Addiction - the Biscuit Metaphor

What is addiction? Using biscuits as a metaphor to understand addictions.

Peter Watts

11/10/20234 min read

Biscuit selection a metaphor for addictions
Biscuit selection a metaphor for addictions

What is Addiction?

A simple way of considering addictions is as a pathological, habitual, escalating, obsessive and compulsive relationship with a behaviour or coping strategy, often used to change mood, that they can not stop.

A useful metaphor to use here may be a packet of biscuits. Biscuits are nice, I like them (possibly a little too much). Biscuits themselves are not the problem, it is my relationship with the biscuits that cause the problem. How and when am I eating them? How much do I think about eating them? Can I stop?

  • Pathological - the behaviour is pursued in spite of the harm and damage it is causing to yourself or those around you. These harms may include physical harm, emotional and mental health harm. The behaviour may be damaging your relationships, impacting your finances, job prospects, housing, freedom, criminal behaviour.

    In biscuit terms, I am eating them in spite of the harm they may be causing me in various ways.

  • Habitual - often those addicted find that their behaviour follows routines and rituals, it has become a 'habit' in the sense that the patterns around the behaviour have become predictable. This includes the triggers that may lead to the behaviours as well as the rituals engaged in afterwards to cover things up.

    I always have my biscuits at a specific time. It is not tea time without one

  • Escalating - Over time, those addicted can see that their behaviour is getting worse. They spend mor time planning it or doing it. Alongside the addiction the sense of life being out of control also escalates. As does the effort required to pretend to others that things are in control, to cover up.

    I must have just one more. I need to eat my biscuits more often. I need to try a new type.

  • Obsessive - Even when a person is not engaged in the behaviour, they can find themselves increasingly thinking about it. Eventually, it can feel like "real life" is getting in the way, preventing them from engaging with their behaviour.

    I just spend more time fantasising about different biscuits and when I can next have one. I resent work and others from stopping me having my biscuits.

  • Compulsive - At times the need to engage with the addiction can feel overwhelming and out of control. There can be a compulsivity around it, a screaming craving that will not be satisfied until the deed is done. Sometimes the gap between the initial desire to act out and doing so is short, at other times it can be longer, but there is a sense that eventually this craving will win.

    I have to have my biscuits (preferably NOW!) and find myself reaching for the cookie jar

  • Unable to Stop - One of the recognised hallmarks of addiction is that many efforts have been made to stop, give it up and change course. These have failed, often leading to increased guilt, shame and fatalism.

    Aaarrgh! I am at it again. Just one more...

    Mood Altering - Addiction is often used to copy with unpleasant feelings, situations or difficulties in relationships. They become a go-to coping strategy for coping with life. For some it takes away the pain, sadness, anger, loneliness and shame. For others it is a way of celebration.

    Life feels better now I have my biscuit.

Addiction Prevalence - You are not Alone

Using biscuits as a metaphor for addiction can be fun, but addictions are never fun. If this metaphor resonates with you then perhaps it is time to explore your particular biscuit more. You may feel like you are alone, the odd one out, but you are not. If you have 1,000 teenagers and adults from the UK then consider these numbers:

  • Alcohol - 12 may be struggling with alcohol dependence / addiction. 166 may be drinking to hazardous levels.

  • Sex and Pornography - 47 people are struggling with sex and pornography addiction. Most of these will be men.

  • Drugs - 31 may have drug dependencies. More of these will be men than women

  • Food and Eating - 84 women in this group of 1000 and 20 men will be experiencing problematic relationships with food and various eating disorders

  • Gambling - 40 people would be likely struggling with gambling addiction

  • Internet - recent studies would suggest that 32 people of this group have internet addiction issues

  • Exercise - it is suggested that about 8.1% of all those who exercise regularly may show signs of a dependence or addiction to their exercise regime

  • Work - somewhere between 80 and 100 of our pool of 1000 people show signs of issues around workaholism and work / life balance

It is not uncommon for people to be wrestling with more than one addiction at a time. The sources for this data are given in the references section below.

Getting Help

Playing around with biscuits as a metaphor for addiction can be fun. Wrestling with addiction is not. If you feel that this biscuit metaphor resonates with something you are concerned about then reach out and get help. Addiction processes can involve any part of life and behaviour. It may not be the behaviour itself that is the problem (sex is good and fun etc) but the relationship you have with it and the impact this is having on your life.

You may feel you are alone. You are not. You may feel ashamed of your addiction, fear being judged or ignored, dismissed or ostracised. Counselling can be a good place to begin to explore your relationship with your behaviour and also understand the reasons you are engaging with it in the first place. Self help groups for various addictions have developed over the years. You may find something that can help you within one of the over 50 different types of the 12-Step self help groups. Your issue may not yet be officially recognised by the medical profession, but you know if you have a broken leg and it hurts whether or not this is defined in a medical journal.

One more thing: Asking for help is often the hardest thing. But it is never too late to start.

References for Addiction Prevalence

Sex and Pornography:
Eating and Food: