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Shining a Light on Uncommon Addictions

Alcohol, drugs, food, or sex are all things we think of when mentioning common signs of addiction, but there are many things the addictive mind can get hooked on. When it comes to uncommon addictions such as video games, lifestyles, obsessions, retail therapy problems, etc, we find a whole new category of addict: process addictions.

The textbook definition of addiction, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine is:

“primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

SOME UNCOMMON ADDICTIONS

Lying – Those addicted to lying take a false sense of security from the act and the truth seems to be dangerous.  

Plastic Surgery – Those of us who aren’t happy with our bodies want to fix as many flaws as they can find, which becomes obsessive. It can also become harmful to our bodies and organs.

Getting Tattooed – A tattoo is more socially acceptable these days, but too many can ruin career goals. So why do people do it? It’s thought that the endorphins and adrenaline released by the body to help fight the pain of the needle become a source of addiction.

Hair Pulling – The act of pulling one’s hair might offer a type of comfort but can lead to skin damage and/or permanent hair loss.

Chewing Ice – As harmless as it sounds, it can herald a more serious medical issue affecting the body. For instance, a person could be anemic or lacking important vitamins.

THE HISTORY OF UNCOMMON ADDICTIONS

But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, TLC devoted an entire series to the subject called ‘My Strange Addiction’ which featured people who were obsessed with pulling hair out of drains; eating cheesy potatoes; eating glass; bathing in bleach; eating pottery and cigarette ashes; and even eating rocks.

So what is it about eating that has spawned as many uncommon addictions as there are items that can fit in the mouth? Eating and wanting items that aren’t food is known as Pica. When the desire is for soil or items from the earth such as coal and chalk, the condition is known as Geophagia.

Both Pica and Geophagia are thought to be caused by a lack of iron or zinc, but might also speak to autism, mental retardation, or mental illnesses.

Addiction to video games is also on the list of uncommon addictions and it’s a pretty strong one. Most addicted gamers are male and under-30 years old; you can tell if you’re addicted by the amount of time spent thinking about gaming while performing other duties.

Interestingly, many professionals in the mental health field link the addiction to impulse control disorder. And because gaming increases dopamine levels, it is easier for some to become addicted to it. Sadly, this can lead to other addictions such as taking speed in order to stay awake longer hours to play. In fact, many uncommon addictions can bring about side effects that include addictions to abusing medication, drugs, or alcohol.

“Like addiction to heroin, these ‘addictions’ are an effort to control or avoid discomfort instead of learning to cope with it in ways that don’t interfere with a person’s relationships, safety or livelihood,” says Clairmarie Szopa, MS, LCPC, NCC, adjunct faculty at National-Louis University and counselor at Choices Counseling & Coaching.

Addiction to forms of social media is on the rise with Science Daily saying substance and behavioral addictions have six core components: salience, euphoria, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal symptoms and relapse.

This same report from Baylor University continues on to give six questions that can help us define an uncommon addiction. All you have to do is answer yes to at least three of these questions to recognize addiction.

SIX QUESTIONS TO DEFINE AN UNCOMMON ADDICTIONS

  1. Salience: Is your social media use deeply integrated into your daily life?
  2. Euphoria: Do you depend on social media use for excitement throughout the day?
  3. Tolerance: Do you need to spend more time to get a “buzz” from social media?
  4. Withdrawal symptoms: Do you get nervous when you are not on social media?
  5. Conflict: Does your use of social media cause you trouble?
  6. Relapse: have you tried to cut-back on your use of social media but failed?

A valuable tool in combating any type of uncommon addictions or substance abuse is neurocoaching. As Casa Capri’s website has it:

“In a nutshell, it is an advanced computer program designed to decode the mysterious human brain. From these findings, the program creates a report indicating which treatment and techniques will be assigned and used.”

Whatever you do to combat your addiction, just remember there are many forms of addiction, but each form can be damaging to long-term health, both physical and/or mental. And just because someone is obsessed with shopping, tanning or other uncommon addictions, doesn’t make it any less painful or real than a more common substance addiction.

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