their patients to have heart healthy lifestyles). Maybe I have it all wrong here but I can't see applying the same principles to exercise, food, sex, hobby(behavioral) addictions as we apply to drugs an alcohol. With drug/alcohol abuse the general consensus is the the addict must give it up for good but it's unrealistic to think these other things can be given up. As a matter of fact, food can't be given up and exercise and sex are normal parts of life as are having hobbies. So, the big question here, is how does one learn to moderate something that has been classified as an addiction?
And what about the other viewpoint? The one that says hobbies are therapy and not addiction? Is there a right or wrong answer to this question?
I can say this, since I also love to write, I suppose that's an addiction also. But should I be treated for it? I can't offer too many answers because there simply aren't any tried and true answers. It all falls into the lap of the therapist and how he/she chooses to intrepret a situation and just because one therapist calls it one thing doesn't mean the next therapist is going to see it the same way.