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  • Writer's pictureKay Reeve

Addiction vs Obsession - What's the difference?

ADDICTION is most commonly associated with alcohol, drugs, smoking and nefarious acts. Many people think that addiction leads to depression where in fact it generally begins because of an emotional struggle.

Addiction is a coping strategy, and a way to find a peaceful or happy moment, that give a false sense of mindfulness and relief from what ever is troubling the user.

This mindfulness moment is counterbalanced by lows, as seen in smokers who get agitated when they need another smoke, a coffee drinker needing caffeine, or an alcoholic who needs another drink. This is when reality hits them again, their emotions are still unmanaged and they need to numb the emotional pain again by what ever means they have turned to, or soothing their anxiety by regaining focus.

Only for a small handful does serious addiction happen because they toyed with a substance and got hooked. They are more likely to get hooked on a junk food diet. Smoking on the other hand creates addiction, but it's also about settling anxiety.

This coping strategy can also relate to children addicted to food, soda, gaming, television, dark comics, and more.

Addiction is about the ESCAPE, not the actual method used to escape.

OBSESSION on the other hand is about being drawn to something out of a love for it. It is an excessive passion for something positive such as cleaning, working out, buying nail polish, train spotting, you name it, it goes. The world is filled with obsessions you can hardly imagine. For teenagers, this is often an obsession for new clothes, comics, a new phone they've fallen in love with, and much more.

Obsession is not counteracted with low mood swings. It can be put down, walked away from, and looked forward to with pleasure. It makes their world happier not just in the moment, but in between because of it, and they often choose to build that into their personality, such as shoes and handbag addictions.

Music fanatics, sports fans, it is all some degree of obsession. They are simply drawn to it more than the average person, creating the label of obsession but they are still happy.

Obsession can also lead to genius such as chess, sports champions, racing drivers, artists of all kinds, and more.

When an obsession becomes a NEED, that results in low moods, tantrums, and is difficult to walk away, or it is the first thing they want to go straight back to, it is their tone, body language, and their enthusiasm for talking about it has gone, then it is likely it has become a coping strategy rather then a passion. If the same topic has become their escape rather then their go-to enjoyment, then it suggests the onset of depression.

Obsessions the follow into depression, stress or anxiety, can then lead to shop lifting, hoarding, obsessive compulsive disorder, joy riding, and other criminal acts, or self destructive acts such as working out too much at the gym. Ultimately it all leads to emotional or physical burnout.

There is once exception that I will cover in another blog post, that obsession can also stem from fear, but that's a whole other topic.

Till then, I hope that helps a little so that next time you are watching, talking to, or think about either yourself, a child, or a teenager in your family, you can recognise some of the differences.

This is NOT about telling them they are ADDICTED or OBSESSED with something. That will add emotional stress and drive them in deeper. This is about understanding what may be going on behind it. That is the topic to talk about and help them resolve.

If an addiction or excessive obsession is life threatening, consult your/their doctor without delay and seek professional help.

When it comes to helping teenagers and children showing early signs of addiction in any form, Emotional Awareness helps you talk with them about what's behind the addiction, rather then focusing on the addiction.

Hugs and healing



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