As I'm sure you all must have guessed, I am a yarn addict. I started out with inexpensive, gateway yarns and gradually moved up to the hard stuff - silk & cashmere. I have roughly a three skein a week habit, only because I am so busy. Otherwise it might be as much as a 3 skein a day habit. "Idle hands do Zimmerman's work."
There is no 12-step program for yarn addicts. There is no rehab for fiberholics. Interventions do not work, and besides, what sane family member would try to take yarn away from an addict with sharp pointy sticks in her hands?
Should the unthinkable happen and a yarn addict be unable to get a fiber fix, withdrawal symptoms are imminent, and NOT pretty. Withdrawal symptoms include muttering, searching every little space in the house in the hope of finding yarn, short temper, and brief, irrational spending splurges. These are also the symptoms of patternitis (def.: frustration with a pattern the knitter is determined to make, regardless of how screwed up it seems). The only way to distinguish withdrawal from patternitis is the presence of yarn in the latter.
Another syndrome common to yarn addicts is WIP syndrome. This syndrome manifests itself in the form of multiple projects underway at the same time, but none ever getting finished. This is the most common sign of yarn addiction.
Unfortunately, yarn addicts are prone to denial, as well. The types of denial may vary somewhat, from denying that there are too many WIPs at any given time, to denying that there isn't enough time to finish 6 projects by Christmas (this usually occurs on Christmas Eve). And of course, there is the pernicious denial that the yarn addict is actually addicted. Excuses often include "I don't have nearly as much stash as [blank]"; "it was all on sale"; "I could take up drinking instead"; "I feel morally obligated to support cottage industries like alpaca farms"; and "What yarn? I don't have any yarn."
How does one tell a yarn addict from a newbie knitter? When asked a foolish knitting-related question by a non-knitter, the newbie will get defensive. In the same setting, the addict will smile and nod, realizing the truth behind the old adage "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand".
Like some other types of addictions, yarn addicts tend to gather together regularly. Usually they gather in packs in a comfortable location, sometimes known as a knitting den. Regardless of whether the den is in a home or public space, the floor around the yarn addicts is quickly littered with with the detritus of the craft: ball bands, extra skeins, WIPs, and project bags. Non-knitters rash enough to approach a knitting den without making appreciative sounds and expressing understanding words are seldom seen again.
Yarn addicts even have their own yearly calendar, with their own holidays. Some they have in common with the general population, such as Christmas. Others are unique to yarn addicts, the highest holy days of all being a three-day festival known as Stitches. The specific Gregorian calendar dates of this event vary from region to region and year to year, but it is the most sacred of events in any yarn addict's year. A pilgrimage is made to a central location in each region. Conflicts are suspended, vacation days are taken, and budgets are sacrificed. The central location for each Stitches event is loaded with hundreds of altars. The yarn addict's equivalent of mass, known as a "fashion show" is held at least once during the festival. There is much rejoicing.
All in all, yarn addicts are a relatively harmless strata of society. Unless a non-knitter is foolish enough to actually handle a WIP or scoff at the yarn addict's choice of substance. Then all bets are off, the yarn addict reacts aggressively, and it may be days before she can be safely approached again.