Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 3.5

I don’t think I have an addictive personality, but I do have addictions. For example, I am addicted to lip balm; Chapstick to be precise. I carry a tube of SPF 30 Chapstick with me everywhere, and have several back-ups placed strategically in my house, office, car, and gym locker. I re-apply liberally throughout the day, whether I need it or not. I have an irrational fear that I’ll end up with lips so chapped it looks like I have two pieces of blood sausage on my face.

I just can’t quit my Chapstick.

Also, I’m not certain yet, but I’ve come to realize lately that I might be addicted to sodas as well. Further research pending.

So for today’s Inquisition:

What, if anything, are you addicted to? And does the capacity for addiction have any evolutionary benefit?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. You mean other than skepchick? I tend to have passing addictions. I never go half into anything, but most of my fascinations fade. That sort of dogged determination to satisfy our addictions I could see as being beneficial, but seeing as the line of demarcation fo addictions is whether it is detrimental, I’m not sure if that applies.

  2. Caffeine via green tea and diet coke for sure.

    I also drink fluids constantly. Whether it is water, tea, soda, or beer. I am constantly drinking something.

    Oh, and I might as well face I am addicted to love.

  3. Kitties!

    Seriously, I cannot live without a cat. When my wonderful Muffin died after 15 years, the house was so lonely and empty. So I got another cat, but not to replace her. And then I got another one, to be friends with my new cat. I couldn’t stand the thought of kitties languishing in the shelter, and my house so conveniently available. And I want more, but SO says no. :(

    I’d say that the addiction I have for cats is evolutionarily advantageous for them. :)

  4. I am so with you on the Chapstick, thing! Whenever I move, I find a ton of them. Whenever I go to the store, I pick up a few more. I always have one on me, and all over my car, apartment, and work. Yay for Chapstick.

    @Evan: I am the same way. I am constantly drinking something. Usually water. I think I might actually drink TOO much water.

  5. @BlackCat: You could also be addicted via toxoplasmosis :)

    A funny thing about toxoplasmosis… We have 2 “Giant Microbes” of them and they happen to be the favorite toy of our one cat. Oh, irony.

  6. I am addicted to soda.

    The whole chapstick thing makes me shudder. I hate the feeling of greasy things on my body. I don’t do lotions, chapstick, sunblock, etc etc.

  7. Video games. Trite, I know, but once I start one I have the hardest time not trying to finish them in every spare moment. And not just finish, but finish every nook and cranny. OCD level on World of Goo was made for me. To cope with this I don’t start them very often. Maybe one every other year or so.

    Addiction and evolution? I speculate that it comes from learned patterns. If you only think to drink water when you are thirsty you might be too far from it, or in a tree with a lion underneath, or stuck in a code review. If you pick of the habit of drinking your fill whenever it is convenient your genes stand that much better a chance of being passed along.

  8. I have a few addictions…

    1) I am a smoker. This is not advantageous to anything, and my husband and I have decided to quit (again).
    2) Caffeine. I don’t know that this has anything to do with an evolutionary benefit. However, alertness is, and without caffeine I am anything but alert.
    3) The Internet. Again, I don’t know that this is an evolutionary benefit of anything other than taking advantage of technology and being “in the know.”
    4) Sci-Fi nerd shows. This is just a fun addiction that I don’t plan on ever giving up.

  9. INTERNET. I refuse to buy an iphone or any other web-savvy phone because if I do that will be the end. I have to have some part of my life where I am not able to get online. The moment I give in… I’ll be lost forever to a world of surfing and I’ll never be able to get anything done ever again.

    Also coke (the sugared beverage variety), CNN (I tried boycotting it after they said they were quitting their extra science coverage, but it didn’t last), and books – I’m a bibliophile like many others here.

  10. Not sure I’m addicted to anything. I have my habits (soda, coffee, video games) but if I head off on vacation where these things aren’t available, I don’t miss them or obsess about them. Many times, being away from them is a relief. Is that a sign of addiction?

  11. @Mordicant:



    Oh, it is so easy to become addicted to sodas, isn’t it? Especially Coke. It’s delicious. It’s refreshing. It’s slopping over with caffeine and sugar, the things I need to have a personality. And it’s accessible. There are freaking machines full of it everywhere you go.

  12. Information. I’ve got Google Reader set up with nearly 100 RSS feeds from news sites and blogs. As it sits right now, there are more than 2000 items waiting for me to read (screenshot). I’ll probably do a “mark all as read” on a few of the categories but I’ll skim through the rest.

    And, yes, this is why Skepchick gets so many links from me.

  13. If addiction, other than the narrow medical definition generally related to drugs, is a recurring, compulsive or repetitive behavior that one engages in despite harmful consequences, I’d say no, I don’t engage in this type of behavior. I’d add that many of the behaviors mentioned, including Sam’s chapstick shtick, is nothing more than a habit of little consequence.

    Smoking, excessive gambling or being on the internet to the point of losing a job or not getting any sleep would likely qualify as an addiction in some respects given the recent movement if the definition.

    I don’t see any evolutionary benefit especially since addiction is defined by the harm or impairment of normal functioning that is a result of the behavior.

  14. I’m addicted to Darjeeling tea mixed with hot chocolate. I don’t think this particular addiction offers any evolutionary advantages. In general though, I’d hypothesize that addiction could have developed from the needs of hunger, thirst, and reproduction.

  15. Now, I’m not completely certain about this, but I seem to recall being told by a doctor (for what that might be worth) that chapstick with petroleum in it can be addicting in that, if you use it for a long time, then stop, your lips become seriously chapped and have to recover over a period of several days, if not weeks. I had a roommate who said that happened to her (but anecdotes are not equal to facts ;). Probably I should do some research to see if that’s for real or not. :)

  16. @Shawn: Why do you have two seperate readers? Most readers are online now… I can access my reader anywhere, anytime. It’s not that full though, because I already have Livejournal to wade through every night.

    Yeah, I’m addicted to the internuts, for sure.

    And cracking every available joint in my body. Actually, it’s pretty bad. Elbows, shoulders, back, knees, ankles, toes, fingers, kneck, etc… Sigh.

  17. @Sam Ogden: The problem is that if I were to, say, get abducted, or lost on an island, I’d get dry lips like ASAP, and I’d get all panicky because of it.

    Yes, I”ve actually thought of this while watching Lost.

  18. @marilove:

    I feel you. I’ve been on the stuff for decades, and plan ahead when I travel. My shaving kit has several back-up tubes, and I’m learning how to make lip balm out of hog fat and even various roots, just to be on the safe side.

  19. @marilove: For my personal one, I don’t like the online readers I’ve tried. The desktop app I use, Vienna, feels MUCH more responsive and usable to me. For my work one, it stays on my work laptop so I can read when offline, and it also contains 19 feeds only accessible on the intranet (and cached in my encrypted home directory).

  20. I’m addicted to the Internet, in that it definitely results in me losing sleep, and not working productively (both of which I’d say are negative consequences).

    I’m addicted to World of Warcraft in that I play it mindlessly and it impacts on other hobbies like watching movies. Plus, I think that without Warcraft I’d almost certainly write more. Or at all.

    Finally, I’m addicted to Earl Grey tea, although the only negative consequence of that is the occasional desire to go out in full Georgian dress.

  21. @Sam Ogden: That’s not to say I don’t always have a Mentholated Medicated Natural Ice original SPF 15 Lip protectant / sunscreen on hand at all times day and night. I’m just saying.

    @Expatria: You and my son can form a WoW support group. …no, never mind. All that would happen is some kind of alliance and all night battle quest thingy.

  22. The taste and smell of coffee.

    Sugar. Candy, pastries, sodas, cookies. I eat healthy food, veggies and fruits, but I have a sweet tooth a mile long.

    The internet. My internethabit takes time away from my other hobbies. But I’m working on it, and I have begun to find a balance.

  23. Sam, ironically, that may be one of the girliest admissions I’ve seen on this blog. Have we finally discovered the real reason why they let you in the club?

  24. @TheCzech:

    No. I can’t tell you the real reason they let me in the club. Suffice to say it involves a lot of groveling, outlandish promises, and quite a bit of money as well.

    But I’m in a good place with my addictions, girly though they may be.

  25. @Sam Ogden: The fact that you have such great boobs couldn’t have hurt either.

    Not that I’m criticizing the girlieness, mind you. I watched Grey’s Anatomy for four seasons, so I’m not in a position to throw stones.

  26. Early on, I saw evidence of addictive personalities on both sides of my family. As a result I stayed away from tobacco, alcohol and drugs for my entire life. Sadly, I could not stay away from food and as I enter my 50s, I am very much overweight. Still, I look at my prodigious gut and think, “If this were alcohol or drugs, I’d be dead now.”

  27. Painting, for sure. It started out simply enough; a crayon sketch here… a fingerpainting there. Before you know it, I’m filling 16×20 canvas panels by the half-dozen in acrylic an inch thick, just to get my fix.

    “You gotta help me, man, I just need enough for one tube. ONE TUBE. They’ve got a special on Ultramarine Blue, man, pleeeease.”

    Evolutionary benefit assesment: Below or equal to the great panda.

  28. You know, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but as a smoker and an alcoholic, I wish people could come up with some other word than “addiction” to describe their nervous habits or strong affinities.

  29. Addicted to information, I suppose. I just spent like 2 hours on scienceblogs. Books, too, even though I’m not what I would consider a heavy reader. But I can’t leave a bookstore/library without an average of 3 or 4 books in my arms.

  30. @Howard: That’s totally a good point. Sobering, but true. And I wonder how my bout with caffeine stands up to that. I’ve had periods where I’ve cut back and quit… and then gone back. And I get cravings and feel awful without it, but I have no idea if it stacks up to, say, an addiction to cigarettes. Watching my best friend try to quit smoking… yeah, probably not quite as intense.

    Geez, I’m rambling again. Back to work…

  31. I like my addictions!
    Evolutionary benefit — if we can become focused on one thing, then we can achieve it — for my ancestors it was hunting on the tundra in Alaska– takes a personality that is persistent. That can translate into an addictive personality for other items – be they finding the perfect cup of coffee, or persistence in answering emails, skepchick issues, chapstick – all of which come from a deep and abiding need to be able to focus on one thing.

    People who have alcoholism are less effected with sleeping sickness.
    Chapstick – well, perhaps it is a courtship ritual for those who seek to mate and reproduce their kind.
    Internet – intelligence, and those who seek to learn more clearly being intelligent is good for the species.
    Coffee — being awake – avoid predators
    Smoking – complex, but nicotine receptors allow a higher degree of intelligence, make one much smarter, and far more attractive.
    Ice cream – keeps the species alive- without ice cream the race would have been extinct long ago.

  32. Nicotine- Keeps undesirable health freaks away from me. Not sure what other benefit it has…
    Caffeine- makes me QUICK like a little jumping mouse! (just call me Maud-Dik)
    Masturbation- Keeps me from reproducing which is of evolutionary benefit to the world.
    (last thing this planet needs is a mini-ME)
    CorelDraw- Fabulous vector drawing software and is more fun than stupid shooter games. This keeps my mind active and creative and most importanly, keeps me off the streets.
    (see masturbation comment above)

  33. I have several, depending on how you define “addiction.”

    Physical addictions:
    Caffeine via GOOD coffee. Instant coffee need not apply. I love Gevalia coffees and those from Churchill’s Coffee in Springfield, MO.

    Ice Breakers Cool Blue mints (I got addicted during my time working airline ticket counter, and now I can’t break it.)

    Pushing fluids like flavored water to keep me out of the soda…(Alcoholism runs deep in my family and I have no desire to find out if I am a potential victim.)

    Psychological addictions:
    Aviation – If it flies, I’m at least interested in passing…even bugs. (Tip of the hat to Bug_Girl. By the way, Has anyone studied the aerodynamics of insect flight, Bug_Girl?)

    Critical thinking (At least, I try hard to make it one)

    Dogs, cats, fish…most pets, actually. I can’t stand not having animals around. It feels…wrong, somehow. So we have four Shelties, three cats and an indeterminate number of freshwater tropical fish. Plus we feed the birds and are creating a wildlife habitat-friendly, no insecticide, backyard garden.

    Sirius radio…I love having music on, constantly.

    Animal rescue: I agree with BlackCat. I have a hard time turning away from animals in distress, which is how I got into rescue. Sometimes, you just have to say, “Not on my watch” and act.

    Reading voraciously. My “To Read” pile contains more than 200 books, and I am on a first name basis with most of the librarians at my local branch.

    Damned if I know if any of them are evolutionarily advantageous.

  34. I work in harm reduction, and the study of addiction is a keen interest of mine. The word addiction originated from the Latin word “addicere” (to assign), meaning “devoted to a particular interest or activity”. It slowly changed over the years to have negative connotations, generally meaning an activity or substance that people attach themselves to to the detriment of their health or social relationships. Addiction is poorly understood, and hard to define, as there are several different aspects to it: physiological, psychological, and social (of course, all these tie in with one another). It’s interesting, because the same mechanisms behind addiction also act to attach ourselves to healthy behaviours and facilitate social interaction (i.e. our motivation and attachment systems attach ourselves to things that soothe us and encourage us to seek them out again). Problems arise when we get attached to the “wrong” things, and start ignoring other, healthier things (like our loved ones).

    I wonder if a caffeine “addiction” is really an addiction then, or just something we really enjoy doing. If you can get your nicotine without the smoke (and thus, pretty much all the health risk), is it really an addiction?

    Anyways, I’m pretty new to this field, but I find it fascinating to think about.

  35. Apparently, mascara.

    I’ve been going through drawers in my bathroom digging out what I need to pack for the cruise, and I have about 8 tubes, several of them unopened.

    Oh, and Hagen Daz l Vanilla Swiss Almond.

    Which explains the ass.

  36. @Denver7M: Like *Hair* says, “Masturbation can be fun.”

    Also coffee. I’m not particularly addicted to caffeine as even decaf will do, but I gotta have that morning cup.

    @QuestionAuthority: I don’t know if I’m a reading addict as much as a book buying addict. The pile keeps getting higher.

  37. My great addiction is caffiene, coffee is the delivery system.

    Disc Golf – but that could just be a passion.

    /*And does the capacity for addiction have any evolutionary benefit?*/
    That’s tough, certainly humans have been using mind and behavior altering drugs throughout history, but is there a evolutionary benefit? Yo no se.

  38. Books, books and more books. I read on the average around 5 or more books a week on my kindle. My wife thinks I no longer love her since I let her take over the TV.

  39. I think addiction is a valid term for my need for coffee. Tea and soda do not cut it. It’s gotta be black and strong and without sugar. I have to have at least two cups by 3pm or I will be in agony. My caffeine headaches are worse than my migraines, to be honest. (And I get the temporary blindness mixed w/ nausea kind.)

    Not to mention that you just do not want to be around me if I’m jonesing for coffee. I’ve been thinking of leaving my stable job to open a coffee joint so I can have access to wholesale beans. That is batshit crazy right there, but that is also how I feel about coffee. Sounds like addiction to me.

    While I’m not really benefiting from my intense need for coffee, Coffea arabica certainly is.

  40. I think I have an anti-addictive personality. Even when I form habits that I really enjoy (say, morning coffee) I find that they’re ridiculously easy for me to give up. I might miss it for a day or two but then it doesn’t bother me any more.

    I do know where my lip balm is at all times but that’s because it’s winter, it’s very dry, and I hate the sensation of chapped lips with a passion.

  41. I have a money addiction, moistly a regular maintenance user but occasional I’m in white knuckle withdrawal mode. I hardly ever get really too high unless I’m getting my shit on credit or putting my house up as collateral.

  42. I am addicted to potatoes and library books. I don’t think they adversely affect my life (according to Michael Pollan, mashed potatoes are the perfect food! and books, well, books rule), but I definitely have no self-control when it comes to them.
    I think our addictions have an evolutionary advantage for everyone else, as we succumb to our addictions and ruin ourselves it gives everyone else a fighting chance. :)

  43. Roleplaying games (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons). I’m currently involved in 4+ different games that meet weekly.

    I just recently cut my caffeine fairly significantly. I suffered withdrawal, as suspected, and I’m doing much better now. We’ll see if if has any other effect on me, physically. The reason I drank so much was the hope that it would help me with my “Idiopathic Hypersomnolence”, but I think I might be immune to the primary effects of it.

    I drank a Monster Hitman, which is something like 4 pots of coffee in a 6-oz bottle. I didn’t feel a thing.

    I’d say I was addicted to porn, but it’s actually very low on my priority list. Something I only partake of when I have free time. I just have a lot of free time :)

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