I don’t have an addictive personality, I have an obsessive personality. Obsession and addiction look similar on the surface, but they are different. When someone has an addiction, that person doesn’t feel satisfied until they use a substance or do the forbidden activity. For example, a man who has a gambling addiction doesn’t feel happy unless he’s gambling. A person who obsesses knows their thoughts are irrational but feels helpless, and may use rituals to make them temporarily go away. For example, a male who obsesses over being gay may look at male models to see if he is attracted to them.
The root of obsessive behavior is fear and the root of addictive behavior is escape. A male who repeatedly washes his hands may fear getting germs. A person who is addicted to heroin, uses the substance to numb whatever is making him or her uncomfortable. Obsession is often distressing while addiction is often pleasurable.
Addiction changes the brain by undermining how it registers pleasure. The feeling of pleasure happens with the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. When someone is addicted, for example to drugs, the drugs flood the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. As a result, the hippocampus lays down memories of the rapid sense of satisfaction, and the amygdala creates a conditioned response to the certain stimuli.
Research shows that people who have obsessive compulsive disorder have insignificant levels of the brain chemical, serotonin. Serotonin transmits signals between brain cells. It regulates mood, aggression, impulse control, sleep, appetite, body temperature, and pain. Modern brain imagining techniques and studies have shown scientists that people with OCD have more than unusual activity in three areas of the brain: The Candate Nucleus, The Prefrontal Orbital Cortex, and The Cingulate Gyrus.
The Candate Nucleus acts as a filter for thoughts coming from other areas and is considered important in managing habitual and repetitive behavior.
The Prefrontal Orbital Cortex is believed to affect appropriate social norms. Lowered activity in this region of the brain means feeling uninhibited, making bad judgments, and lack of guilt. Higher activity in this region of the brain means more worry about social norms such as being meticulous about how one looks, preoccupation with cleanliness, etc.
The Cingulate Gyrus is believed to contribute to the emotional response of obsessive thoughts. This area of the brain is what tells the OCD sufferer to perform rituals to stop the thoughts.
These three areas of the brain have cells that are affected by serotonin. It is widely accepted and believed that medicines that raise the level of serotonin available to transmit messages may change the level of activity in these areas.
So now that you have this information presented, don’t messed up the difference between obsession and addiction!