The formal definition of addiction once included a reference to illegal behaviors. In order to spot an addiction to alcohol, for example, clinicians would determine how often a person had been arrested due to being drunk in public, or they’d ask how often the person had slipped behind the wheel to drive while under the influence of alcohol. This distinction was considered important, as it proved that people who had these addictions were willing to do anything, including breaking the law, in order to get what they wanted.
In 2010, everything changed. According to an article about the issue in the journal Addiction, researchers discovered that people could become addicted to things that weren’t considered illegal. As these so-called process addictions progressed, people might not break the law to keep their addictions alive, but researchers felt that these conditions were so serious that they needed treatment. And they amended the manual they use to define an addiction so they could give the people the help they needed.
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