Difference between habit and addiction

Published On: January 29, 2024

“Addiction is the triumph of mind over matter. Habit is the triumph of mind over mind.”

– John Dryden

When the two words, habit, and addiction, are put adjacent to each other, it may often seem as though, the two terms possess the same connotations or definitions. But, amidst all the indistinctness, there is a thin line of difference between the two.

Difference between habit and addiction

A habit is simply, a series of behaviours or actions that are done on a regular basis. It may be as simple as waking up at 5 am daily, working out regularly, nail-biting, to even spending too much time on gadgets. Sometimes, a particular action or a pattern of actions is drilled into our brain in such a way that it becomes a part of our daily routine without us voluntarily recalling doing it.  Habit is a stepping stone towards addiction, if not controlled enough. Addiction is much more powerful than a habit and can completely take over an individual’s life. It takes absolute control over a person to the extent where the addictions dominate and dictate over the individual. The causes of one getting addicted to any substance/ behaviour can be depression, loneliness, environment, genetics, and social-economic conditions.

When we hear the word “addiction”, the first and foremost things that come to our mind are alcoholism, drugs, etc. But, addictions encompass other acts, and habits as well, such as binge eating, spending excessive time on gadgets, and gambling to name a few. The above-mentioned, come under the terminology- behavioural addiction.

When does a habit turn into an addiction?

Habit is a behavioural pattern and it turns into an addiction when one gets a compulsive need or urge towards the source. The drift from habit to addiction can be based on the severity and regularity of the occurrence of the activity in question. When the addiction takes control, one neglects their responsibilities, pays no heed towards relationships, puts themselves in danger, and further develops withdrawal symptoms. It is rightly said “Addiction is the only prison where the locks are on the inside.”

However, it isn’t always black and white. There are various levels of addiction based on their severity and regularity. It is also, often observed that a person who is addicted frequently tries to quit, but fails to do so. This is because an addiction gravely affects the nervous system and is biologically associated. On the other hand, a few are reluctant to quit their addiction as they are convinced that it provides them with temporary pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction.

Looking at the bright side, there are several cases where the person has positively broken the chains of addiction and has fully recovered from their addiction, retrieving their life to normality. According to research, it is said that almost a tenth of American adults which accounts for approximately 22.3 million individuals have overcome addiction. In the present times, the availability of numerous rehab centers, therapy centers, support groups (Example: Alcoholics Anonymous) medications, etc. has contributed a great deal to the process of addiction recovery. The procedure of recovering from any source of addiction (substance or behavioral) can be a painful process to a few or an empowering one. It takes a great deal of acceptance, self-reflection, and faith to fight break through.


As mentioned, the two words, habit, and addiction, are similar in a few ways but have a thin line of difference. This line between the two is affected based on the choice one makes and how effectively one can exercise self-control. The self-discipline and composure of an individual come into the picture in this context and restrict an individual to develop any sort of addiction. In the end, it’s all about acceptance, control, and the willingness to change.

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