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The Different Types of Addiction

Updated on August 27, 2012
Our typical association with the word addiction.
Our typical association with the word addiction. | Source

If someone off the street came up to you and said, "Are you an addict?"

What would you say?

The word addiction comes with all sorts of associations and stereotypes. You might think of a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a gambler. You imagine the extreme scenarios depicted in movies and on television. The truth is, that most of us are addicts. Some people have extreme addictions that are obvious. Others have addictions that are less destructive on the surface, so they go unnoticed.

Genetics play a role in the predisposition a person has to becoming addicted to a substance, but we throw the word around without really thinking about what it really means.

What is addiction?

Addiction is an enslavement or habit that causes extreme stress when removed from the person's life. We can use other words to describe what addiction is.

  • Craving
  • Dependence
  • Hang-up
  • Fixation
  • Obsession
  • Compulsion
  • Aching
  • Yearning
  • Requirement
  • Pining
  • Lust

The world would not suffer if gambling disappeared!
The world would not suffer if gambling disappeared! | Source

With this definition, we could say that we are all addicted to sleep, water, and oxygen. When those things are removed from our lives, we suffer extreme stress (and eventually, death). So are we addicted to sleep, water, and air? Yes, in a sense.

Addicted to toxic activities and substances
When a substance has a negative impact on the human body or mind, that is when we use the word addiction. It is meant to suggest that too much of whatever we are craving, will negatively impact our lives. The removal of our addiction causes extreme psychological and physiological stress, but ultimately- we are better off without it.

So we come to the standard list of addictions:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Other drugs
  • Gambling

If all of these things disappeared off the planet, the body and mind could function just fine without them. In a sense, these are unnecessary addictions- cravings that cause a lot of problems and stress in the life of the person and the people around him or her.

But what happens when we are addicted to things that are inherently good?

The human body is at some level addicted to food.
The human body is at some level addicted to food. | Source

Addicted to natural needs

In this category, let's look at people's addictions to:

  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Sex

These addictions are far more complicated because the human being is designed to have these things in every day life. An alcoholic can ban alcohol forever, but a food addict can't ban food! In some ways, these addictions are harder to manage because you can reason away your addiction. Well everyone needs exercise right?

When someone says, "I am addicted to food", what they mean is that they are addicted to using food as a comfort for negative feelings. If you reach for oreos whenever your mind thinks back to your last breakup, you can make the connection that food is a great distraction when depression or anxiety comes upon us. Are you addicted? The fastest way to know is to remove the habit.

The next time you are in a stressful situation (normally adding food to the equation), take it away. Your level of stress and/or anxiety without the habit, determines how addicted you are to food as your comfort.

We are all physically addicted to sleep as mentioned above. However, a sleep addict will use sleep as a way of escape. Whenever something stressful happens, they go to take a nap. When you can't get to bed at your normal hour and start stressing out, that is a red flag. When left to your own devices and you sleep past lunch time, that is also a sign that you are addicted to using sleep as a way to avoid your depression or other problems.

You might be saying, "Who cares if I am addicted to exercise? There are worse things in life." Yes, there are. But people who are addicted to exercise use it as a way to feel "okay" as a person, suffer from the same mental and emotional malady as food and sleep addicts. Exercise becomes the way you fight feelings of self-hatred, poor body image, and depression. What happens if you get injured and can no longer exercise for awhile? What would happen to your self-worth?

This addiction is slightly different than the above three, since you need food, exercise, and sleep to survive. We might like to think sex is necessary to survival, but it is not! However, it is a healthy, natural, and normal function of the human body, so it is in the category of an addiction that needs management, rather than obliteration.

Sex addiction can be very dangerous emotionally and relationally. This addiction not only causes suffering for the addict, but suffering for the people around him or her too. Just like any addiction, sex is used to distract the person from feelings of boredom, self-hatred, depression, and/or anxiety.

Addiction is substitution

Ultimately, any addiction is designed to act as a substitute to real and true healing. Behind every addiction is an emotional or mental "hang up". Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, bio-chemical imbalances, childhood trauma, abuse, stressful relationships, regrets, unrealized dreams, and grief all can tempt a person into reaching for a bandaid to mask the pain. In some ways, this is a normal response to pain. Make it go away, as quickly as possible.

Many people don't consider their need to be famous or in the spotlight an addiction, but it is.
Many people don't consider their need to be famous or in the spotlight an addiction, but it is. | Source

Subtle cravings

There are lots of other types of addictions as well. These are more "accepted" culturally, so it is easy to ignore them or write them off as no big deal. However, people can be addicted to:

  • Books (i.e. romance novels that distract from an unhappy marriage)
  • Reality TV (distracting a person from getting up and making their own adventure)
  • Internet (perhaps a person is fearful of real connections)
  • Video games (a synthetic way to feel excitement and adventure)
  • Money (an attempt to feel secure and powerful)
  • Publicity (narcissism, power hungry, people who are afraid of being alone)
  • Religiosity (addicted to rules and practices that make a person feel okay)
  • Image (look, fashion, staying young)
  • Shopping (a way to feel an adrenalin surge- excitement)
  • Adrenalin (sky-diving, surfing, etc.)
  • Falling in love (someone who continually restarts relationships because they enjoy the feeling of falling in love)

The fastest way to know if you have an addiction is to simply remove it from your life for a period of time! Look at your past patterns and habits. You might start to see a repeating cycle in your life. When something negative surfaces, how capable are you with sitting in the middle of the pain?

Are you constantly looking for some risk-taking adventure to give you a 'high'?
Are you constantly looking for some risk-taking adventure to give you a 'high'? | Source

Do you think you are better than an addict?

When we suffer from feelings of self-doubt, it is easy to console ourselves with, "Well at least I'm not a homeless drug addict." We look around for someone worse off than us to feel better. People (especially those who are addicted to religious rules and practices) can easily boost their own self-esteem by pointing the finger at someone else. But when you take away those rules (or the person ends up in a unfortunate situation), usually what happens is he or she comes face to face with their own terrifyingly low self-esteem.

We are all addicts. We are all subject to the same weaknesses, hangups, and issues. There is not one person on this Earth that is exempt. Some of us have channeled our addictions in more healthy ways, but for each person, there is always going to be something that you cling to for comfort. It is the nature of the human condition. So let's not judge those with addictions okay?

The ultimate goal

Addicts are slaves. There is nothing worse than being subject to a non-living object, substance, or process in order to feel okay. It creates anxiety and robs us of peace, because we all know that at any moment, it can be stripped away.

For each of us, learning to let go of our addictions is a lifelong process. Since our addiction may not be something that is "bad" for us per say, the goal is to get at the root of the addiction. The more we can reflect and process the negative feelings in our lives, the better able we are to give out love and compassion to others.


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom of three children. She has her degree in psychology, and is an a food, Internet, and book addict.

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    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 

      7 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      The worst addiction is internet addiction and there is no, very well researched hub, voted up.

    • dinkan53 profile image


      7 years ago from India

      I am now happy that i quit smoking four years back. You’ve performed a excellent task in this topic! Very nice article and very helpful, thanks for sharing it up. Voted and shared.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I enjoyed your excellent coverage of this important subject. Voting up and sharing.

    • allsynergy profile image


      7 years ago from Finland

      Great points and great Hub. If one has never been addict to anything he really don't know much about life. Getting rid of bad habits can be very educational.

    • Mark Monroe profile image

      Mark Monroe 

      7 years ago from Dover De

      Nicely done, anything done in excess can be harmful to the individual.

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      i'm addicted to ben adams and his songs.. :) what a fantastic hub! well, only Julie can!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      I think you covered them all. For better or worse, so did I. Overboard?... good thing I was an excellent swimmer (another addiction). Excellent report. Thank you

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good job Julie! I could write the book on addiction (oh, wait, I have LOL), so I just thought I'd drop in to give you some support. Very informative hub!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      7 years ago

      This is a great thought provoking hub! Because of my family history I try very hard to keep myself from falling prey to the especially harmful addictions. I know however that I easily become addicted to things and it scares me. I think being aware of your own addictive tendencies is very important in preventing others. Voted up and shared

    • Ryem profile image


      7 years ago from Maryland

      This is a great hub. I'm looking at addiction with a different set of eyes now. I'm glad I read this. I'm voting up :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great and interesting information. It is really difficult to become an addict. Voted up and more!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      7 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      A very interesting and informative look into the dark world of addiction. Well done, Julie. :)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Great Hub, Julie. I only have one addiction: guess what it is???? HubPages! All joking aside, this is a great Hub showing different addictions people may have.

      I voted this Hub UP, and will share.

    • mmsu profile image


      7 years ago from Pakistan

      Loved your interesting article through out!!Well explained.Voted up and shared.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 

      7 years ago from New York City

      I'm not sure why people aren't rating your hub here, but I gave it some cool ones for sure, you wen't all out on it by pointing out many well known worldwide issues as well as some positive addictions that people face even before they are born into this world.

      The core of the problems to me is how humanity tends to over focus on certain things like Television for instance, and when a child is raised behind one. Pretty much all of these other addictions get installed into their cerebral subliminally, and especially if their parents don't curb their viewing of such, and or monitor the levels of such a potential addictive exposure level.

      Anything over done has the potential to do such a thing, as your hub also points out, and for this you have created an awesome useful resource for folks looking to find ways to understand such addictions today, and as an overview of sorts.

      Bravo on doing such a wonderful writing job here as well, and I tend to think of myself as addicted to mother nature, because that's primarily what I chose to watch on TV when I was a child, and my mom was smart for putting me in front of the PBS Channel way back then, I also got addicted to learning in school, and so now I'm addicted to education, sharing knowledge, and much recently writing on hubpages to render such info back to the rest of this world we live in digitally.

      Sharing powerful hubs from great hub authors, is an all so new addiction of mine as well, if that counts for anything, and this one has scored as being one of them, and I shall do so with it.

      Thanks @Julie DeNeen you are a very good writer indeed.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Interesting hub. I tend to forget those subtle cravings category but you're right and I think we see these more often than other addictions. For many years I was fixated on tanning. Many people will laugh, but for a while I would plan my days off around good suntan times outside and got to the point where I would get agitated if I was missing out on that perfect "tanning time". I'm not the sun worshipper I once was, but even a week at the beach gets those old emotions stirred and I feel like I should be laying out working on my tan. Great hub.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I am addicted to writing, learning, and music. So much like everything in the harmless section- I won't serve time. But you make great points about these addictions- people are a slave to them and can't turn away. My addictions aren't really addictions- I don't have to do these things everyday to survive. But real addicts to drugs, sex, and whatnot do. Interesting information!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      As per Linda...Hi My name is Janine and I am an addict of Trollbeads, Pandora and pretty shiny things, but I too am a happy addict!! Seriously, loved this Julie and very true about not all addictions being a horrible thing, but understanding them can make a world of difference. Have of course voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

    • klanguedoc profile image

      Kevin Languedoc 

      7 years ago from Canada

      What a fabulous hub Julie. I often use food to handle my stress, anxiety, boredom, depression. I am glad you have voiced what we all know about ourselves, at least many of ourselves, but kind of "push it under carpet" to avoid facing ourselves and our addictions. Thanks.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      7 years ago from Kettering, Ohio through January, 2020

      Julie Deneen, Thank you for working so hard on this hub. I have admitted to myself that I am an alcoholic. It is interesting that since I made that admission, it is much easier to see other addictive tendencies in my life. Suddenly, I see how I obsess about many things. I obviously stay very focused on my primary addiction. After all, no one is waiting to throw me in jail and fine me into financial oblivion for eating too much. That is not meant to take away from the seriousness of other addictions. I just have to stay focused. Good job on the hub.

    • rcrumple profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Interesting information here! I've considered myself a fast food addict for years, but, in these terms, I'm not. It was never a "crutch", persay, just something I desired. Yet, having been away from it for a while, I still have yearnings for its taste at times. Great Hub as always, Julie! Gets one thinking, for sure! Up & Useful & Interesting!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      7 years ago from Taos, NM

      I am so glad to see you write this hub on addiction. You are so right when you state that we all have addictions to something - mild or strong. It is true, each person has their own addictions and it is how we handle those addictions that determines how our life becomes. In our society addiction has a negative connotation. In earlier times, a person who liked to read a lot was a "voracious reader." Today, they have an addiction to reading to escape. It is how we handle those intense likes and relationships that determines if we are happy or not. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise in this area. Very interesting and voted up!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Hello my name is Sunshine. I am an addict to many things. Most are harmless such as working out, Law and Order marathons and chocolate. The good news is I guarantee I won't have to serve any time or endanger any lives with my addictions. I'm a happy addict. Fab hub!


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