Reading Withdrawal


This is a cropped image of a painting by Pierre Auguste Cot (1837-1883) titled “Ophelia/Pause for Thought

Reading withdrawal. Is that a thing? If you talk to my reading friends you will discover it is.

What are the signs of reading withdrawal?

  • Irritability and crabbiness
  • Tiredness from staying up late to compensate for lost reading time
  • Extra or long trips to the bathroom which may be the frustrated reader’s last sanctuary.
  • Some people get depressed. Reading for them is a break from depressing realities. Take that away and what’s left?
  • Some have less energy to socialize. Reading is one place where introverts recharge to meet the world. Extroverts, who are in the majority, just don’t get it.
  • Others feel torn between the people and obligations calling them away from their books and the books that are calling to them.

Sometimes the withdrawal is self-inflicted. We really want to read that new novel, and yet we wile away our reading hours on our smartphone, or binge watching that great new series. Put the phone in another room. Step away from the screen.

Then there are the times the people we care about want our attention during our “reading time.” Maybe it is because the day at work was exasperating and they work things out by talking. Or the kids at school were really mean. Or the one we love wants to go for a walk in the rain or a drive in the country. Just because. If our priorities are right and our love of reading is in the healthy range, we give a longing look at our book, a promise to be back, and thank who or whatever we worship that we have someone to love and who loves us.

At the same time, those who live with and love readers, will probably do well to not fight their urge to retreat into a book sometime during the day or evening. It’s likely that when they put down their book, they’ll be an easier person to live with. They sleep better and are not cranky. And the bathroom is more available.

“Withdrawal” can mean simply missing any healthy habit, from reading to working out. Mostly, it suggests the negotiation that goes on within every household of allowing each to pursue their distinctive interests, balanced with our shared affections and obligations. I’m not a trained counselor, but you might consider seeing one if your reading habit is resulting in a deteriorating relationship, or if it interferes with your work or other obligations, or results in neglecting good self-care.

Most of the time, the best thing is probably to realize that the readers we love need their time to read. If we are that reader, our challenge is to figure out how to get in reading time while showing those who love us we have time for them.


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