Reading can become a behavioral addiction when it is initiated by an impulse that cannot be stopped or controlled causing the individual to escape, numb, soothe, release tension, lessen anxiety or feel euphoric. This might lead to neglecting responsibilities, social interactions and in some extreme cases; basic needs in favor of reading.
Addictive behavior usually stems from the need to disconnect from reality and engage in an activity that provides pleasure or relief whether good or bad.
Therefore using reading as a barrier between you and the world, can result in reading addiction.
Of-course reading addiction won’t cause serious physical harm but any addiction is bad and worth confronting which is why I’ll describe some of the ways to combat reading addiction.
The Nature of Reading Addiction
Reading addiction which some refer to as bibliomania or compulsive reading refers to a pattern of behavior where an individual develops an excessive and uncontrollable urge to read, often to the detriment of other aspects of their life.
While reading is generally considered a beneficial and intellectually enriching activity, when it becomes compulsive and starts interfering with one’s normal daily functioning, it can be classified as an addiction.
The Science of reading addiction
Reading can start out as a harmless productive activity but it can soon turn into an addiction when compulsively engaged in repeatedly for the pursuit of pleasure and escape.
Our basic human drive is survival and that makes us incentivize the acquisition of vital resources/needs such as food, water and shelter.
Dependence on a drug or behavior that can pharmalogically “hijack” or transform human basic drives required for survival into actions of craving and powerful desiring or repetitive out-of-control behaviors is addiction.
According to Steven Hyman in his study called Addiction: a disease of learning and memory he concludes that the common currency of both drug and behavioral addiction is learning and memory.
Thus, a reading addict learns that the act of reading offers an escape; this alone leads to cravings triggered by memories associated with the behavior. Reading therefore turns into a cue-induced behavior with the promise of reward.
The Elements of Reading Addiction
Reading addiction can be characterized by feeling different in that; an individual may use reading as a means to an escape or alter their emotional state.
They might turn to books or other written materials to temporarily alleviate feelings of sadness, stress or anxiety. This behavior can become problematic if reading becomes the primary coping mechanism underlying emotional issues are neglected.
Reading addiction can be characterized by a constant pre-occupation with reading, where an individual’s thoughts, time and energy is consumed by the desire to read.
Another element that is associated with reading addiction is temporary satiation which occurs when an individual’s experience short-lived satisfaction or pleasure from reading, but this feeling quickly fades.
As a result, the person continually seeks out new reading material in an attempt to regain the initial sense of fulfilment.
This cycle of consuming content without achieving lasting contentment can lead to compulsive reading behaviors, resembling addictive patterns where the reward becomes fleeting and the need to engage in behavior persists.
Loss of control
Another element of reading addiction is loss of control. The individual finds it difficult or regulate their impulse to read or the amount of time spent on reading.
They might have the intention to do a different activity but end up reading and neglecting the other activity.
Reading addiction can be characterized by negative consequences when the excessive and compulsive reading behavior starts to have detrimental effects on various aspects of an individual’s life.
Signs of Reading Addiction
Reduced Social Interaction
A strong preoccupation with reading can lead to reduced social interactions.
Spending an excessive amount of time reading might cause someone to withdraw from social events, gatherings, or maintaining relationships, leading to feelings of isolation.
You’ll want to spend all your time lost in a book.
People close to you will notice this behaviour and likely intervene.
Social engagements become a nightmare for reading addicts because they would rather be alone with a book.
Being that secluded and loving that seclusion is a sign that someone is addicted to reading and there’s something deeper going on beneath the surface.
No Consideration for Time
Spending excessive time reading can disrupt one’s daily routine, causing difficulties in managing time effectively.
This can lead to a lack of balance between reading and other important activities.
Books are NEVER left behind
There’s a difference between being a bookworm and being addicted to books.
You can notice a reading addict by what they carry when they move.
If you’re addicted to reading you’ll never leave your house without a book.
Even if you do, you’ll easily feel a void and know that something is missing …
You’ll obviously go back to grab a book and then head out.
Addicted people do this so they can read whenever they feel the need to.
Bookworms also do this but an addict will have more notable obsessive patterns.
Reading becomes preferred recreation
It’s okay to spend some time reading and the fact is we are all readers.
I like to have a good book to read almost everyday but I don’t spend more than 4 hours on reading everyday.
I avoid reading all the time because I know that there are other forms of recreation…
People that are addicted to reading cancel any other form of recreation and stick only with reading.
If you’re a person that would rather read a book the whole day and everyday without considering any other form of recreation, you’re probably addicted to reading.
Depression after finishing a book
We all love reading books and we all have to deal with the inevitable fact that whatever book we start reading will eventually finish.
Finishing a book usually feels great because you feel accomplished by having read a complete work of an author.
For people that suffer from reading addiction, finishing a book can lead to depression; because using reading as an escape makes a person feel the need to keep reading.
If the reading addict finds some book they like… they’ll want to keep reading it and won’t consider the fact that the book will be read till it’s finished.
You lose sleep because you have to read
Sleep is an essential part of our everyday lives as human beings.
People addicted to reading may find it difficult to sleep and may resort to staying up all night just to read.
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to read a book that you spent the whole day reading, you’re probably addicted to reading.
You shouldn’t substitute sleep with reading.
You need rest.
Prioritizing reading over sleep can lead to inadequate rest, which can negatively impact cognitive function, mood, and overall health.
You miss meals because of reading
People that are addicted to reading may get so carried away with it.
They may find themselves lost in a book without a proper sense of things happening outside of that activity.
One of the common things this obsession leads to is missing meals ….because one is simply too carried away with reading and doesn’t feel the need to get up.
Reading is great, but if you miss meals because you simply don’t want to abandon a book…you’re probably a reading addict.
Neglect of Responsibilities
An individual with a reading addiction might prioritize reading over daily responsibilities such as household chores, paying bills, or taking care of family members. Neglecting these responsibilities can lead to a chaotic and disorganized life.
While reading can be a form of escapism, relying solely on it to cope with stress, anxiety, or other emotional challenges can prevent individuals from seeking healthier coping mechanisms. This may exacerbate mental health issues over time.
How to combat reading addiction
Below are some good ways you can use to get on top of a reading addiction so that it doesn’t worsen.
Know you’re addicted
The first step is obviously getting off the hooks of denial and accepting your reality.
This means understanding that you’re addicted to reading.
Once you have this understanding of the situation, what needs to be done afterward is accepting your it.
Only through acceptance can you actually begin to seek help and an actual path out of your reading addiction.
Therefore, it’s good to assess your behaviour toward reading and not ignore signs that could interpret into addiction.
Read for quality and not quantity
One the reasons why people addicted to reading never want to leave a book so they do something else, is because all they want to do is read.
With signs like this you can easily understand that a person isn’t necessarily reading for quality but reading for quantity.
Therefore a good way to deal with reading addiction is only sticking to high quality reading material and not necessarily reading everything.
Get out more
Another way you can get rid of a reading addiction is simply getting out more.
You can’t always be cooped up in your home reading books.
When you feel reading is turning into an addiction it may be in your best interests to get out more often.
For example, Try going out and spending time with some people over the weekends or during weekdays.
Spending time with your family can also be an excellent way to combat reading addiction because they can obviously help.
Replace reading with movies
Often times people that read a lot find it hard to sit down and enjoy a movie.
The reason for this is simple, reading makes you visualize and run down ideas at your own pace.
Motion picture feeds you what it wants to feed you and the choice or mode of decoding is up to you.
People with a reading addiction won’t sit down to watch movies.
Therefore, a good way to control a reading addiction is to watch movies more than you read.
Movies can fill in time and keep you away from reading too much.
Confront what you’re running from
Any addiction is always built over the same thing. The inability to process some sort of discomfort which leads to finding an escape that puts a barrier between a person and the world.
Therefore, to be able to control a reading addiction you should confront the very thing you wish to escape from.
This is not of course an easy thing to do. People go through a lot of different things.
Seeking professional help like therapy that can help you talk through issues and work things out can be the best solution in such situations.
Get help from your friends
Your true friends obviously wish the very best for you and want you to be free of any bondage like addiction.
Therefore, dealing with reading addiction can be something that you can share with your friends and ask them to help you.
A social circle can help you get away from books as well as help you find your foot back into society again.
So never be afraid to ask your friends for help.
Detach from books
One of the reasons why people get addicted to books is because they create and form attachments with them.
This is very unhealthy.
You need to have some form of isolation from books and understand that all you’re reading is information being conveyed to you by an author.
Anything more than that Is unnecessary.
Therefore don’t get too personal and too attached to the content in the books that you read.
This way you can alienate yourself from reading addiction.
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