The similarities between addiction and obsession are uncanny. Many of the attributes of one can be found in the other. Obsession, however, is not considered a disorder like addiction. Obsessions can be just as dangerous as an addiction. Self-harm is the action of injuring yourself as a way to cope with emotions. Self-harm is very similar to self-medicating and substance abuse. Studies show that an estimated one out of 200 American girls between the ages of 13 and 19 cuts herself regularly. In addition to this, about four percent of adults in America engage in self-harm. Is self-harm an addiction or an obsession?


Addiction is defined as a chronic relapsing brain disease that is characterized by searching for a substance and consuming in or engaging in an activity. The substance or the activity can at first seem and feel pleasurable, but the continued use or participation in activity is hazardous to health and life. The consumption of substances or participation in the activity eventually interferes with ordinary life responsibilities. Addicts are often unaware of the damage they are causing themselves and those around them. There are two forms of addiction physical and behavioral. The physical portion of addiction forms when the body becomes accustomed to a substance and craves it. Substance abuse for example leads to addiction when the body develops a tolerance to the substance and requires more and more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. When the body does not receive that substance it goes into withdrawal which can be dangerous and very uncomfortable. Behavioral addiction refers to the emotional feeling an individual gets and seeks from participating in an activity or consuming substances. This has to do with how the individual feels and how the action of their addiction makes them feel. Participating in a certain addictive activity can have effects on the brain as it release endorphins or other chemical changes, which increases the likelihood of repetition.


Obsession is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. People can be obsessed with anything, but it is commonly referred with relationships. Obsession has a deep connection with emotions, which is why it is often talked about alongside relationships. Fixating on a certain person, goal, or item can be dangerous.

Self-Harm: Obsession or Addiction?

There is much debate on whether or not self-harm is to be considered an addiction or an obsession. Professionals lean towards self-harm being more of an obsession than addiction like an obsessive compulsive action. They believe that the physiological aspect of addiction to be the deciding factor. Substance abuse and addiction involves the changes in the body. Developing a tolerance for an external substance to the point that the individual must increase intake of that substance makes it an addiction. There are no external forces involved in self-harm. Self-harm also exhibits many of the behaviors that addicts display. When a person inflicts self-harm it is often a tool they use to cope with stress, depression, or anxiety. The act of self-harm can release endorphins or other chemical changes in the brain. This is very similar to drug addiction. Individuals who cut themselves for example will continue to abuse themselves even though they understand the damage they are causing. Self-harm is still considered to be an obsession, but mimics several of the same characteristics of addiction. Anyone who copes with life’s challenges through self-harm should seek professional help. Self-harm is dangerous and ineffective in dealing with troubles. The action is short term, but yields long term problems.