Monday, May 21, 2012

Running As A Positive Addiction

Last Friday, I posted this on Running as an addiction, as diagnosed by the DSM.  I took some liberties and had fun with comparing 'running addiction' to addiction to alcohol, partially inspired by upcoming changes in the DSM which would include other behaviors as an addiction, and diagnosis them as "Behvioral Addiction - Not Otherwise Specified." ( Article here.) My thoughts are a craving to do something that can't be controlled that is hurting your life can be loosely classified as an addiction, if it meets the seven criteria over a lengthy period of time, but it may just as likely fit into some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder, since to call it addiction may actually change the nature of the other biggies: Alcohol, Opiates, Stimulants, and so on.
However, the other, more likely category most of us runners fit into is the Positive Addiction realm, championed by William Glasser. Glasser is the guru beyond Reality Therapy, and also the concept of Positive Addiction - Things that we are drawn to do, crave to do, maybe even "have to do" that enhance our life.
Glasser described activities that allow a person to achieve a meditative state where the mind can “spin free.” Positive addictions are activities that take a person to this mental state, are addictive in that missing the activity results in various symptoms of withdrawal, and are positive in that they are a creative, controllable period that endows an individual with strength in the form of both mental capacity and increased neurological horsepower. These strength gains carry over into all other aspects of life.
These changes are even biological, and the addictions can forge new neuronal connections in the brain to help you think  more creatively. Ever wonder why you get all those grand thoughts during your run?  Glasser wrote much of this book with a focus on running.


A positive addiction can be anything at all that a person chooses to do as long as it fulfills the following six criteria: (reprinted by permission of: "I think it's okay, since it's on about 5 million sites on the internet", May, 2012)
(1) It is something noncompetitive that you choose to do and you can devote an hour (approximately) a day to it.
(2) It is possible for you to do it easily and it doesn't take a great deal of mental effort to do it well.
(3) You can do it alone or rarely with others but it does not depend upon others to do it.
(4) You believe that it has some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) for you.
(5) You believe that if you persist at it you will improve, but this is completely subjective -- you need to be the only one who measures that improvement.
(6) The activity must have the quality that you can do it without criticizing yourself. If you can't accept yourself during this time the activity will not be addicting.
My guess is that's where 95% of us runners and marathoners fit. 


One concern is if the noncompetitive point of number 1 rules running out, but I think where this fits is that 'most' of your runs you are not competing. Sure, you may be training to compete, but the daily events aren't always measured against someone where there is a winner and loser. (that little running dude on your Garmin notwithstanding).  Also, the hour a day doesn't' really include allowances for activities that inherently need more time spent.  For example, a marathoner may 'average' an hour a day easy during training, probably more, but an ultra-marathoner, who certainly has all the positive addiction traits, might smash through this. 

Number 2, to me says that you don't' have to spend a ton of time convincing your brain to go. Sure, maybe some days, but mostly it's automatic otherwise you would dread lacing up your shoes. Finally, as described in number 6, if you are overly -critical of yourself, the process will either be a form of gluttonous self-punishment and thus not a Postive Addiciton, or else you will give it up entirely.


So, take heart, tell that therapist dude or dudette you don't have an Axis 1 diagnosis, you have a Positive Addiction, and sure you may have held on to your teddy bear a little too long as a child and you got daddy issues, but running will help take care of all of that, costs less than a 50 minute therapy hour, and you get your Vitamin D. Plus, nobody ever got a cool shirt for completing a course of therapy.


For more on this, check out this post on: Running and Reality Therapy



1 comment:

SupermomE12 said...

Amen to running = therapy. It has literally changed my life and made me happier, better, and stronger in so many ways. :)

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