By Dane O’Leary
Life has become more fast-paced than every before.
We’re constantly looking for ways to squeeze just a bit more time out of the day, whether it means juggling far too many simultaneous tasks at work, inserting lots of superfluous adjectives to achieve the required length for a college term paper, or driving way too fast on those morning and evening commutes. This compulsion to do things faster and make things easier actually puts us under more stress, making us feel an even greater need to condense our schedules by utilizing any shortcuts available to us.
Whether it’s to save time or energy, living our lives in fast-forward mode has had a momentous effect on our psychology, resulting in what we might call a “quick-fix mentality.” While there have been parallels drawn between this cognitive phenomenon and things like the increase in our average minimum stress levels,1 some have pointed out that this mindset could be contributing to addiction rates that are higher than ever and remain on the rise.
What Is the Quick-Fix Mentality?
The concept of the quick fix has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years as a relevant topic of applied psychology as well as industrial-organizational psychology. When we refer to a quick fix, the implication is that it refers to a solution that’s not chosen due to it being the best or most effective option, but, rather, because it offers the quickest — and possibly only a temporary — remedy.
Over the years, the human race has shown a growing affinity for quick fixes, preferring them over more involved solutions and utilizing them at every opportunity. Part of this is due to our lives being much more fast-paced than they used to be, so we tend to look for ways to cut corners and save us time. However, the quickest fix also tends to be the most convenient solution, which raises a host of other connotations, including apathy and laziness. While it’s natural for a person to seek a quick fix every now and then, many of us are utilizing quick fixes before ever really considering alternatives. This kind of mindset is being referred to as quick-fix syndrome.2
Substance Abuse: The Ultimate Quick Fix
When a person experiences a problem, the natural response is to try to fix that problem. In many cases, a problem will really only have one or possibly two solutions, which is the case when your pen runs out of ink. You can either refill the pen’s ink supply or discard the pen for a new one. Obviously, people are much more complicated, so it follows that the problems we experience would likewise be more complicated. Yet we’re inclined to look for ways to solve our problems as quickly and easily as possible. Especially when the problem is psychological in some way — i.e., feelings of stress or anxiety — the use of alcohol or drugs can seem like the most convenient solution or the quickest fix.
After having a difficult day at work, it’s common for an individual to go home and pour himself or herself a cocktail, which helps him or her to relax due to the mind-altering properties of alcohol. Considering how our society has become increasingly dependent on quick fixes, it follows that the use of alcohol in this way could lead to a person consuming alcohol as a response to any level of stress. Moreover, he or she may eventually realize that multiple cocktails can be consumed to reach a greater level of relaxation. If we track this trajectory, we can easily see how the use of alcohol (or any other mind-altering substance) as a quick fix can easily lead to a substance abuse problem.3
Is Technology to Blame?
We can do some truly amazing things with the technologies we have today. Our smartphones keep us constantly connected to all our family members and friends, provide any information we may need and even document our lives by the capturing of photos and videos. We can make purchases on our mobile phones and have virtually anything imaginable delivered to our doorsteps in a day or two. With the press of a couple buttons, we can indulge any whim we may have. So can we blame quick-fix syndrome on technology?
It’s unlikely that technology is responsible for the high addiction rate, but it could certainly have contributed — or, more accurately, exacerbated — our quick-fix syndrome.4 Whereas patience was often rewarded through delayed gratification, modern technology has significantly reduced the delay between us and gratification, making us more impatient and, therefore, increasing the likelihood that we would choose a quick fix over a more permanent yet time-consuming solution to a problem.
Even quick-fix syndrome can’t be blamed as the sole cause of widespread addiction or the opioid epidemic. Reliance on quick fixes to problems doesn’t guarantee that a person develops addiction at some point, but quick-fix syndrome could possibly make the transition through substance abuse and into active addiction faster. When it comes down to it, the quick-fix mentality that’s so commonplace today would seem to amplify existing risk for addiction. Fortunately, this type of mindset can be overcome with effort and conviction. If facing a problem, it’s important to choose a solution based on whether it’s effective and appropriate rather than what’s quick or convenient.
1 “Problem Solving.” Stress Tips.
2 Wagner, Lilya. “Avoiding The ‘Quick-Fix’ Syndrome In Development.” On Philanthropy.
3 Lipsitz, Thomas. “Psychology: Are addictions the ‘quick fix’ for problems?” EnCognitive.
4 “Addiction in the Digital Age.” Dual-Diagnosis.