How to Cope with Reading Addiction
If you love to read, do you know when reading becomes more than just a pastime or hobby? Has your reading crossed the line into addiction? Here are steps to assess this and also to help you cope with your reading addiction.
Answer these questions to see if you are addicted to reading.
- Have you tried unsuccessfully to cut back on your reading?
- Are you preoccupied with thoughts of the book when you are away from it?
- Does reading help you escape from your problems?
These are similar to questions used in surveys by the American Psychological Association to determine internet addiction and gambling addiction.
Actually, being a book addict isn’t the worst thing in the world. I, personally, would like to see more “book addicts”. Wouldn’t you rather have addictive personalities turned onto reading rather than to drugs? Just imagine, if teenagers after school couldn’t wait to get a book instead of seeking out their local drug dealer.
If they were reading addicts, few people would try to change their behavior or ask them to get therapy. Reading, even in large amounts, is generally viewed as a positive activity. Everyone would admire such a wide background gained through reading.
At what point does an addiction become a problem? When an addiction disrupts a relationship or leads people to commit illegal acts or to spend too much money, then it definitely is a social problem. Some people try to hide their addictions. They realize their behavior, whether it is excessive drinking or drug use, is not socially acceptable. Addictions are a problem if they affect your health or keep you from performing your job.
Here’s a self-test to take: Make a list of problems associated with your reading. Do you still recognize your family members when you pull yourself out of a book? Have you gone into debt buying books? Does it make you anxious when you don’t have an unread book on hand? Do you sneak out of work to visit a bookstore or library, just so you can be surrounded by books? How many book groups do you belong to? Do you resist switching to an e-reader because you crave the smell of paper as you read?
I probably would be classified as a binge reader. Sometimes I go weeks without reading, while at other times I devour several books in a row. I might read late into the night, not able to put the book down until the very end. I know I’ll be sorry in the morning when it is hard to get out of bed. A novel is sometimes so compelling that I just can’t tear myself away. Reading a really good book creates the desire to read more.
How would you classify your reading? Can you stop if you want to? Is it just social reading so you can discuss the book with friends and the book club? Is it compulsive reading that you can’t stop doing? Do you escape into a book then have a hard time coming back to the real world? Is it hard for you to go to sleep at night if you don’t read for a while first?
I hope therapists never label it as a psychological disorder. Libraries would become those dens of iniquity where the reading addicts get their fix. Librarians would face prison terms for providing books to addicts. Books would carry labels warning “CAUTION: this book could lead to addictive reading”.
Maybe a ten-step program could be developed. People would attend the weekly meetings, stand up and say, “My name is ___, and I am a compulsive reader.” When they felt the urge to read, they could call another member who would help talk them out of it.
Until that time, enjoy reading as much as you want.
Tips & Warnings
- Try setting a timer when you start to read. Force yourself to put the book down and spend an equal amount of time with the family.
- Consider dropping subscriptions to book-of-the-month clubs. Get library cards instead at all the libraries within a 50-mile radius.
- Addiction to books and reading can start at a very early age. Be alert for signs of it in your toddler and young children.
- Write book reviews for Amazon or other sites. It serves as a way to keep track of your reading. Also when you reach Top 100 Reviewer status, authors will send you free books to read and review. Family and friends may accept your excessive reading as it has a purpose (beyond entertaining yourself).
(Written by Virginia Allain, former library director)