Types of Addictive Behaviors

Table of Contents

common types of addictive behaviors

What comes to your mind when you hear the word addiction? Drug abuse or alcoholism, right? Well, that makes sense since over 21.5 million Americans aged 12 years or older were suffering from alcoholism and drug problems in 2014.

However, alcohol and drugs are not the only abused substances. Most Americans suffer from behavior addiction, which encompasses sex, Internet, shopping, bungee jumping, gaming, gambling, etc. 

If someone receives high dopamine from such activity, he or she might become an addict. These types of people tend to lose control and seek the activity, irrespective of the negative consequences.

Here we’re going to discuss the various types of addictive behaviors and how we can help those who are addicted to them.

Most Common Addictive Behaviors:

  • Substance addiction
  • Behavioral addiction

Examples of Addictive Behaviors

common behavioral addictions

1. Gambling Addiction

Constantly looking for that big win?   Gambling addiction closely resembles alcohol and drug addiction. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), gambling disorder is an addictive disorder.  Gambling and drugs light up the same area of the brain, and both require the same type of therapy settings.


People with gambling disorders often hide their behaviors. They usually lie to their friends and family member and hide their winning or losses. Gambling addiction is characterized by the following behaviors:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling
  • Betting more than originally intended
  • Placing bets more and frequently

Feeling aggressive or irritable when losing or unable to gamble.

2. Sex Addiction

Sex addiction refers to an obsessive craving for sex.  Common symptoms of sex addiction include loss of control and disregard of the risks and consequences.

 It can manifest in multiple forms such as compulsive masturbation, anonymous sex with many partners, sex with prostitutes, voyeurism and habitual exhibitionism, and having affairs despite being in a committed relationship.

According to experts, 8% of men and 3% of women are sexually addicted.  These addicts use sex as an escape from reality, to relieve stress and anxiety, and fulfill compulsions related to borderline personality disorder.

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3. Shopping Addiction

Compulsive shopping is usually believed to be a female problem, but about 1-6% of the population suffers from this problem.  According to studies, over 17 million Americans cannot control their urge to shop, even at the expense of finances, marriage, jobs, and family.

Shopping compulsion occurs from the desire to get the latest or quality material.  And when the pleasure of shopping fades away into depression and guilt, addicts seek to shop more to ease those issues, which leads to dependence.

4. Internet/ Social Media Addiction

Individuals addicted to the internet, and social media spend most of their time plugged into the online world via their phones, laptops, or computers. As a result, they may end up destroying their relationship with their loved ones, friends, and family members since they’re unable to connect socially through physical interaction.

Sometimes they may end up losing their jobs or drop out of school due to poor performance. Severe use of the internet or social media can lead to anxiety if a user cannot connect.  One sign of social media addiction is being unable to disconnect, despite the negative effects that arise from it.

5. Gaming Addiction

About 41% of video gamers say they play video games to escape from real life.  Technology has played a huge role in the rise and spread of gaming addiction. Over 7% of video gamers are addicted to this activity.

Teenagers are at a higher risk of developing gaming addiction than older people. Also, individuals with high levels of neuroticism, aggression, and anxiety are at a higher–risk of getting addicted to video games.  Multi-player and role-playing video games are the most addictive.

Warning signs of gaming addiction include:

  • Spend most of the time playing video games
  • Thinking about gaming in the middle of other activities
  • Getting an irritable feeling when trying to cut down on gaming
  • Gaming to escape depression, anxiety, and real-life problems                     

Behavioral Addictions Vs. Substance Addictions

Behavioral Addictions: Sometimes called addictive behavior. It refers to addictions that involve compulsive behaviors. These behaviors are persistent and repeated, and most people indulge in them even if they don’t receive any real benefit. They usually cause adverse effects on a person’s social and personal life as well as physical and mental health.

Substance addictions:  These are addictions that involve the use of any substance, including alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, coffee, and even sugar. Users continue to use these substances despite the negative side effects that may arise.

Early Signs of Addictive Behaviors

  • A person has difficulties in maintaining relationships at home and sometimes at work because of disruptive behavior.
  • Hiding the behavior or lying to family members, friends, and loved ones about time spent on it
  • Having difficulty avoiding the behavior
  • Anxiety, depression, irritability, restlessness, or withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit
  • Using the behavior to manage unwanted emotions
  • Individuals cannot stop engaging in these behaviors despite negative and harmful consequences.
  • Most people often spend vast amounts of time engaging in the behavior.
  • Feeling compelled to continue with behavior, even when it results in distress.
  • Addicts continue to experience other negative consequences that directly result from extreme, continued, or chronic engagement in the behavior.

How to Help an Addicted Loved One?

At American Addiction Institute, We are an Orange County intensive outpatient program that can help you and your loved one recover from addiction. Call us 24/7 for help and answers.

The best treatment approach for anyone suffering from behavioral addictions is Therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most recommended and most helpful therapy for addictive behaviors.

This therapy works by concentrating on the thoughts and emotions that result in distress and learning how to reframe them at the moment.  CBT, combined with productive coping skills, might reduce the need for addictive behaviors.

Specialists might also use other types of therapy to address underlying issues that might influence addictive behaviors, such as relationship concerns.

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