One can list any number of activities as “addictive.” One definition of “addiction” is: The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something. There are a number of very destructive addictions for which an individual would be encouraged to seek help. There are other addictions which are more insidious or “don’t seem to hurt anyone.” These socially acceptable problems may still require attention.
Here are 10 such socially acceptable “addictions”:
Although alcohol is an addictive substance, it is one which is socially acceptable to use. An individual can drink in any number of circumstances if he is over 21 – and in a number of other countries, such as in Europe, the drinking age is lower. It is often socially acceptable for an alcoholic to drink with friends, drink alone, binge drink, and even drink in some work circumstances. There are drinks which are supposed to go with breakfast, lunch, dinner, after dinner, and right before bed. It is considered polite to offer friends or family a drink if they are at your home.
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S. According to a government survey taken in 2012, 24.6% of Americans aged 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking within the month the survey was taken. The same survey found that approximately 17 million – or 1 in every 12 – U.S. adults (18 or older) have an alcohol use disorder.
Use of alcohol affects more lives than any other abused drug. If you see someone who consistently and continually binge drinks, gets black-out drunk, can’t have “just one drink,” drinks on the job, or demonstrates other signs of alcoholism, don’t let the symptoms pass you by. Help the individual get treatment for his or her addiction.
2. Prescription pill addiction
Prescription drug overdose is being called an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2011, the CDC listed drug overdose as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S. Over half of those overdoses are related to pharmaceuticals.
The fact is that many drugs prescribed by a doctor, including opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs), and antidepressants are addictive. Addiction to medication can be a slow process. It may develop that the user becomes tolerant to the drug at their prescribed dose, meaning it no longer produces the “desired” effect. Patients “handle” this circumstance in three main ways:
a. They take more than the recommended dose. For example: Instead of one Xanax, they take two.
b. They go back to their doctor to get more of the drug or a stronger prescription (such as pills with a higher concentration).
c. They use a more potent drug or they mix drugs, such as moving from hydrocodone to oxycodone, or even to heroin.
Over time the individual tolerance level will rise – requiring more and more of the drug one is using. This tolerance and cessation of efficacy will often cause drug-seeking behavior and withdrawal symptoms if one attempts to stop using.
An infrequent user of prescription drugs can attempt to avoid addiction by sticking to the prescription. However, when one begins to crave the drug or feels withdrawal symptoms when skipping a dose, it is time to see a physician in order to cut the dose and go through a gradated withdrawal. Structured detoxification may also be required.
3. Internet Addiction
Escapism is a common part of the human experience. It’s why we have art, music, movies, books, and TV. However, when one uses the internet as a point of escape to the neglect of other parts of life – like personal hygiene or one’s job – it can amount to a destructive addiction.
One issue with the internet is that it is pretty much endless. As long as one has access, one can explore just about anything. An individual can create a virtual persona and a virtual reality, basically going through “joyful” parts of life on the internet. When enough excitement and instant gratification has been attained online, the real world may seem gray and dull in comparison.
While surfing on the web isn’t a big deal, staying up until 4:00AM every night to play World of Warcraft certainly is. Consider shutting out the online world for a while if you begin to feel too attached to its artificial reality.
4. Fame/Power Addiction
There are those who are obsessed with being in the limelight. They are fixated upon fame whether or not they were ever famous. Either they are obsessed with becoming famous or they are fixated upon reliving some fame they once had. People can also be delusional and believe they are entitled to fame and wealth when there are no facts to back this up. There are also those who remain in a continuous, compulsive and even rabid pursuit of more power and more prestige.
A great example of a power and wealth addict was Jordan Belfort – the “wolf” of Wolf of Wall Street fame. There is generally nothing wrong with being ambitious, but an addiction to fame or power could lead one to abuse drugs and alcohol. Belfort apparently quit drugs and ceased his criminal behavior.
The truly destructive power addict is the individual who is so set on self-aggrandizement that they work to crush anyone who would get in their road, resorting to unethical, dishonest and antisocial means. Certain professions also seem to feed into this sort of compulsive behavior. This should not be confused with someone who is simply aggressive or ambitious.
5. Pornography Addiction
There are an estimated 420 million adult web pages available online, much of it for free. Obsessive use of pornography easily qualifies as an addictive behavior. Many individuals who watch porn feel an urge to watch more and more of it in order to get a sexual release. A porn addict may max out credit cards buying porn or he won’t have sex with his significant other in favor of porn. According to studies, 72% of those who view porn are male and 28% are female. It is extremely destructive if the individual begins viewing, purchasing, or creating illegal pornography.
For people in long-term relationships or who are married, secretly viewing porn in a compulsive manner, feelings of guilt, neglecting the family, and getting fired from work are all symptomatic of pornography addiction. In addition to the moral implications, the easy access to porn is an issue of concern. For example, 90% of children ages 8 to 16 have viewed online porn. With free porn being a click or two away, addiction is more of an issue than some would care to admit. There are groups that offer help for people trying to quit.
6. Shopping Addiction
Buying new stuff is often a pleasurable experience. However, some people feel a rush from shopping. This creates a compulsion to keep doing it, even if they cannot afford it. One may buy anything compulsively, from lipstick to real estate. Some symptoms which demonstrate a compulsion to shop include:
- Shopping to cope with stress.
- Feeling intense euphoria while shopping or after a purchase.
- Maxing out credit cards or opening new cards in order to get “one more thing.”
- Buying unnecessary items which go unused.
- Feeling buyer’s remorse – and buying more to make the feeling go away.
- Stealing or lying in order to keep shopping.
An addiction to buying things can be very detrimental when the compulsive shopper puts the family into more and more debt that cannot be paid, all while neglecting the real necessities.
7. Work Addiction
We’ve all heard of a “workaholic.” This is generally the person who works consistently and continuously to achieve more at work and attain a better life for himself and his family. There is nothing wrong with this at all. However, a so-called “addiction” to work is a situation where the person and the family suffer due to putting in so many hours at work or neglecting one’s responsibilities at home.
One individual who could be considered a real work addict would be the so-called “Witch of Wall Street.” This was a woman named Hetty Green who worked on Wall Street back in the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s. She was called a witch because she neglected herself so badly while working that her appearance became extremely poor, even though she was very wealthy. Not only did she suffer personally for her work, her son was severely neglected in childhood by his mother.
But there are plenty of less bizarre cases of work addiction, most notably in someone who is so stressed out that they drink heavily, take pills or use cocaine. There is also the man who has trouble at home and stays at work all the time because he just doesn’t want to go home. In these cases, the underlying issues must be addressed in an effective manner.
8. Addiction to Gambling
Gambling is often depicted in movies and entertainment. In the movie, the gambler gets lucky in order to make the movie have a happy ending. In real life, the compulsive gambler goes broke, maxes out his credit cards, and may even lead his family to financial ruin. An individual who compulsively gambles needs to recognize the problem and leave the gambling be, or seek help right away. The results of compulsive gambling on families are too serious to ignore.
9. Food Addiction
Certain foods cause a similar reaction in the brain as addictive drugs like cocaine. These food types are high in sugar, fat and/or salt. They trigger feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. One interesting school of thought suggests that this is because the human body is structured to operate as a hunter-gatherer. This means that storing sugar, fat and salt is helpful to survive a long winter without much food. However, the modern ability to buy food in any season makes this brain function antiquated. But it still exists.
A food addiction is much more than a simple craving for chocolate. It’s an inability to quit eating (in particular sugar, fat and salt) even if it’s detrimental to one’s health and state of mind. When one is addicted to food, they eat when they aren’t hungry, seek out unhealthy food, and generally find it difficult to stop eating. Food addiction is unhealthy and can cause or exacerbate conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
10. Exercise Addiction
Exercise is another activity which pumps up the endorphins. This is often a great thing. It helps a long distance runner get through the difficult parts of the run and it enables one to feel good in spite of a tough gym session. There is a condition where one begins exercising in pursuit of those feel-good brain chemicals. When one consistently neglects family life, work, friends, community involvement and other aspects of life in favor of exercise, there is a problem. There must always be balance in life and even an athlete in training will take some time out to be with loved ones. It’s only natural.
An individual can get caught up in doing any number of activities compulsively. The point when they should stop the activity or back off is when they begin to harm themselves or those around them with their so-called “addiction.”
There are ways to get help when one experiences the above problems. The first step is recognizing the problem for what it is. The next is to work with a supportive person – a friend or family member – to get the help you need in order to stop the compulsion. This may be as easy as taking a break from your computer or as tough as going to rehab. Either way, help is available.