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For example, let's say that I went to sleep one night at 5:00 am. Out of exhaustion, I would most likely sleep until the late afternoon. Since I woke up so late, I wouldn't be tired until very early in the morning, maybe 5:00 am again. This pattern would repeat over and be hard to break out of. My question is, what would we call this type of pattern? Another example would be smoking; you begin to smoke and it's very hard to stop. I'm not looking for "addiction", because that implies that I am physically and mentally dependent on the object.

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Did you think of habit? –  Robusto Oct 7 '12 at 1:23
    
@Robusto - I did, but what I'm describing isn't really a habit. What I'm describing involuntarily repeats, regardless of the wish of the person it affects, and it doesn't necessarily benefit said person. For example, in the above situation, I don't want to go to sleep really late, but I have to because I did it the previous night. –  qegal Oct 7 '12 at 1:32
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The apt term for this is vicious circle or vicious cycle. According to NOAD, the definition goes thus:

a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening of the situation.

In your own words: This pattern would repeat over [and over] and be hard to break out of. I cannot think of a better phrase than vicious cycle.

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Thanks! This is the term I was looking for. –  qegal Oct 7 '12 at 1:32
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Good ones are sometimes called virtuous cycles or virtuous circles. –  Merk Oct 7 '12 at 3:07
    
Hah @Merk!! I just stopped short of including that in my answer! Nice one! –  Jimi Oke Oct 7 '12 at 3:41
    
You are welcome, @qegal. –  Jimi Oke Oct 7 '12 at 21:28
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You might use self-sustaining or feedback loop.

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Your answer would be expected to cite the sources and some justification for these terms. –  Kris Oct 7 '12 at 6:07
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