The Most Difficult Habit to Break, Ranked

Choose the habit you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 17, 2024 06:24
Many people find themselves wrestling with habits that are tough to kick, affecting various aspects of their lives. Identifying which habits are the toughest to break can be both enlightening and useful. It can help individuals understand the common challenges faced by others and reflect on their own experiences. This interactive environment allows you to cast your vote on which habits you believe are the most challenging to overcome. By participating, you contribute to a community-driven ranking that not only sheds light on the struggles many people face but also fosters a sense of solidarity and understanding among users.

What Is the Most Difficult Habit to Break?

  1. 1
    Nicotine is highly addictive, and quitting smoking can cause intense withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to break the habit.
    Smoking is a habit characterized by the regular inhalation of smoke from burning tobacco or other substances. It is typically achieved by lighting a cigarette, cigar, or pipe and inhaling the smoke into the lungs. Smoking is considered one of the most difficult habits to break due to its addictive nature and harmful effects on health.
    • Addictive Nature: Nicotine, present in tobacco, is an addictive substance that causes dependency and makes quitting smoking challenging.
    • Health Risks: Smoking is associated with numerous health risks, including an increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and various types of cancer.
    • Physical and Psychological Dependence: Smoking creates both physical and psychological dependence, making it difficult to quit without experiencing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
    • Social and Environmental Impact: Smoking not only affects the health of the smoker but also poses risks to those exposed to secondhand smoke. It contributes to air pollution and is a major cause of preventable fires.
    • Tobacco Industry: The tobacco industry has played a significant role in the promotion and marketing of smoking products, targeting individuals, especially in the past, with misleading advertisements.
  2. 2
    Putting off tasks until the last minute can become a habit that is difficult to break. It becomes a cycle of stress and anxiety that can be hard to overcome.
    Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing tasks or actions despite knowing that it may have negative consequences. It involves intentionally putting off important tasks and instead engaging in more pleasurable or less demanding activities, often resulting in increased stress and reduced productivity.
    • Nature: Procrastination is a behavioral tendency characterized by the habit of delaying tasks or actions.
    • Psychological aspect: It often stems from a combination of factors such as poor time management skills, low self-confidence, fear of failure or success, perfectionism, and difficulty in prioritizing tasks.
    • Negative impact: Procrastination can lead to increased stress, missed deadlines, decreased productivity, poor academic or professional performance, and a cycle of guilt and anxiety.
    • Common triggers: Procrastination can be triggered by various factors, including boredom, lack of motivation, task aversion, task complexity, and lack of clear goals or deadlines.
    • Types: There are different types of procrastinators, ranging from chronic procrastinators who habitually delay most tasks to situational procrastinators who only delay specific types of tasks.
  3. 3
    This habit can be difficult to break because it often occurs without conscious thought. It can also be a sign of anxiety or stress.
    Nail-biting is a commonly observed habit that involves the act of biting one's nails. It typically involves using one's teeth to strip or tear off the nail or to bite the nail bed. This habit is often associated with anxiety, stress, or boredom. Nail-biting can have negative impacts on both physical and mental health, as well as affect personal appearance.
    • Prevalence: Approximately 20-30% of the population engages in nail-biting.
    • Onychophagia: Another term used to refer to nail-biting.
    • Impact on nails: Nail-biting can lead to short, irregular, or damaged nails, as well as infections.
    • Oral health: Biting nails can cause damage to the teeth, gums, and oral structures.
    • Social implications: Nail-biting may lead to embarrassment or avoidance of certain social situations.
  4. 4
    Consuming sugary foods and drinks triggers the release of dopamine, which can create a dependence on sugar. Breaking this habit can be difficult due to the addictive nature of sugar.
    Sugar addiction is a compulsive craving for sugary foods and drinks, typically accompanied by a lack of control over consumption. It is considered one of the most difficult habits to break due to its addictive nature and the widespread availability of sugary products in modern society.
    • Prevalence: Sugar addiction is common, affecting a significant portion of the population worldwide.
    • Biological impact: Consuming sugar triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, leading to addictive responses in the brain.
    • Symptoms: Cravings, increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms (irritability, headaches, fatigue), difficulty controlling intake.
    • Health effects: Excessive sugar consumption is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dental issues, and other health problems.
    • Environmental influence: Easy accessibility of sugary foods, marketing tactics, societal norms, and cultural factors contribute to the development and maintenance of sugar addiction.
  5. 5
    Streaming services have made it easier than ever to binge-watch TV shows and movies. Breaking this habit can be difficult due to the enjoyment and escapism that it provides.
    Binge-watching refers to the habit of watching multiple episodes or an entire season of a TV show or series in one sitting, often for hours at a time. This behavior has become increasingly prevalent with the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. It is characterized by a lack of control over one's viewing habits and can lead to spending excessive amounts of time in front of a screen.
    • Time consumption: Often involves watching for hours at a time, which can lead to neglecting other important activities.
    • Delayed gratification: Creates anticipation for the next episode or season, often resulting in staying up late or sacrificing sleep.
    • Escape and relaxation: Provides a means of escaping reality and temporarily forgetting about daily stresses.
    • Addictive nature: Can become addicting, leading to a strong desire to continue watching and difficulty stopping.
    • Loss of productivity: Can interfere with work, studies, or other responsibilities due to excessive time spent watching.
  6. 6
    Eating more than necessary can become a habit, especially if it is used as a coping mechanism for stress or boredom. Breaking this habit can be challenging due to the physical and psychological dependence on food.
    Overeating is a habit characterized by the consumption of excess food beyond the body's nutritional needs, often resulting in weight gain and various health issues. It involves regularly indulging in large portions of food, often driven by emotional factors rather than actual hunger.
    • Physical Health Impact: Overeating can lead to obesity, increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and various digestive disorders.
    • Emotional and Mental Health Impact: Overeating can be associated with feelings of guilt, shame, loss of control, depression, and anxiety.
    • Triggers and Causes: Overeating can be triggered by stress, boredom, emotional distress, poor body image, social pressure, or unhealthy relationships with food.
    • Environmental Factors: Easy access to high-calorie and highly processed foods, larger portion sizes, and marketing strategies promoting overconsumption contribute to the habit of overeating.
    • Psychological Factors: Psychological factors such as a lack of self-control, addiction-like patterns, and using food as a coping mechanism can contribute to the development and maintenance of overeating habits.
  7. 7
    Constantly criticizing oneself can become a habit that is difficult to break. It can lead to low self-esteem and a negative outlook on life.
    Negative self-talk refers to the habit of engaging in pessimistic, self-deprecating or critical thoughts about oneself. It involves the tendency to focus on one's flaws, shortcomings, or past failures, leading to a negative perception of oneself and a lack of self-confidence.
    • Impact on self-esteem: The consistent practice of negative self-talk can significantly lower self-esteem and self-worth.
    • Cognitive distortions: Negative self-talk often involves cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization, personalization, and magnification of negative aspects.
    • Emotional impact: It can lead to increased feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression.
    • Self-fulfilling prophecy: Negative self-talk can reinforce negative beliefs and have a self-fulfilling prophecy effect, affecting one's behavior and outcomes.
    • Difficulty in accepting compliments: Individuals engaging in negative self-talk often struggle to accept compliments or positive feedback.
  8. 8
    Turning to food for comfort can become a habit that is hard to break. It can be difficult to find alternative ways to cope with stress and negative emotions.
    Comfort eating is a habit characterized by consuming food, usually high in carbohydrates and fats, as a psychological response to stress, boredom, sadness, or any negative emotions. It is a coping mechanism that provides temporary comfort and distraction from negative feelings.
    • Type: Habit
    • Purpose: Psychological comfort and distraction
    • Causes: Emotional distress, boredom, stress, sadness
    • Food Characteristics: Often high in carbohydrates and fats
    • Triggers: Negative emotions, social situations, environmental cues
  9. 9
    Similar to nail-biting, this habit can be difficult to break because it often occurs without conscious thought. It can also be a sign of anxiety or stress.
    Nail picking is the compulsive habit of using one's fingers or teeth to pick at, bite, or peel off the nails, cuticles, or surrounding skin. It is often done unconsciously, as a self-soothing or stress-relieving behavior, but can also be a result of boredom, anxiety, or perfectionism.
    • Prevalence: Nail picking is a common behavior, affecting people of all ages and genders.
    • Onychophagia: Onychophagia is the medical term for nail biting or nail picking.
    • Effects: Nail picking can lead to various consequences such as damaged nails, cuticles, and surrounding skin. It may also result in infections, pain, bleeding, and social embarrassment.
    • Related Conditions: Nail picking can be associated with conditions like anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs).
    • Triggers: Common triggers for nail picking include stress, boredom, anxiety, frustration, or the presence of irregular or rough nail surfaces.
  10. 10
    Constantly checking one's phone can become a habit that is hard to break. The constant notifications and social media updates can create a dependence on technology.
    Phone addiction refers to a compulsive and excessive use of smartphones, resulting in detrimental effects on individuals' daily routines, social interactions, and overall well-being. It involves a constant urge to check notifications, engage in social media browsing, and use various mobile applications.
    • Prevalence: Phone addiction is a widespread issue affecting millions of people worldwide.
    • Withdrawal Symptoms: People addicted to their phones may experience restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and difficulty focusing when attempting to cut back or limit phone usage.
    • Time Consumption: Individuals with phone addiction may spend several hours each day on their phones, often at the expense of other important activities such as work, study, or socializing.
    • Impaired Relationships: Excessive phone usage can strain personal relationships, leading to decreased intimacy, communication problems, and neglecting real-life interactions.
    • Sleep Disruption: Frequent use of phones, especially before sleep, can disrupt sleep patterns and quality, resulting in insomnia and daytime fatigue.

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Ranking factors for difficult habit

  1. Level of addiction
    The degree to which an individual is addicted to a substance or behavior is a crucial factor. Higher addiction levels generally make habits harder to break.
  2. Emotional attachment
    If a habit is linked to strong emotional needs or provides psychological comfort, it may be more challenging to break.
  3. Duration
    The longer a person has maintained a habit, the harder it might be to break. Over time, habits become deeply ingrained in a person's daily routine and identity.
  4. Frequency
    Habits that occur more frequently, such as daily smoking or nail-biting, may be more challenging to break than habits that happen less often.
  5. Social influence
    The level of support from friends, family, and social circles plays a significant role in habit change. If a person's social environment encourages or reinforces a habit, breaking it might be more challenging.
  6. Personal motivation
    An individual's determination and commitment to change can significantly impact how difficult it is to break a habit.
  7. Availability and accessibility
    Habits that are easy to engage in due to accessibility, such as eating junk food or watching TV, can be more challenging to break compared to habits with limited access.
  8. Alternative options
    If a person has alternative behaviors or coping mechanisms to replace the habit, it might be easier to break the habit. For example, someone trying to quit smoking might switch to nicotine gum or patches.
  9. Habit triggers
    Identifying the triggers that prompt a habit can make it easier or more difficult to break it. If a person can avoid or control these triggers, breaking the habit might be easier.
  10. Physical dependence
    Some habits involve physical dependence on a substance, such as nicotine or caffeine. Breaking habits with physical dependence may be more challenging due to withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  11. Psychological factors
    Individual personality traits, mental health, and susceptibility to stress can influence how difficult it is to break a habit.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult habit to break. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or habit is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 161 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each habit once every 24 hours. The rank of each habit is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most difficult habit to break

Breaking a habit can be a challenging task, especially if we have been practicing it for a long time. Habits are behaviors that our brain has learned to do automatically, without us even realizing it. This is why breaking a habit can be so difficult: we are essentially retraining our brain to do something different. Research has shown that some habits can be harder to break than others. For example, habits related to smoking, overeating, and procrastination can be particularly difficult to change. These habits are often deeply ingrained and can be triggered by certain situations or emotions. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help us break even the most challenging habits. These include identifying triggers, setting achievable goals, and seeking support from others. With determination and persistence, it is possible to overcome even the most stubborn habits and create new, healthier behaviors.

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