The Oxford English Dictionary suggests one meaning for the word ‘addict’ as being someone who “does or uses something as a habit or compulsively.” The intrinsic nature of a habit is such that the action or thought has occurred on so many occasions that it almost becomes a subconscious process. It implies that the addict, in effect, acts with no forethought or process of due consideration to their behaviour.
This feels somewhat difficult to comprehend. After all, we all know what it feels like to wrangle with our willpower. We may automatically reach for a bar of chocolate at a time of crisis or dive to the drinks cabinet to deal with a stressful situation, but on some level, most of us question the suitability of such behaviour, however fleeting the thought.
It seems unlikely therefore that a serious drug addict, for example, wouldn’t question their compulsion to satisfy their addiction. There must be some realisation of the seriously damaging nature of their behaviour and a desire at some point to break the cycle. It’s hard to believe for example, that Amy Winehouse didn’t at any point question her compulsion to act on her cravings despite being faced with many press images of her frail body.
We often assume that it’s possible to put a stop to such behaviour simply with a generous helping of gumption and some good old-fashioned will power. All of us at some point will go ahead and do something, however seemingly insipid, knowing full well that what we’re doing might not be in our best interests.
Interestingly, an alternative dictionary definition encompasses a sense of devotion to something such as a hobby or interest. Indeed it’s not uncommon for people to be addicted to pursuits such as exercise or video games. Even fashion can be labelled as addictive, with many of us gathering beautiful collections of Fred Perry shirts or designer shoes to satisfy this particular desire. The term ‘fashionista’ is often used to identify these people, which suggests that an obsession or passion for fashion is something socially acceptable and somewhat encouraged.
In essence then, anything can be addictive whether it’s perceived as healthy or otherwise. The fine line between enthusiasm and addiction must lie therefore at the point at which an activity hinders rather than enhances life – and this is perhaps where we need to give the most thought.