Any hobby that provides someone with satisfaction runs the risk of becoming an obsession, whether it’s playing online games, going to the gym, or even sex.
Warning signs that you’ve moved on to obsessive behavior aren’t always obvious, psychologist and leadership coach Dr. Perpetua Neo told DailyMail.com.
Dreaming about your hobby from time to time is fine, but if it becomes a recurring theme it could be a sign that someone has become obsessed.
Below, Dr. Neo reveals six potential warning signs that a healthy passion has crossed the line into obsession:
Psychologist and leadership coach Dr Perpetua Neo (Dr Perpetua Neo)
It’s important not to confuse obsessions with normal, healthy interests, Dr. Neo said, noting that the words “obsession” and “addiction” are overused.
She said: ‘People will say things like you’re addicted, obsessed, compulsive.
‘ It’s very easy to launch a label when someone has a new interest, something they like to be a part of.
Dr. Neo said that when a hobby “crosses the line” into obsession, it is often about numbing another feeling like sadness.
She said: ‘Obsession is often about someone seeking relief. Basically, if you don’t do it, you feel very uncomfortable.”
That can manifest in different ways depending on whether the obsession is going to the gym, social media or gaming, Dr. Neo said, but there are several typical “warning signs” that an interest is becoming unhealthy.
It’s the first thing you do in the morning.
What is the first thing you do in the morning? If it’s to pursue your hobby (or something related to it, like YouTube videos or a blog), it could be a sign you have a problem, Dr. Neo said.
Is the first thing you do in the morning related to your hobby?
Dr. Neo said, “Maybe the first thing you do in the morning is think, “I need to wake up to see where I am on a game leaderboard, or I need to do X hobby-related activity.”
That’s a sign that the brain pathways surrounding the activity are headed toward obsession, Dr. Neo warns.
You start wearing clothes related to your hobby.
When a hobby becomes an obsessive interest, people tend to engage in side activities related to the hobby, such as watching YouTube videos, joining a fan club, or collecting paraphernalia such as clothing.
Dr. Neo said, “When you’re obsessed, it takes up more time: you read about it, you do secondary side things, like go to YouTube, do online research about it.”
“There tends to be a lot of complementary activities around the main activity,” Dr. Neo explained. “You read the books, you join the fan club, you get the paraphernalia, you align your identity with it.”
It’s occupying your thoughts. She is becoming your predominant focus.
You dream about your hobby
Dreaming about your hobby (or having trouble sleeping due to thoughts about it) can be a warning sign that you’re obsessed, Dr. Neo warned.
Dr. Neo said, “The more your habits develop, the more your brain pathways become stronger, so they invade your dreams and your thoughts.”
You move social events to save time.
Moving meetings or nights out with friends to find “extra” time for your hobby is a clear warning sign, Dr. Neo said.
Dr Neo said: ‘If you’re thinking, “Maybe I’ll decline this, maybe I’ll open this window, maybe I’ll cut the other meeting short.” So I can dedicate extra time to this interest or this hobby,” he tends to appear more and more.
“Instead of just creating space for it, you’re starting to eliminate other tasks, people and responsibilities from your life, to make room for this.”
You stop brushing your teeth
When an obsession really takes hold, people tend to lose control of the basic aspects of their lives, Dr. Neo said.
Dr. Neo said that if she’s worried that a patient is obsessive, she’ll ask them if they’re attending to the basics, like brushing their teeth and going to work.
She said, ‘Are you working? Are you giving up the rest of your life and functioning for this?
‘Do you think you are hurting yourself or someone else? So, is it an obsession to not cleanse yourself? Happens! Or you don’t see your friends or your partner complains that your children aren’t being fed?’
You use your hobby as an escape.
A clear sign that a hobby or interest is unhealthy is when you use it as an escape from reality, Dr. Neo said.
Healthy interests can be useful in people’s lives, such as offering them a space to reflect or find friends, Dr.
Dr. Neo said, “When something just provides relief and an escape from the world, that’s often not very healthy.”
How to recover from obsession
Dr Perpetua Neo is a business coach and psychologist (Dr Perpetua Neo)
Dr. Neo said that “black and white” solutions are not always the best answer to obsession, and it can help to slowly reduce an activity rather than eliminating it forever.
Dr. Neo suggests negotiating a “happy point” with yourself.
So, for example, instead of scrolling for hours on Instagram, you spend 40% of your time doing that and then choose the book you want to read.
She said: “It’s about creating these little rules that help you have this happy balance, rather than just obsession, black and white, because you have to find solutions that work in the real world.”