When does playing video games, visiting Facebook, checking email or watching TV cross the line from stress buster to bad habit? How many working hours define a “workaholic”? Is an occasional glass of wine a bad habit? Where do you draw the line before activities involving electronics, hobbies, partying, gambling, shopping, clutter and even eating become self-defeating behaviors? When does a relationship become an addiction? How many conversations about someone else’s flaws or problems constitute a codependent relationship? When do open discussions about friend or family devolve into gossip sessions?

Harmless pastimes begin their transformation into more negative events when they no longer align with the role modeling you wish to demonstrate. Would you recommend that your loved one spend as much time, energy or attention on this activity or in a relationship such as this? The consequences of an activity or relationship determine whether it is harmful. Activities and relationships become bad habits when they violate your personal values and life goals by creating chaos in your life, causing damage, becoming excessive, illegal, or have other harmful side effects.

Help determine if your activity or relationship (A/R) has crossed the line into becoming a bad habit by answering these 10 questions.

1. Does your A/R negatively impact your ability to meet your basic financial responsibilities?
Yes No

2. Does you’re A/R cause you to feel embarrassed, remorseful or defensive?
Yes No

3. Are loved ones complaining about the amount of time or money you invest in your A/R?
Yes No

4. Has your A/R been the focus of arguments or fights with people who you respect?
Yes No

5. Does your A/R result in physical harm to your body or damage to your overall health and well-being?
Yes No

6. Do you find yourself hiding or minimizing the amount of time, energy or money spent on your A/R?
Yes No

7. Does your A/R interfere with your responsibilities at work?
Yes No

8. Does your A/R interfere with your responsibilities at home?
Yes No

9. Has your A/R negatively affected your self-esteem or self-respect?
Yes No

10. Does your A/R conflict with your life goals, professional standards, spiritual beliefs or personal values?
Yes No

Scoring: Answering “yes” may indicate that your activity or relationship has crossed the line into a bad habit or addiction.

Bad habits require either a disconnection from mindfulness: “I don’t know why I do that, I just do it.”
Negative thoughts denying, rationalizing or supporting the bad habit:
“It’s not that bad,” “Everyone’s doing it.” “I just don’t care.” “I can’t stop.”

Now dig deeper into your behaviors. Place a checkmark next to each sentence that is currently true for you. Be honest with yourself. Observe your physiological response as you answer each question.

__1. I eat to fill emotional emptiness, loneliness, boredom or anxiety. I blame my unhealthy weight on my genetics, my environment, my stress level or other factors out of my control.*

__2. I use caffeine to stay awake. Lots of caffeine. I drink more than 500 mg a day.* (8 oz of coffee = 65 to 110 mg of caffeine, soda = 34-70 mg of caffeine.)

__ 3. I abuse alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, medications or other mood altering substances.*

__ 4. My sexual behaviors or interests create moral, physical, or legal problems.*

__ 5. I use my rage to let off steam. I tantrum, yell, throw things, swear, or threaten.*

__ 6. I procrastinate. I avoid taking action on tasks that seem overwhelming or boring.*

__ 7. I must clean, wash, organize, order or count things to feel in control.*

__ 8. I don’t even want to know how much gambling has cost me. I’m out of control.

__ 9. I am often shopping, spending or buying stuff to feel good. My good feeling goes away when the bills pile up. My finances are out of control.

__10. I am never happy with what I have. I am always looking for something else “out there” to fix what feels empty “in me.”

__11. I fuel my bad habits with thoughts of guilt, shame and poor body image. As long as I believe I am not good enough, I am able to justify and continue my bad habits.

__ 12. I would never want someone I care about to be in a relationship like mine, but I am afraid of change and terrified of being alone.

__ 13. I surround myself with stress and chaos so that I never “have time” to relax, listen to my own thoughts or take responsibility for change.

__14. I seem to feel good when I am complaining, blaming, nagging or pointing fingers at everyone else.

__15. Hours in front of my TV, social media or video games feels better than facing the challenges of my life.

__16. I avoid conflict. When a conflict arises, I shut down, give in, blame, run or hide.

__17. I live in the past. I have not accepted the present nor envisioned my future.

__18. I am never satisfied with myself. I must always “do more.” I stay busy to outrun my self-loathing and my fear of not being good enough.

__19. I drive aggressively. I feel entitled to my anger and I blame other drivers for my road rage. “I wouldn’t have road rage if they knew how to drive!”

__20. I use denial regularly. I pretend I do not see it so maybe it will just go away. (And I don’t have any of the bad habits on this list. I don’t need this stupid test!).

______ Total number of items checked.

Scoring: A perfect score is (0). A perfect score reflects healthy coping skills without interference of bad habits or self-defeating thoughts.

1 or more checked items: Congratulations on your honesty and self-awareness! Each checked item reflects an area in your life where you could benefit from some therapeutic guidance. Acknowledging your negative thought patterns and bad habits is the first step toward healing.
* Discuss checked #1 through 7 with your therapist or other health care professional.

Author's Bio: 

Telka Arend-Ritter, L.M.S.W., A.C.S.W. is a Michigan licensed Masters level clinical social worker specializing in individual, couple and group solution-focused therapy. She has worked as a behavioral health and addictions therapist, educator and public speaker since 1984.Telka is the author and facilitator of a unique solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral,
short-term program designed to treat stress, mood disorders, relationship problems and recovery issues.
A graduate of Michigan State University, Telka and her psychologist husband own a private practice in East Lansing, Michigan. They have one daughter, also a Spartan.