What are Behavioral Addictions?

Addiction of any kind can be seen as a loss of control over some, or all, aspects of a person’s life. When someone is suffering from an addiction, the addictive control becomes the most important factor of the person’s existence, and everything else – family, friends, job, and self-respect – will become secondary, at best.
Most of us tend to think of addiction as referring to a dependence on drugs or alcohol, but addiction be behavioral as well as substance based. Behavioral addictions can be just as devastating to a life as can addiction to cocaine or alcohol. All addictions can be identified by two important points:

  • The addict needs more of the stimulus to feel satisfied – what was adequate last week just is not enough today.
  • When the addictive influence cannot be accessed, the person is unhappy, depressed, and irritable, even sometimes violent.

As with substance addiction, the behavioral addict is trying improve their self-opinion so that they will feel better about themselves. It has actually been proven that behavioral addicts have fewer dopamine receptors than other people, which means that they need more of a ‘stimulant’ to feel good.

Flappy Bird

Allegedly one of the most addictive of video games, Flappy Bird made a brief appearance on the internet stage, but has subsequently been removed by its creator. The game involves a crudely configured bird trying to fly through bird-squishing pipes. Because of the difficulty of the game, it appears to have addictive properties as gamers try over and over to improve their scores.

Studies have shown that Flappy Bird addicts keep playing, even after repeated failures because they view the failures as ‘near misses’. They consider that because they may have put so many hours into playing Flappy Bird that they will have to win if they keep playing. This is similar to the outlook of gambling addicts, who keep playing even though they consistently lose, considering that they are ‘owed’ that big win.

It’s not only Flappy Bird that has caused addiction problems with video gamers. Online games, especially, often involve the people playing them to such a great degree that the video game comes to have more meaning and color than player’s own life. This is especially true of younger people who may find that playing a strong, valiant hero or heroine makes them feel much better about themselves.

Online video games also allow people to make friends and relationships that they would not otherwise have, adding another link to the chain of video game addiction. The game character is always attractive and powerful, which makes the game even more addictive.

Hoarding

Hoarding is one of the strangest of behavioral addictions. Hoarders will accumulate vast amounts of often useless things, including garbage, rendering their existences not only difficult, but often hazardous. Hoarders have several characteristics in common:

  • Perfectionism – nothing is ever right
  • Procrastination – they can literally take hours before deciding to go to the store
  • Indecisiveness – they are unable to make up their minds
  • Avoidance – action of any kind is avoided

Homes will become so packed with junk that it will be impossible to find a place to sit or sleep; every surface will be covered with layers of useless material. Hoarders have actually been killed by their own homes when massive piles of garbage have fallen on them and suffocated them.

Animal hoarders will substitute hapless animals for the junk the ‘ordinary’ hoarder collects. These people often start out by wanting to help animals, but will end up with hundreds of cats, dogs, or pigs in their homes or yards. The homes will be filled with animal waste products and often will have to be torn down because the damage is so extreme.

Hoarders will exhibit the uttermost distress when their homes are finally cleaned out or the animals rescued. Unless intensive psychological treatment is available, most hoarders will backslide and turn their homes into garbage dumps once again, or start collecting more animals.

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