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

  • June 22, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    From before I turned five, I already had a negative addiction formed and tied around me: self-injury. I don’t remember the first time I used it to deal with my acute anxiety and psychosis-related paranoia. All I know is that by time I entered Kindergarten, is was a normal thing in my life and shocked me when somebody reacted badly to it the first time. I don’t remember the specifics; but I was feeling extremely stressed about something and, as I always did, began aggressively scratching at my arms. When I was told to stop, I grew confused and said quite innocently, “But it helps me deal with the stress.” That sentence, spoken by a five to six year old me, described what self-injury was to me. It was the only way I knew how to survive when I was having trouble coping with a negative emotion, such as anxiety or sadness – something that happened a lot – and worked quite well in the temporary. Only moments after performing the act, I would feel calm, happy, and floating as the endorphins rushed through me. It was a high, and soon enough, I was unable to cope with any negative feeling without it. What’s more, when I couldn’t do it at least once a day – upset or not – became irritated, anxious, and felt an intense need for it that needed to be fulfilled. No matter what.

    After my latest inpatient hospitalization, however, I became determined to change that. In my seven days there, I searched every coping mechanism I could think of and even got ideas from other teens on the unit. By the end of my stint there, I had an entire list, and one that was to become the main replacement to my addictive self-injury, and my first real experience with a positive addiction: poetry. While I may not do it for an hour each day, I certainly do it everyday to some extent. When I complete a poem, in pain or not, I feel a sense of energy, release, and a sense of relaxation. It even lasted quite a bit longer than the high from self-injury. Writing poetry has given me a release that I can use as much as I need or want, and has allowed me to cope with my intense emotions that life throws at me. If I don’t have it for a day, I get irritable and anxious.

    Recently, I’ve also started biking, which is quickly becoming addictive. It gives me that calming, floating feeling and allows me to pedal out tension.

    • June 24, 2010 at 11:33 am

      What an amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad you found writing poetry helpful.
      It is when we find that really amazing gift in our pain that we can start to move through it.
      So nice to hear you are giving your self good care.

  • June 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

    sleeping and napping

    • June 24, 2010 at 11:37 am

      I love napping too, it puts your mind in a state of rest and calm. Refreshes you so you can be more productive.

      How do you find it positive in your life?

  • June 23, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Swimming…laps,,, similar to running but without the joint stress, and sweat… Similar to meditation in that once you’ve got it down, your mind can leave and fly away anywhere… in fact.. I intentionally guide my mind out and away…
    Have been doing it for over thirty years, but no longer daily as my hair can’t take it… still, can’t go too many days without, and have actually started using some swimming visualizations in my dry meditations… For me… a water person, it always works….

    • June 24, 2010 at 11:36 am

      I love this! I never thought of swimming, but how wonderful. The feeling of the water running over you, floating, etc. It is the absolute best exercise, and I like how you went from doing it in the water to on land to keep at it.
      That is really wonderful thank you.

  • June 24, 2010 at 1:07 am

    I’m addicted to working out. I do it 5-6 hours a week, not including stretching. It meets 4 out of Glasser’s 6 criteria. It is definitely competitive (albeit, it is just me competing against the old me), and it takes a good deal of mental effort to push against the pain.

    • June 24, 2010 at 11:31 am

      This is great – working out has so many positive affects on our moods! I think the absolute best competition is that against yourself. Any tips for pushing past the pain?

  • June 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

    About once a year for a couple of months, I develop what is possibly a very lightweight version of the kind of positive addiction Glasser describes. It’s walking, and the reason it’s only once a year and only for a couple of months is that I can’t seem to get steps 2, 5, and 6 to stick, haha. I think this is because I’ve been treadmilling it for several years now (rather than walking outside, which I’d really rather be doing), and after a while:

    – It DOES take a lot of mental energy for me to simply get on the thing (2) because it’s so boring,

    – I don’t believe I can persist and improve (5) because it’s so boring, and,

    – I do end up criticizing myself (6) because I can’t overcome the little voice in my head that begs me to stop because it’s so boring.

    I think, if I’d take it outside in the fresh air with plenty of scenery to keep me interested, I wouldn’t be so bored and could actually turn the walking into a positive addiction 🙂

    • June 24, 2010 at 10:56 am

      Alicia – I LOVE this! What about doing it during your favorite show? Or finding a favorite book you’ve been wanting to read and getting it on track? Also music can have amazing effects.

      Additionally, make sure you engage your senses while doing it and create a little haven you absolutely LOVE. Pay attention to the sensory experiences you have while walking – orange is an energetic color, smells can help energize, a cooler room may inspire, and a decorated tread mill could make all the difference. Maybe even a photo of how you feel when you accomplish the walk right there on the front of it, keeping you energized?

      Hope these suggestions help. I completely agree, it can be SO BORING. That is why we have to really be creative in making it a place we absolutely love to visit.

  • June 25, 2010 at 3:22 am

    The question is though, if you become dependent on something – as in, you become stressed, and function poorly without it – can it truly be called positive?
    Addictions to drugs/alcohol/whatever else might be immediately decreed negative are very self-explanatory as, aside from the temporary contentment they provide for the user, they’re harmful to every party involved in the long run. But once you stray from the unequivocally harmful, I’m still not entirely sure you can be genuinely addicted to something and have it be a completely positive habit.
    I draw, constantly, and following Glasser’s criteria, it could easily be said I’m addicted to it. I get anxious if I haven’t sketched in more than day, and I get very absorbed if I have a pencil and paper in front of me. But that said, I can easily sketch without paying too much attention because it’s practically second nature, and it soothes me.
    On the downside, I get wrist injuries very often, and, almost without fail, I will aggravate even the most pathetic of strains until I’m forced to use a wrist guard to perform menial everyday tasks. Currently, I’ve had my wrist incapacitated for two weeks, but considering I value my emotional contentedness most than my physical comfort level, I’m still overexerting it daily to draw for a few hours. My track record suggests it probably won’t be up to scratch for a while.
    That “euphoric state of peace” is something I definitely experience and relish in, but the fact I do experience it doesn’t automatically decree my drawing a flawless pastime. I’m merely afflicted with the odd wrist restraint, but others’ ‘positive addictions’ could very well have more potent side effects, and the withdrawal symptoms Glasser saw when his subjects were stopped from running/meditating can’t be entirely healthy. At some point in our lives, circumstance will inevitably prevent us from doing what we love, and when it feels like we’re losing a part of ourselves when that happens – as it does when I can’t draw – it’s altogether unhelpful. My ‘addiction’ is more productive than most, as it helps maintain my sense of self and support me, but the word addiction has negative undertones for a valid reason.

    • June 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Great comment! I think about that as well, often! I wonder if it is not just the stigma of the word?

      There have to be solutions for you that can give you that similar feeling state. Have you ever tried drawing in your mind for two hours? Someone on an earlier response said when they were not able to swim anymore they did meditations on swimming, as it was the feeling of swimming and the water flowing over their body that brought them to that place.

      I’m not saying it is the same, but I know there is research that shows that doing something in the mind activates the muscles that do the activity. I will have to look more into that I love the point.

      I think the reason we get agitated is because we feel hopeless that there is no substitution to get us to that state – and that if we can just find solutions to that maybe we don’t have the symptoms of withdrawl. I don’t think symptoms of withdrawl are necessarily a bad thing – we have basic human needs and I think it is one of them. When we don’t eat, sleep, drink water, etc. we have forms of withdrawal because our body is telling us that is something we need in order to survive.

      It is really an interesting point, though, and I’m sorry to hear about your wrist as it has got to be hard not being able to do something you love so much. May you find new and interesting ways to reach that place without putting your body in pain. xoxo

  • June 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Five mornings a week at our local Y, you will find two woman, formerly alcoholics, playing tennis. Glasser has been around a very long time. When he was doing therapy, he would have his clients out for a run or a walk to kick-off therapy.

  • June 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I think crocheting is a positive addiction for me. Gardening is as well. I think fellow needle-workers and gardeners would agree with me. They are positive addictions that help soothe and calm, and they are both positive for many reasons.

  • August 5, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I had a long, rough go with alcoholism – and since I fundamentally disagreed with the AA methodology as well as the notion that addiction was not at its core a strictly medical abnormality that has to date no medical treatment, but rather some mental/spiritual abcess that lay undiscovered and raging to be addressed – I pretty much guaranteed myself the need to find my own way. Well, after I tossed out all the nonsense of powerlessness and steps and the rest, I said simply: What can I do for myself…positively? And that became running. I walked at first because I was no runner. But with a walk/jog plan I soon found myself running long distances, losing 70 pounds and alas, not drinking. And that was years ago. I run most every day for 6 or 7 miles, I feel fabulous, I found love, a spectacular career, and more than anything peace and well being. There is nothing in any church basement, coffee cup, sugar cookie or war story that comes near the euphoria you feel on an autumn day, a breeze blowing, a sweat covering your skin cooled by the crisp air. More people should try this method to solve problems – it works, its simple,you feel awesome and you gain a perspective on what positive and negative addictions really are and why one is soooo much more desirable than the other. Plus I tend to believe that the traditional addiction notion that you are “never over it” is pure nonsense.You make yourself well and strong and at peace and tell me yourself if you can’t be over it. You absolutely can!!!

    • August 6, 2010 at 9:57 am


      This is fantastic! I really love and appreciate what you said, and your description on the run itself and beauty that has come into your life because of it. So happy that you found something really positive in your life to take over all that negative.
      Keep up the great work and thanks!

  • August 7, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Cycling has definitely become a somewhat of an addiction with me as well as using a jump rope, barefoot running and kayaking. I’m not too fussed about what I do so long as I perceive it to be challenging enough to push myself each time.Without trying to analyze it too much, I simply participate in those activities because they feel good whilst maintaining good health and clearer state of mind.Why do I think it’s an addiction? Because if I happen to miss it for a few days I experience symptoms of withdrawals as well as guilt.


The discussion section is closed to new comments for this blog.