Anyone can become addicted to almost anything. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), an addiction is anything an individual has lost power over. This can include non-substance addictions, such as pleasurable behaviors including gambling, shopping, or sexual activity.
When the brain is stimulated by a particular activity that brings excitement, it fills with dopamine, which feels pleasurable. Over time, as one continues to engage in that activity, there is a dependency that slowly develops upon those feelings of pleasure. In fact, this can become so strong that an addiction can develop such that it affects one’s functioning at home or work.
For instance, if you notice your performance at work declining or a neglect of family or household responsibilities due to excessive participation in one particular activity, perhaps there’s an addiction. A traditional symptom of addiction is the continued use of a drug, or in this case an activity, to the exclusion of other life-activities and responsibilities.
Some behavioral addictions include:
Internet – People turn to the Internet for a variety of reasons, including research, entertainment, and connection with others. However, Internet use can also include compulsive behavior where there is a loss of control and large amounts of time spent on Internet-related activity. When there is loss of control, compulsive behavior, and a neglect of social, academic, or familial responsibilities, an addiction to the Internet may be present.
Gaming – Similarly, playing video games can be incredibly pleasurable. Just like gambling where there is a high that comes with winning (or even almost winning), those moments of pleasure can become addictive. Currently, gaming addiction is recognized as an official psychiatric diagnosis. However, it does not have a listing in the DSM. There is currently a growing movement to have both the Internet and gaming addiction added to the next edition of the DSM.
Shopping – This kind of addiction is known as omniomania. Sadly, of all the addictions, it is the most reinforced by the media, advertising, billboards, and consumerism in general. About 6% of the U.S. population has a shopping addiction, which usually begins in late adolescence. A shopping addiction becomes the main way a person might be coping with stress to the point when it becomes excessive, severely affecting finances, relationships, and functioning.
Cell Phone Use – Researchers have found that 77 percent of those between the ages of 14 to 24 are afraid of being without their cell phones, compared to 68 percent of those aged 25 to 34. College students are most vulnerable to developing the cell phone addiction because they are considered to be the heaviest users of information and technology. In a recent study researchers found that the average college student sends and receives approximately 109.5 text messages a day and checks their phone 60 times per day. The fact that a person can access so much information from their phone, including emails, research on the Internet, and texts, can contribute to an addiction. For some, there’s a certain psychological pull or attraction to the unopened email, new Facebook post or tweet. And there’s an actual high that some might feel when their phones indicate that they have a new text or email. This is the beginning of the addiction – feeling the high or dopamine surge. Furthermore, the inability to put technology aside temporarily if needed is also a significant sign that an addiction exists.
Hair Pulling – This isn’t so much an addiction as it is an illness of compulsion. Hair-pulling disorder is also known as Trichotillomania. This disorder is usually accompanied by an increasing sense of tension right before pulling with a strong desire to resist any pulling. Yet, pulling hair might bring a sense of gratification, relief, and even pleasure. People with Trichotillomania will pull hair from their scalp, eyelashes, pubic area, underarms, beard, chest, legs, and other parts of the body. It can result in significant hair loss and bald spots, influencing functioning at home, work, or school.
An addiction can take place with almost anything – especially if that something is pleasurable. If you or someone you know needs help because an addiction is affecting one’s functioning in life, contact a mental health professional today.
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