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January 13, 2010

What makes one addiction an illness and not another?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:48 pm

To my understanding, this question really gets to some of the differences between clinical and popular views of these issues.  In our culture it is much more acceptable to have an illness (which we couldn’t control), than to have a behavioral disorder (which is our fault).  As we learn more about neurobiology and the science behind addiction, it is easier to point to observable biological breakdowns associated with addictions.  We like to call these illness.

As we have learned more about alcoholism, there has been a desire to refer to it as an illness.  This really isn’t a clinical term at all.  From what I have learned in the current arc of psychological analysis, there is more of an interest in referring to these types of behaviors as chemical dependencies than as an illness, or even the term we are currently addressing- addiction.

My understanding of the answer to that question is that alcoholism should not be given special status as an illness above other forms of chemical dependency.  For example, drug addiction would be an intuitive parallelism from a medical perspective.  Of course, I brought all this up because I think a subject that has a little more wiggle room is what constitutes an addiction.  Beyond that, I would be comfortable classifying all addictions as pathologies by definition.  Off hand, I think we would be safe to say all addictions are also illnesses.  I’m not sure what criteria we would use to say addiction X is an illness, but addiction Y is not.

That being said, I would circle back to my opening sentiment, that popular culture absolutely has a stack-rank of acceptable additions and which of those are considered social-accepted illnesses.  Alcoholism is near the top.  Bigorexia is not. =)

UPDATE:  Just to clarify, this post is to address Joe’s earlier comment.  Art is next.

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