types of addiction

Types of Addiction: More than just Physical

When you think of addiction, the first thing that comes to mind is physical addiction, or the destructive habit of using drugs and other illicit substances. However, addiction goes far beyond the physical aspect of the term.

In fact, addiction is just as individual as the person and can be associated with almost anything on earth. From common habits to strange compulsions, this mental disorder can take the form of many things that you wouldn’t expect.

The one thing that is common for all types of addiction is an underlying compulsiveness that drives the addiction and can easily grow out of control. It’s important to recognize both types of addiction in order to know what to look out for.

Read on to learn more about the two main types of addiction.

What Causes Addiction?

Addiction is a complicated condition characterized by the compulsive use of harmful substances or repeatedly engaging in harmful patterns of behavior, despite full knowledge that the substance or behavior is yielding negative results. Since people should inherently be doing things in the best interests of their health and life, such detrimental compulsions are counterintuitive, to say the least.

Addiction can be defined as a disease of the brain, caused by a compulsion that causes the person to be irresistibly drawn to that particular substance of choice or behavioral pattern. This intense focus causes the person to repeat the same patterns over and over, even though they know it is causing harm. There are multiple different types of addiction, as well as varying levels of severity in these compulsions.

Types of Addiction

There are two main types of addiction that are recognized in psychology today: substance addictions and behavioral addictions. Both involve the same compulsive mental patterns; what varies is the object of the addiction.

Within these two main types of addiction, there are almost endless varieties and objects that make them up. They involve different levels of severity under the same basic mental patterns. In fact, it’s possible for a person to be addicted to just about anything you can think of. 

Physical/Substance Addictions

The most common associations with addiction involve the use of illegal drugs and other harmful or illicit substances. This is classified as a “physical” addiction, as it involves using substances that create physical effects on the user. These types of addiction involve a person compulsively using a substance out of habit, even though many of them are incredibly dangerous and possibly fatal.

Oftentimes, the addiction begins innocently enough. The user is curious about the effects of a drug or illicit substance, as it often has pleasurable effects. The substances create a “high” feeling, a euphoric effect often caused by a rush of dopamine to the brain.

However, as they begin to use the substance more frequently, the user begins to develop a dependency on the drug. They also develop a tolerance to it that means they need more and more in order to achieve the same pleasurable results. Soon, they lose themselves in the habit and it grows into a harmful addiction that becomes worse every day.

Substance addictions are the more fatal of the two types of addiction. This is because many of these substances can lead to fatal overdoses as addicts increase their levels to chase a more intense high. In fact, drug overdoses are responsible for roughly 70 million deaths per year, all stemming from the same initial patterns of addiction. 

The substance of choice in most substance addictions is often illegal drugs. These create feelings of euphoria that the user can very easily become addicted to. Depending on what is used, they have varying levels of potential to create an addiction.

Here are some of the most common substances found in substance addictions:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants (like “whip-it’s” and industrial chemicals)
  • Opioids (heroin)
  • PCP (Acid)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Prescription painkillers (codeine, “oxy-cotton”)
  • Tobacco
  • Other illicit substances (lab-produced drugs, etc.)

Just like other diseases, some individuals may be more prone to addictive habits than others. Genetics can sometimes play a role too, especially in cases of alcohol addiction. 

Behavioral Addictions

Although these types of addiction aren’t talked about as much, behavioral addictions can be just as intense as physical or “substance” addictions. The mental pattern is essentially the same, however, the addict replaces the use of a drug or illicit substance with a compulsive pattern of behavior. In many cases, this behavior has very harmful effects on the addict’s life, but they are unable or unwilling to stop.

Unlike the list of drugs in physical types of addiction, behavioral addictions are more open-ended. While there are some common ones, such as gambling or nail-biting, they can involve nearly any strange pattern of behavior you can think of.

Here are some of the most common behavioral addictions:

  • Cutting/Self-Harm
  • Exercise
  • Eating disorders
  • Gambling
  • Hand-washing
  • Internet use
  • Nail-biting
  • Pornography
  • Sex
  • Video Games/Computer Activity
  • Working

These are just a few examples of behavioral addiction. However, people can become addicted to almost any behavior. Some of the oddest ones, such as eating rocks and collecting inflatable toys, have even been televised in pop culture.

However, despite how strange some of them may seem, behavioral addictions should be taken seriously and require treatment in many cases. Despite what some may think, these behavioral patterns are caused by more than just negative personality traits.

Aside from eating disorders, behavioral types of addiction generally aren’t as harmful on the person’s physical health. However, they can be damaging in their own way and should not be ignored or dismissed.

Find Your Recovery Path

Despite the varying components of physical and behavioral addictions, both of these types of addiction can negatively affect your quality of life. Although they involve different objects, they both stem from the same self-destructive compulsions that can be difficult to overcome alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is out there. By seeking treatment, you can finally let go and regain control over your life.

Contact us today to get set up with a rehab program that really works.

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About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.