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Addiction is defined as "the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma." But sometimes a person will find something which they do not suffer any withdrawal from when the y stop doing it for a while, and they do not feel any great need to seek out on your own. Yet when they are actively engaged with it, they just do not want to stop and can find it very difficult to pull themselves away from.

As an example, "My son is addicted to MineCraft. Once he sits down at it he will play for hours, not even wanting to stop to eat or sleep even when all his friends have gone home. Yet unless one of his friends wants to play it with him to begin with he never touches it."

I feel like "addicted" is the wrong word, because while the "psychological enslavement" part is correct, it does not seem to form a habit or exhibit withdrawal symptoms. It's almost like a temporary addiction that goes away whenever the stimuli is removed. Is there a word for this?

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    I think you've answered your own question. I would say "habit" fills your need nicely. "Habitual (whatever)" If that fits better. "Compulsive Behavior" is a behavior that you don't necessarily receive a reward or pleasure from. That might fit the mine craft scenario better.
    – Misneac
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 5:33
  • @Misneac I don't see where I suggested "habit" but that word seems to have the same issue as "addiction" ... how can something be a habit if it's not something that you regularly do? I do like compulsion though...
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 5:36
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    I'd suggest "Facebook".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 13:45

5 Answers 5

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Consider, fixation or fixated

Fixate: To attend to something to the exclusion of all others

Taken literally it describes only the actions a person is performing, not their mental state whilst doing so. It is possible for a person to be fixated by choice, or to be mesmerized.

Unlike addicted it does not imply a serious mental or physical dependence on an activity or substance, but rather a temporary state of mind.

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Per a comment by @Misneac, I think that compulsion might work.

"A strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one's will."

That seems to describe quite well a difficulty stopping something without habit forming or withdrawal symptoms, as it almost seems to imply the difficult stopping is due to a conflict between feeling an impulse to act, and simultaneously that impulse being contrary to one's own will.

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    I was wrong. The word you're looking for is "enthralled". It has all the elements you're looking for, even an archaic association with slavery. I think it improves on compulsion because it implies that the game (or whatever) exerts a continuing influence over the person, instead of the momentary influence suggested by "compelled".
    – Misneac
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 5:43
  • Compulsive behavior is one of mental illnesses. It is definitely habit-forming and sometimes it is worse than addiction.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 5:47
  • @Rathony you're absolutely right. That's one of the reasons I looked for another word.
    – Misneac
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 5:48
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It's not easy to find a word to fit in your context because there is a fine line between addiction and "non-addiction" whose distinction is subjective.

You could consider "immersion" which means:

Deep mental involvement in something:

Despite his deep immersion in politics up until this moment, he felt relieved to be an ordinary twenty-year-old for once.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

complete involvement in some activity or interest

[Merriam-Webster]

Note: Immersion is not as much suitable for your game context as for politics or study.

"Mild addiction" could also be considered.

Not severe, serious, or harsh:

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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Consider, rapt and engrossed.

RAPT

: showing complete interest in something

: wholly absorbed : engrossed M-W

ENGROSS

: to occupy completely, as the mind or attention; absorb Random House

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I would like to suggest another possible word to describe this phenomena: binge.

Although the dictionary defines it as:

a period or bout, usually brief, of excessive indulgence, as in eating, drinking alcoholic beverages, etc.; spree.

it has become increasingly common since the rise of Netflix "season drops" being in 2013 to use variants of this term ("binge watching", "binge viewing", or just the shortened version "binge") as a general term for becoming engrossed in an activity that normally would take several sessions to perform and accomplishing it in much fewer sessions, often one.

An activity that you can't stop or put down but don't miss when it's gone can very easily fit this definition. You don't stop or put it down because you are trying to finish it in one setting. For something like the Minecraft example, it is an activity with no pre-defined endpoint, so you don't reach a sense of closure like you are done unless you planned ahead what you were going to accomplish, and even if you did, it's likely that its scope was large enough that you wouldn't normally finish it in a single session.

The addiction isn't there because it's holding your attention as a desire to complete something, but the importance of actually completing it is low and once the stimulation is gone it no longer vies for your attention if you have other things to do. Some of this may of course depend on personality but I have binge watched seasons of TV shows to catch up on them but haven't bothered to keep up to date on them after that because of inertia - it would be effort to look up what the last episode I watched was, which streaming service it was on, actually go to the site and find it, not to mention having the time. This can also strengthen the binge urge once you start, because now that you've overcome the hurdle to engage in whatever activity you are doing, you might as well do it for as long as possible while you have the change.

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