What Are Addictive Behaviors?A person can develop addiction or obsession with just about anything, including sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, pornography, the Internet, etc. Some researchers propose that there are commonalities between a chemical addiction to substances like alcohol and heroin and a psychological compulsion to engage in activities such as work, running, or bodybuilding. Like drugs and alcohol, experts believe that these activities may increase endorphins in the brain, which makes the person experience pleasure. Experts posit that if a person continues engaging in an activity to achieve this feeling of euphoria, he/she may fall into an addictive cycle. In so doing, the person becomes physically addicted to the release of his or her own brain chemicals, compelling them to continue the behavior despite the adverse health or social consequences it produces. Most chemical addictions to substances such as alcohol, heroin, or benzodiazepines also have a psychological component – indeed, many believe that these aspects of addiction are really just two sides of the same coin. For example, an alcoholic who has not consumed alcohol for years may still crave a drink from time to time. Therefore, some researchers believe that we need to consider both psychological and physiological dependencies as an addictive process and as addictive behaviors. They imply that all of these behaviors have a myriad of similarities that make them more alike than different from each other, and perhaps they should not be considered to be separate diseases or problems.
Common FeaturesThere are many common features among the wide variety of addictive behaviors:
- The individual becomes obsessed with an activity, substance, or object, and they will seek it out despite the harm it is causing to their life, such as poor performance at work or strain on meaningful relationships.
- The individual will compulsively engage in the activity even if he or she doesn’t want to and finds it difficult to stop.
- Upon discontinuation of the activity, withdrawal symptoms occur. These can include feelings of irritability, cravings, restlessness, anxiety or depression.
- The person does not have control as to when, for how long, or how much or to what extent he or she will engage in the behavior.
- The person often denies that there are problems that result from his or her engagement in the behavior, although others can quite plainly see the adverse effects.
- The person tries to conceal the behavior (e.g., hiding alcohol bottles or drugs) after family or friends have expressed concern.
- The individual is often depressed and has low self-esteem, and feel stressed out if they do not have control over their environment.