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How to Identify Addictive Behaviors

How to Identify Addictive Behaviors

To the casual person, they may not know how to recognize an addictive behavior. When many people hear the word “addiction,” they think of hard drugs or alcohol. But what if someone develops an addiction to something people consider “normal?” 

What Is Addiction, and What Are Common Addictions?

To understand what can be addictive, you must first understand what addiction is. Addiction is defined as compulsive use despite adverse effects, no matter what the addiction trigger is. It can be broken down into two types, behavioral and substance addictions.

Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions are repetitive actions that are often used to regulate underlying mental health disorders. Common examples of these types of addictions are video games/internet, gambling, shopping, binge eating, thrill-seeking, sex and pornography, and plastic surgery.

Substance Addiction

Substance addiction is when there is a physical dependence on a specific chemical. Common examples of these addictions are nicotine in tobacco products, opiates and opioids, marijuana, alcohol, caffeine, and amphetamines.

Triggering or Replacement Products

Many things can trigger addictive behaviors that many people would never expect. For example, many people know that tobacco products and alcohol are addictive substances. However, many people are surprised when caffeine is listed as an addictive substance. 

Caffeine has become normalized in our culture, and it’s not uncommon for people to refuse to start their day unless they use substances first. It can also trigger withdrawal symptoms when not consumed regularly, and too much consumption can cause an overdose.


The same can be said for gambling. When most people picture gambling, they think about casinos and card games. Modern games that use loot boxes — which award random digital items upon opening them — that are purchased with real money also count as gambling. Gambling is betting on the outcomes of chance, and since the contents of loot boxes are randomized, you don’t know what you will get. 

Addiction is a behavior or substance that makes you want to engage in it despite negative consequences.

What Can Trigger Addictive Behavior?

Many things can trigger addictive behavior, including:

Mental Health Disorders

Addiction is a type of self-medication where someone looks to soothe themselves from hurt. Many people with substance abuse disorder (SUD) have an underlying mental health condition. These common conditions are depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, any mental health disorder can cause addictive behavior in the person’s efforts to treat it. When someone has SUD and a mental health disorder at the same time, it is known as a dual diagnosis. 

Lack of Access to Care

Poor access to health care may drive someone to find ways to treat their mental health themselves. Due to the stigma around mental health, there is a lack of public knowledge about how to treat it. As a result, many people may experience symptoms of a mental health disorder and just figure that it’s just themselves overreacting or imagining it. So they may turn to shopping or playing video games to make them feel better. Many people may also use these behaviors or substances to help manage their stress. Without learning good coping skills, many people feel as though they have to self-medicate to function in society.

Poor Impulse Control

People who struggle with an impulse-control disorder may also be at risk for addiction. For a while, it has been believed that some people may just have an “addictive personality.” However, they may simply just have an impulse-control disorder, which prevents people from exercising normal levels of self-control. Because of this, these people may form addictions faster than someone without the disorder. 


Genetics also make up a large portion of why some people may become addicted to behaviors or substances in life. Current science believes that this can count for nearly half of all addiction cases. Having addiction run in the family can cause great risk in subsequent generations. If addiction indeed is a common family problem, then it is important to avoid addictive triggers.

How Do I Know When My Addiction Is Affecting My Life?

It’s very important to be aware of what you consume as part of your life. Some common signs that you are engaging in addictive behavior are:

  • Lying/stealing from or manipulating others to fuel your addiction
  • Engaging in your addiction at inappropriate times, such as at work or school
  • A decline in health, such as loss of sleep and a large loss or gain of weight
  • Spending most or all your money on your addiction to the point it puts you in financial trouble
  • Being unable to think about anything except obtaining more
  • Losing friends and family due to the above behaviors

If you or someone you know is performing these behaviors regularly, you may have an addiction that needs to be treated.

How Do I Get Treatment for My Addiction?

All addictions must be treated by mental health professionals. The first step is to reach out for help by calling or messaging a treatment center. From there, they will formulate a treatment plan and help you begin your road to recovery.

Because the causes of addiction are so varied, various treatments are used to help people struggling with them. Sometimes, it is about getting to the root of why someone feels they need to engage in their addiction. You need to treat the specific underlying mental health disorder alongside the addiction. Specialized treatment programs are needed for a dual diagnosis and usually require a residential treatment program, also known as rehab, to be treated. 

Sometimes people may need the help of medication to help them, especially if it’s for substance addiction with dangerous withdrawal symptoms. 

Treatment is always specially tailored to the person needing help. It may take some experimentation to find which treatment will work best. However, it is up to the person being treated to want to be helped. Remember, it is never too late to ask for help if you want it. 

Many factors in life may cause someone to develop an addiction. Regardless of what may have caused it, it doesn’t change the fact that everyone has the right to compassionate care. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, you will never face judgment when asking for help. We believe strongly that no matter who you are, you are a person that deserves to be treated with respect and understanding. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or may feel that you may be developing one, call (949) 647-4090 today. We can help you take that next step in your treatment journey and find the healing that you deserve.


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