An addiction is a disease that involves the ongoing search for drugs or any experience that can produce pleasure. Some addictions, such as those involving alcohol and tobacco, are well-known. Others remain undiscovered until they begin to affect your life in negative ways. The more you know about addictive behaviors, the better prepared you will be to avoid them. Here are five addictive behaviors that could be affecting your life:
1. Shopping Addiction
What it is: A shopping addiction occurs when someone feels the need to buy items whenever they feel sad or depressed. This form of addictive behavior is closely related to compulsive buying disorder. Although some signs of compulsive buying appear similar to those of anorexia nervosa, compulsive buying disorder is not characterized by weight loss.
Why it’s addictive: Buying items can provide quick and powerful relief from negative feelings. For example, if you feel down because you had a fight with your spouse, one of the quickest ways to lift your mood would be to buy something. The item itself might seem unimportant in the long run, but for that moment, it brings happiness. It affects about 6% of people in the U.S.
How shopping addiction is treated: If the addiction has progressed to an advanced stage, doctors should also look into other mental health issues (such as bipolar disorder ) and treat them before attempting to help control shopping behavior.
2. Video game addiction
What it is: An addiction to video games occurs when someone spends too much time playing video games. This can result in negative consequences such as school or work problems, social isolation, and health issues.
Why it’s addictive: Video games are designed to be addictive. They typically involve repeated actions (such as clicking a button), variable rewards (such as getting a new level), and social reinforcement (such as showing off your high score to friends).
How video game addiction is treated: Treatment for video game addiction usually starts with setting limits on how much time the person can spend playing video games. If necessary, doctors will also recommend counseling or therapy to help address any underlying mental health issues.
3. Pornography addiction
What it is: A pornography addiction occurs when someone feels the need to watch pornography at inappropriate times. Some signs of a pornography addiction include watching more porn than initially intended, wanting to stop but not being able to, and neglecting important tasks to view pornography.
Why it’s addictive: Pornography stimulates the reward center in your brain. This makes you feel good for about 20 minutes after viewing the pornographic material. Over time, this can lead to tolerance (needing more pornographic material to achieve the same level of arousal) and withdrawal symptoms (including anxiety, irritability, or sexual dysfunction ).
How pornography addiction is treated: Treatments for compulsive sexual behavior can be very successful. For example, one study showed that almost two-thirds of people who received treatment for their pornography addiction were abstinent from pornography one year later. Treatment typically involves setting limits on how much pornographic material a person can view and counseling or therapy to address any underlying mental health issues.
4. Gambling addiction
What it is: A gambling addiction occurs when someone feels the need to gamble even though it has negative consequences in their life. This might include gambling more money than you can afford, borrowing money to gamble, or lying about gambling debts.
Why it’s addictive: Gambling releases dopamine, a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. This explains why people keep gambling even though it causes them problems.
How gambling addiction is treated: Gambling addiction is treated similarly to other types of addiction. For example, treatment often starts with limiting a person’s access to gambling opportunities and later progresses to counseling or therapy.
5. Sexual addiction
What it is: A sexual addiction occurs when someone feels the need to engage in sexual activity even though there are negative consequences from their behavior. Some signs of this addiction include having unprotected sex, visiting prostitutes, engaging in masochistic acts (e.g., self-bondage), and having multiple sexual partners.
Why it’s addictive: Like pornography, sexual activity also stimulates the reward center in your brain and releases dopamine. This leads you to crave more sexual activity even though it might be illegal or cause health problems such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV/AIDS.
How sexual addiction is treated: Treatment for sexual addiction usually involves setting limits on how much sexual activity a person can engage in. This might include avoiding certain people, places, or things associated with sex. Counseling or therapy is also often recommended to address underlying mental health issues.
It can be hard to admit that you have an addiction, but it’s the first step to getting help. If you’re worried that you might be addicted to one of these behaviors, talk to your doctor or therapist. They can help you get the treatment you need to overcome your addiction and live a healthier life.