This Is Why It Feels Like You're Addicted To Chaos

March 25th, 2024

Think about the chaos in specific areas of your life: work, family, romantic relationships, etc. Do you struggle with chaos like an addiction?

addicted to chaos

Chaos addiction is not a classified type of addiction in the DSM, and it is not formally used as a diagnosis. However, many mental health clinicians have documented considerable anecdotal evidence that their clients are stuck in patterns of chaos that mimic addiction. These individuals often struggle to slow down, they’re uncomfortable with calm and peace, and they feel drawn to destructive or toxic relationships. If you can relate to this, you may feel addicted to chaos because you cannot stop bringing more chaos into your life, and you allow it to take over despite the consequences.

Characteristics Of Addiction

People who are addicted to chaos may experience some of the same symptoms of a substance addiction.

  • unable to stop consuming a substance or end a specific behavior
  • a lack of control concerning the substance, thing, or behavior they are addicted to
  • experience increased desires for a particular substance, thing, or behavior
  • deny that their addictive behavior may be causing negative consequences
  • lack of healthy emotional responses

Does this sound like your relationship with chaos?

Think about the chaos in specific areas of your life: work, family, romantic relationships, etc. Do you struggle with chaos like an addiction?

If your answer is “yes,” it feels like you are addicted to chaos because you cannot escape this cycle. You are repeating exactly what you know and what you feel comfortable with. You don’t have to continue living like this; peace is possible.

If You Grew Up In A Chaotic Family Or Environment, You Might Notice You Are Trapped In Some Of These Loops As An Adult

  • You prefer the “exciting” beginning of new relationships most
  • You pick fights when things are too “calm”
  • You feel like something terrible might happen when things are too good or too calm
  • Stable relationships feel boring or stale
  • You are constantly making changes in your life, like your job, where you live, and your appearance
  • Conflict feels like passion
  • You have trouble sitting still or enjoying the moment
  • Being in silence or alone with yourself is very uncomfortable
  • You thrive in chaotic, busy situations and struggle with calm
  • You have a history of short, dramatic relationships
  • You are drawn to people who need fixing or constantly need help
  • The close relationships in your life lack boundaries or independence

As you read this list, notice how you feel and what resonates with you.

  • Is there anything you continue to do on this list despite it negatively affecting you?
  • Is there anything on this list you really would like to stop doing?
  • Is there anything on this list you recognize from your childhood or in the people closest to you?

Chaos Has Become The Norm

Dr. Keith Lee wrote a book in 2007: Addicted to Chaos: The Journey From Extreme to Serene. He writes, “In a culture where the ‘extreme theme’ has become the norm, people are increasingly seduced into believing that intensity equals being alive. When that happens, the mind becomes wired for drama, and the soul is starved of meaningful purpose. This type of life may produce heart-pounding excitement, but the absence of this addictive energy.”

Chaos has become the norm in many ways. We are supposed to be doing more all the time, or we will undoubtedly be left behind. Many people believe that chaos is their only option; they cannot rest or get off the hamster wheel. And for many of you, this is the truth. You cannot stop working. You cannot slow down. You cannot stop being a parent. Chaos truly feels like the only way to survive. It feels like the world is designed to keep you moving at a frenetic pace, fearful of the consequences of slowing down.

I really do empathize with those of you who feel this way because I feel this way, too. I know that feeling well. It’s a fear that eats away at you and keeps you moving because if you stop, something bad is going to happen. Growing up in chaos or an inconsistent environment may make you anxious when things are good. It makes you live on high alert, looking for changes. You struggle to relax when things are calm because they could change at any minute. If you’re used to inconsistency and chaos, you may thrive and struggle in calm. Inconsistency is what you know. It feels better to live on the edge. Calm feels threatening.

I Don’t Want To Be Addicted To Chaos

You don’t want to live like this anymore, and you’re trying to find a middle ground. You want to maintain your life and enjoy it at the same time. So how do you do this in a world that is consistently demanding more of you and making it harder and harder for you to survive, let alone relax?

There Is Good Stress And Bad Stress

Not all stress is bad. When we have just the right amount of stress – not too much, not too little – we can thrive. We need some stress to be motivated and challenged. Life would be dull, and we would never grow without some challenge.

  • Eustress is considered “good” stress; it allows us to strive to do our best. Examples are the birth of a child or a job promotion.
  • Distress is “bad” stress, and it implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain. Examples of distress include the loss of a job or a car accident.

Take a moment to think about the stress in your life. What stress challenges you in a good way? What stress seems to bring you down and hurt you?

Ways To Infuse More Peace Into Your Life

I am going to give you a list of things you can do to infuse more peace in your life. And these are probably all things a therapist, friend, or social media post has told you to try before.

This is the reality: you cannot do any of these things until you establish safety in your body and your environment. If you are living in a chaotic home with constant yelling, violence, and chaos, it’s going to be difficult to relax. This isn’t just a “you” problem; it’s a systemic problem that we all need to work together to improve.

We talk about sleep hacks, supplements, weighted blankets, and journaling. But what about the people who live in neighborhoods where sirens ring through night? Or the young adult whose parents argue until 5 AM? Or the shift worker who is living paycheck to paycheck and can’t keep a consistent schedule?

If you’re going to work on your addiction to chaos, you have to look at your life and what you actually have access to. All the hacks and peace meditations in the world won’t make up for an unsafe and chaotic environment.

We Need To Be Asking:

  • What about my environment makes it hard to relax or feel at peace?
  • How does my home life impact my relationship with chaos?
  • How does my work impact my relationship with chaos?
  • Do I feel safe relaxing in my environment?

If you feel like you are addicted to chaos, this is likely a longstanding pattern that has been established in your childhood, home life, work, and where you live. You can augment many of these patterns by taking care of yourself, and it’s essential that you look at how your environment impacts the level of chaos in your life.

Here’s That List:

  • Listen to music
  • Read a relaxing book
  • Go outside
  • Take a walk
  • Stretch
  • Move your body
  • Take a shower or bath
  • Listen to a guided meditation or breathing exercise
  • Do some light stretching
  • Limit screen time and lights
  • Commit to a routine you can do regularly, like washing your face, brushing your teeth, and putting on pajamas before bed
  • Write down your thoughts - this is especially helpful if you're anxious or need to do something tomorrow
  • Set boundaries with people, places, and things in your life that are causing too much distress
  • Improve your self-talk and make it more realistic and empowering
  • Listen to a podcast or book

More Resources: Chaos Addiction