There are some things in life we feel we just can’t do without. But sometimes, such cravings can prove harmful to our emotional and physical well-being

‘Live life to the fullest’ may be your motto, but ensure you don’t throw caution to the winds and overdo everything you love. Dependence of any kind can become an addiction; it’s difficult to shake off. It becomes familiar and comforting, a ballast to cling to when the seas get rough. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with self-destructiveness. Here are a few addictions and how they can be overcome.

SUGAR LOVE: “Those days, there were not many breakfast options, except for a bowl of crunch cereal or a glass of instant breakfast. Like any teen I’d devour chocolate or energy bars as power snacks and superstitiously ate before every event as I felt it brought me luck,” says Shristi Desai, a management graduate. She craves sweets such as cookies and ice-cream so much that she’ll go out at midnight to get her scoop of sugar.

If you find it difficult to keep your hands away from chocolates, mithais or even beverages, chances are you might be addicted to sweets. Bingeing on sugar triggers a neuro chemical response in the brain similar to that caused by cocaine or heroin. If you are unable to do with less than 4-5 tsp of sugar a day, you know you are hooked.

BITTER TRUTH: “Excessive sugar intake can lead to diabetes and increased insulin levels; control blood sugar by consuming bittergourd and neem regularly,” says Shobhana Singh, a Mumbai-based dietician and nutritionist. Eating that occasional cookie or pastry is fine, but reduce the sugar in those cups of coffee or tea that you consume every day. Avoid refined sugar as much as you can; opt instead for jaggery or honey in your food.

TEMPER TANTRUMS: Nikhil, a school student, wanted to go out for a weekend with his friends but his parents refused saying he needed to wait till he was older; so he indignantly skipped dinner. Temper tantrums are unpleasant and disruptive behaviour. It is an emotional outburst that often occurs in response to an unmet demand. “Tantrums are most likely to occur in children during the first four years of childhood but beyond that they are emotional outbursts, aggressive behaviour, and an expression of frustration,” says Dr. Dheep, a Madurai-based child psychiatrist. Not only is such behaviour immature, it also reflects a need for immediate anger management.

MANAGING AN OUTBURST: When your child throws a tantrum, it is important that you stay calm. Shouting or hitting a child will only make the situation worse. A quiet and calm response, without giving in or breaking the rule you have just set, will reduce stress and make both of you feel better,” suggests Dr. Dheep. Accomodative parenting will raise unhealthy adults with poor emotional control.

The age-old mantra of counting from 10-1 still works! When you feel the pressure building up, breathe in. Breathe out while you count till one and it will calm you. Make meditation and breathing exercises part of your daily routine. Physical activity such as sports or a brisk walk helps you vent your anger. Avoid making a hasty decision, lest you regret it later.

SCREEN ADDICTION: The modern era has paved the way for the invention of high tech gadgets. While they make life simple, you could consider yourself a gadget fanatic when missing a gadget means the end of your world.

MANAGE IT: A cell phone is something you cannot do without, but did you know that constant messaging could lead to trigger thumb (uncontrolled twitching of the thumb)? Regular thumb rotation and finger flexing exercises can help prevent this. Always ensure your data has a backup so you don’t get stressed when there is a breakdown. “Wean yourself away from gadgets. Put away your iPhone or iPod when you eat or are going to sleep and learn how to enjoy the time spent away from gadgets. Limit the hours spent using gadgets and be disciplined about how to use them,” says Dr. Dheep.

EXERCISE FANATIC: You love using the treadmill but do you love it so much that you end up running for hours together and getting exhausted? And yet, you’re all set to jog or swim just a few hours later. There are people who feel extremely guilty and anxious when they skip a work-out; others become irritable and in worst cases people may even skip important social commitments so they can complete their work-out. Exercise addiction is very much like other addictions and needs to be treated. “One can get addicted depending on one’s attitude towards regular gym sessions,” says Simran Hotchandani, a Mumbai-based fitness professional. While being health conscious is great, too much of a good thing can have an adverse effect.

BATTLE IT: “Exercise addiction is a serious problem. Addicts can gravely injure themselves when they exercise too hard, for too long, and not resting sufficiently to allow their muscles to recover,” says Simran. Try taking time off as it allows the body to rest. An hour of exercise coupled with nutritious food will help you stay fit without damaging your body. Build a positive image about yourself and your body and you’ll reduce the chance of going overboard.

DANGEROUS ATTRACTION: Social drinking has become part of our daily lives. An occasional drink may not cause much harm, but finding solace in alcohol can lead to a level of addiction that can be fatal. Breast cancer, cognitive disorders, high cholesterol levels and liver malfunction are some of the adverse effects of alcohol addiction. Worse are the withdrawal systems — shaky hands, aggression and energy loss.

QUIT NOW: “Being able to quit alcohol is more about will power than anything else. While therapy helps regain lost health, the first step is acceptance of the weakness for alcohol followed by a determination to break the habit. Gradually reducing the intake is best,” says Neelanjana Mathur, a Mumbai-based counsellor and hypnotherapist. The problem can be nipped in the bud by being aware of the quantity consumed and the frequency at which it is consumed.

DON’T CALL IT LOVE: Generally, a sex addict gains little satisfaction from sexual activity and forms no emotional bond with his or her partners. They feel lack of control over their behaviour despite the negative consequences. Their capacity to love is dramatically reduced as they are driven by lust which is anti-social behaviour. While the sex drive is normal and healthy, an overdrive leads to one night stands with random partners or sex buddies, cheating on one’s spouse or even developing alternative sexuality. And that’s when you know there is a streak in you that needs to be controlled.

SOBER DOWN: “Distract your mind from sexual thoughts. Keep sexually explicit material out of sight — be it photographs, films or videos. Developing sobriety and engaging in social work or a serious hobby helps divert the mind,” says Nilanjana. Meditate to keep calm and stay away from alcohol. Try a detox diet to stimulate those feel-good hormones and spend quality time with your partner. Go out for a walk or pursue healthy outdoor activities. You don’t have to kill desire; but don’t let it become an obsession.