A compulsion is different from an addiction. The former is an overwhelming desire (or sense of physical need) to do something, while an addiction is a physical or chemical dependence on a substance or behavior. People with advanced addictions will continue their addictive behavior, even when they understand that doing so is harmful to themselves and others. Alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking, and gambling are perhaps the most common examples of addictions. Two key differences between compulsion and addiction are pleasure and awareness. Pleasure: Compulsive behaviors, such as those involved in obsessive-compulsive disorder, rarely result in feelings of pleasure, whereas addictions typically do. For example, people who compulsively wash their hands get no pleasure from doing so. By contrast, people with addictions “want” to use the substance or engage in the behavior because they expect to enjoy it. This desire for pleasure or relief becomes part of the self-perpetuating cycle of addiction as the person suffers the discomfort of withdrawal that comes when they are unable to use the substance or engage in the behavior. Habits typically develop over time through a natural process called “habituation,” during which repetitive actions that must be consciously initiated eventually become subconscious and are carried out habitually without specific thought. For example, while as children, we may need to be reminded to brush our teeth, we eventually grow to do it as a matter of habit. Good habits, like tooth-brushing, are behaviors that are consciously and intentionally added to our routines in order to maintain or improve our health or general wellbeing. Awareness: People with obsessive-compulsive disorders are typically aware of their behaviors and are bothered by the knowledge that they have no logical reason for doing them. On the other hand, people with addictions are often unaware of or unconcerned about the negative consequences of their actions. Typical of the denial stage of addictions, the individuals refuse to admit that their behavior is harmful. Instead, they are “just having fun” or trying to “fit in.” Often, it takes a devastating consequence like a drunk-driving conviction, a divorce, or getting fired for persons with addictions to become aware of the realities of their actions. Unlike compulsions and addictions, which are acted out consciously and uncontrollably, habits are actions that are repeated regularly and automatically. For example, although we may be aware that we are brushing our teeth, we almost never wonder why we are doing it or ask ourselves, “Should I be brushing my teeth or not?” While there are good habits and bad, unhealthy habits, any habit can become a compulsion or even an addiction. In other words, you really can have “too much of a good thing.” For example, the good habit of exercising regularly can become an unhealthy compulsion or addiction when done to excess. Common habits often develop into addictions when they result in a chemical dependency, as in the cases of alcoholism and smoking. The habit of having a glass of beer with dinner, for example, becomes an addiction when the desire to drink turns into a physical or emotional need to drink. Of course, the key difference between a compulsive behavior and a habit is the ability to choose to do them or not. While we can choose to add good, healthy habits to our routines, we can also choose to break old harmful habits.