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Is there Such a Thing as Positive Addiction? Dr. Glasser Thinks So, But Do You?

DSC_6012If you as much open your eyes these days, you will find something that has the potential to become addictive; televisions, text messaging, facebook, and the Internet, not to mention the drugs, alcohol, porn, and other things we more classically define.  We are bombarded with marketing messages, news, personal influences and distractions — it is almost impossible to escape the ever pressing suggestion of more, better, faster and easier.

For those with ADHD, our impulsivity can make it particularly challenging to continuously defend ourselves from this bombardment of diversions.  It’s why I found William Glasser’s theory on the concept of Positive Addiction so interesting, and why I felt the need to learn more about it and discuss with all of you.

There is much debate about what makes a negative addiction ‘an addiction,’ but in general terms I think we can all agree an addiction is something we repeatedly do that negatively influences our lives or the lives of those around us. (I’m sure that is already sparking debate in your minds but I am talking in extremely simple terms so just please bear with me.)  So a positive addiction would, generally speaking, be the opposite – when something we repeatedly do has a positive influence on our lives or the lives of those around us.

William Glasser goes a bit further in his book Positive Addiction, and states that it’s something we do for an hour a day at least six days a week which takes about six months to form into addiction.

To understand where positive addiction comes in, we need to understand Dr. Glasser’s theory about happiness in life.  He suggests we find happiness when we know these three things;

  1. What to do
  2. How to do it
  3. Where to find the strength to get it done.

He argues that the first two are the easiest, but we continually struggle with the 3rd in our lives.  It is often what leads to the negative addictions; the belief that we cannot find the strength to get it done so we take an easier road, give up, or find pleasure in something else to distract our minds.  He also suggests that if instead of escaping through negative addictions, we learn how to harness the power of positive addictions we can get access to this strength in #3 that will allow us to create the life we so desire.

The most common addictions he talks about are running and meditation.  The people he studied did this at least an hour a day for six days a week, and they experienced classic withdrawal symptoms when they no longer did the activity.  As they are in their practice, they reach a state of mind that is best described as ‘euphoria;’ a complete loss of self, a sense of floating.

It’s suggested that while in these states, these individuals reach a state of complete and total peace where they build reserves of strength.  Running does this in particular, as it is a state that is programmed into our brain throughout history as something we have always done for survival.   The continual hitting of the feet on the ground and the rhythm of running leads to a feeling of satisfaction that is less self-critical than anything else we can do – our mind is at one with our body.

Glasser describes six steps to a positive addiction:

  1. It is something noncompetitive that you choose to do and you can devote an hour a day to it.
  2. It is possible for you to do easily and doesn’t take a great deal of mental effort to do well.
  3. You can do it alone or rarely with others but you don’t have to depend on others to get it done.
  4. You believe it has some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) for you.
  5. You believe that if you persist at it you will improve (completely subjective)
  6. The activity must have the quality that you can do it without criticizing yourself.  You have to completely be able to accept yourself or it will not become addicting.

I have some questions / thoughts for discussion that I am really interested in hearing from all of you:

  • Does anyone out there have this experience of ‘positive addiction’?
  • For those who meditate, have you been able to find this place of PA?
  • Has anyone used these types of addictions to overcome negative addictions?
  • Do you see any negative influences on your lives from these ‘addictions’?
  • Are there activities besides running or meditating you use to get in this state?

Creative Commons License photo credit: andy_carter

Is there Such a Thing as Positive Addiction? Dr. Glasser Thinks So, But Do You?

Kathryn Goetzke

I own a company called the Mood-factory (, a company that creates products based on how sensory experiences effect moods. I also run a nonprofit for depressio, iFred (, we are working to change the brand of depression. And yes, I have ADHD, along with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and a host of other challenges, opportunities, and gifts.

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APA Reference
Goetzke, K. (2010). Is there Such a Thing as Positive Addiction? Dr. Glasser Thinks So, But Do You?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2010
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