When you think of the word addiction, do you immediately think of drugs and alcohol?

Addictions involving substances are devastating. But there are equally destructive behavioral addictions too. And within each of the categories are sub-categories that cover many different types of addictions.

Both substance and behavioral addiction have a high rate of co-occurrence โ€” which suggests they may share a common cause. They both target the brain’s reward system, just in different ways.

Addiction is a complex topic with many layers. So we’ll simplify and break it down to look at some general examples of both substance and behavioral addictions.

Substance Addictions

In a substance addiction, an individual needs the substance in question in order to function on the most basic level. As they continue to use, they build a tolerance to it and soon require even more to just feel normal.

Substance addictions affect users on both a physical and psychological level. Trying to quit the substance can result in unpleasant or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. This is part of what makes it so difficult to quit.

In many (but not all) cases, quitting a substance requires medical intervention. Examples of some of the more common substances to which people become addicted are as follows:


Alcohol abuse isn’t always easy to recognize. Society has made it “normal” to unwind with a drink. And for many people, that’s all that alcohol does.

When one drink becomes two, then three or more, and they’re no longer consumed just for relaxation but rather out of NEED, it becomes an addiction.

For an addict, it becomes impossible to function without alcohol. They are willing to sacrifice their health, finances, and even relationships if it means they can continue to drink.

Alcoholism is one of the most dangerous addictions because it changes the way the brain operates and cravings can become uncontrollable. Furthermore, withdrawing from alcohol can be dangerous or fatal if not done with the help of medical professionals.

Illicit Drugs

By its simplest definition, drugs are substances that when consumed cause changes in the bodyโ€™s functions. These changes can be physical and/or psychological.

More often than not, when people say they’re addicted to drugs, they’re usually referring to illicit drugs including heroin, cocaine, meth, opiates, and benzodiazepines.

There are a number of reasons that people turn to illicit drugs. They have a powerful effect on the central nervous system and deliver feelings that get users quickly hooked.

Their effects are dangerous and unpredictable though because they can vary tremendously from person to person.


Nicotine, like alcohol, is a legal substance.

An addiction to nicotine is not as paralyzing as one to alcohol. Yet, it’s strong enough both physically and psychologically that users are willing to run the risk of damaging their lungs to smoke. And it may require professional intervention to quit.

A powerful alkaloid, nicotine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It triggers a range of biochemical reactions that elicit feelings of relaxation, pleasure, and even euphoria.

As with all substances, the more nicotine that’s consumed, the more is required to get those effects. Many smokers can’t even start their day without that first cigarette. So while smoking may not seem like a serious addiction, it actually is.

Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions can be much more subtle. But they’re no less damaging.

Although behavioral addictions don’t require a certain substance in order to survive, the compulsion toward the behavior in question is just as serious.

Plus, behavioral addictions can lead to substance addictions. Particularly if individuals find themselves in places where the offerings are endless – such as a casino.

There’s a large number of behavioral addictions and many of them may surprise you. We’ll address three of the more common ones here:


An addiction to gambling is often described as an โ€œimpulse control disorder.โ€ Gambling addicts are unable to restrain themselves or ignore the urge to gamble. And it can lead to complete financial destitution.

The addition of internet gambling such as poker, blackjack, and even virtual slot machines hasn’t helped. Addicts don’t even need to leave their homes to get their fix.

And it doesn’t even require a casino or the internet. It can show up in the form of compulsive betting on the lottery, sports, or even scratch cards.


Often referred to as “retail therapy,” a shopping addiction is no joke.

Shopping addicts don’t just enjoy shopping. They cannot resist what they deem a good deal. And everything looks like a good deal.

Similar to using a substance, compulsive shopping leaves addicts with a feeling of euphoria when they spend money. They get high. Regardless of whether they’re already buried under a mountain of debt or need to pay their rent or mortgage.

Also considered an impulse control disorder, addiction experts find that treating shopping addicts with the same methods administered for treating substance abuse is effective.


The issues many people have around eating are very complex.

And there is some debate as to whether the term ‘food addiction’ is actually valid. It’s not the food itself to which people become addicted. It’s the act that becomes addictive.

In some cases, it may be a control issue that involves either eating too little or bingeing and purging. Or it could be that eating fills some void in the same way that alcohol or other substances do.

Whatever the case, the drive to eat can be every bit as strong as other compulsions such as gambling, drinking or smoking.

The Slippery Slope of Addiction

Addiction is tricky.

Many people will quit one addiction and start another. They believe these to be healthy addictions. For example, they think that working out three hours per day is a better alternative to taking drugs.

And to some extent, it is. But the reality is, it’s not ideal to be addicted to anything. A healthy life is a balanced life. With the proper therapy and help, you can get beyond an addiction.

There Are So Many Types of Addictions

If you look at the long list of types of addictions, it can seem overwhelming. But if you suspect that you may be struggling with an addiction, you’re never alone.

Just know that there are plenty of professionals ready and willing to help.

And keep checking back with our website for other valuable and helpful information.

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