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You can be addicted to exercise or healthy food or helping others in the sense that you feel good when you do it and bad when you don't. You can even have the dopamine responses that are conventionally associated with addiction. What word would you use to describe a person that is addicted to a beneficial activity without the connotation that there is something wrong with the person?

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  • Why not just refer to these as 'healthy habits.' If someone is actually addicted to exercise, i.e. experiences withdrawal symptoms when not allowed to exercise, that person is not well. If they have a habit of exercising and feel better when they do, that's not necessarily an addiction.
    – Ryan Gell
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:26
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    An addiction is an adaptation that is physically necessary but socially condemned (it may be physically damaging as well). Adaptation is the general term; humans are adapted to breathe oxygen in gaseous form, so we would be addicted to it if oxygen were socially condemned for any reason. Religions that banned it wouldn't last long, though. Mar 13, 2015 at 19:35
  • Perhaps dedication.
    – ermanen
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:37
  • Do you mean like eating?
    – Mitch
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:57

5 Answers 5

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Probably less negative than addiction.

What about- fanatic

  • A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm.

or an enthusiast.

  • a baseball enthusiast. (TFD)
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You can say that they're very passionate about exercising, helping others, etc.

Passionate:

having, showing, or expressing strong emotions or beliefs

Merriam-Webster

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We all have ‘addictions’ to water, oxygen, and a host of other stuff. No comparable dopamine responses, of course, but we get some pretty severe withdrawal symptoms if we don't get the amounts we need.

It's hard to come up with a non-negative correspondent to addiction, since the crux of that entire concept is its negative aspect.

Less negative and more neutral (though still tending towards the negative side of the spectrum) would be words like dependence (also dependency):

The state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else

It is also defined as a synonym of addiction, but to me at least, it sounds a bit less negative, since you can depend on something without actually having all the symptoms of an addiction.

Another option, slightly vaguer, would be reliance:

Dependence on or trust in someone or something

I'm not sure if it really makes much sense to say that someone relies on exercise or on helping others as a general statement, though: you'd more expect to hear it in a more specific context like the following:

Her diet is surprisingly bad—she relies (or is reliant) on exercise alone to keep her figure.

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Devotion may suggest a strong positive attachment:

  • earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc;

    • "their devotion to each other was beautiful"
  • commitment to some purpose;

    • "the devotion of his time and wealth to science"

(TFD)

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Altruism - the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

Another choice:

benevolence - disposition to do good

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    These terms lack the connotation of being addicted. Some people are behaviourally predisposed to altruism and benevolence, but for most of them this tendency is not a compulsion.
    – Erik Kowal
    Mar 13, 2015 at 21:23

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