For the longest time, addiction has been defined as a psychological or behavioral problem that makes a person become unable to control his urge or desire for something very pleasurable, such as a substance or activity. In 2011, however, the American Society of Addiction Medicine released a new definition of addiction, saying it is a chronic brain disorder, the behavioral manifestations of which have an underlying neurology, just like any disease of the nervous system. Furthermore, addiction is now regarded as a primary disease, rather than an offshoot of an emotional or psychological problem.
Genetics plays a key role in the development of addiction. Environmental and cultural factors, however, are likely to define the extent to which the hereditary blueprint of addiction is manifested. People suffering from addictions lose the ability to consistently abstain from the subject of one’s addiction, cannot control their behavior, constantly crave for “rewards” or “pleasures,” cannot recognize that they have problems with their behaviors and relationships, and have a dysfunctional emotional response to even the most ordinary situations.
Perhaps the key word in recognizing addiction is “choice” (or the inability to make it.) A person who performs a repetitive action but who has the ability to stop or resume it has most likely developed a habit. On the other hand, a person who is unable to control or stop an action because of the physical and mental factors that accompany it is likely to be addicted. Such a person cannot cease the behavior without some sort of intervention or professional help.