What Are Addictive Behaviors?

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a behavioral addiction or has ever heard that they present with addictive behaviors, you’ve probably wondered what an addictive behavior really is. According to Ruth Engs, a professor of applied health science at Indiana University, “Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person's life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially is considered an addictive behavior”.

Really, the brain works in such a way that it can be rewired to become addicted to just about anything – substance, activity, behavior, emotion included. The brain can develop a compulsion, addiction, or dependent on anything given the right (or wrong) environment and circumstance.

Here are some common characteristic of addictive behaviors:

- Becoming obsessed with a substance, object or activity – meaning, the person is constantly thinking of this and thoughts intrusive and consuming.

- Engaging or specifically seeking out such behavior that has increasingly negative consequences.

- Even when attempting to stop engaging in this behavior, the person has a compulsion to do so.

- When the person does stop engaging in this behavior, withdrawal symptoms are induced, which can be anything from anxiety, stress, experiencing lack of sleep, depression, et cetera.

- The person experiences a loss of control when participating in this behavior or activity – ex: eating an entire cake when they were going to have just one slice.

- The person attempts to hide, cover up, or deny participating in the activity

- The person feels guilt, remorse, and shame surrounding the behavior or activity.

Unfortunately, the professional community hasn’t agreed on a formal cause for addictive behaviors, or the prevention or treatment of such disorders. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t help for you or your loved one, treatment, prevention and successful recovery just may come in unique and individual forms based on you or your loved ones need.

Engs, R.C. "Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility". Tichenor Publishing Company.(Website). 1996, 2012
  • 1 Commentby Likes|Date
  • Thank you for this. Sometimes I wonder about my coffee drinking, but once I'm done drinking my 3 cups in the morning....I don't think about it the rest of the day... So I consider it a morning habit....and I could do without (and have) if I can't have it for some reason...

    Thanks for the great info!
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