When is Risky Behavior an Addiction?

According to the American Psychological Association, risky
behavior can be a common expression of a genetically influenced, normal,
personality trait. This personality trait is known as sensation seeking.
Sensation seeking can be expressed through risky behaviors such as unsafe sex,
substance abuse, risky sports, crime, etc. We want to further examine when
sensation seeking becomes maladaptive such as in substance abuse or unsafe
sexual activity.

Some studies suggest that individuals who are prone to
sensation seeking or risky behaviors, are more vulnerable to addiction such as
substance/alcohol abuse. Risky behavior can become a problem in what can be
described as a snowballing situation that spirals into a bigger and bigger
problem. This is due in part because high sensation seeking individuals crave
these experiences even when social or physical risk is involved. High sensation
seeking tendencies are not only linked to things such as relationship
dissatisfaction, addictions, engaging in unsafe sexual experiences, but the
high sensation seeking personality trait is known to interact with other
psychological conditions as well.

It's generally when this interaction occurs that risky
behavior can turn into addiction. The combination of a person’s genetic
disposition for risky behavior, combined with actually engaging in those
behaviors while other psychological issues are already present, makes the
environment suitable for that person to develop an addiction easily.

While teenagers and young adults tend to engage in some
risky behaviors to a degree, it can turn from a normal phase of development
into an addiction with little or no warning. If you notice signs or symptoms
stemming from risky behaviors, it could be the turning point for the individual
developing an addiction. The affected individual may exhibit sings such as
irritability, disregard for consequences, repeatedly engaging in the behaviors
as consequences become more severe and undesirable, etc. If you feel that you
or someone you know may be on a path to addiction, it’s best to seek help from
a qualified professional.


Carter, K, PhD. “Understanding the High Sensation
Seeking Personality.” Good Therapy. (Website). September 2015.

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