Types of Addiction

Addiction can occur in many areas of a person’s life, and some people are more susceptible to the various types of addiction than others. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) conducted a survey that identifies some of the most common forms of addition, including these:

  • alcohol

    Alcohol abuse occurs in almost every age group. The USDHHS reported that 1.2 million young people aged 12-17 needed treatment for alcohol dependency in 2008, out of a total of 19 million over the age of 12.

  • tobacco

    Cigarettes are the preferred form for smokers to get a nicotine fix, leading other forms that include pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and cigars. USDHHS estimates the number of Americans who used tobacco in a way that conformed to the characteristics of substance abuse was more than 70 million in 2008.

  • drugs

    Addiction to painkillers ranked higher in popularity than other forms of drug abuse in a government study. More than 20 percent of Americans admitted using legal drugs improperly, placing it second in popular use to marijuana.

  • gambling

    MedicineNet describes addiction to gambling as a mental health problem that is related to difficulty in controlling impulses. Estimates of the number of gambling addicts in the United States indicate the problem affects more than two but less than five percent of the population.

  • food

    Almost three percent of Americans have problems with overeating, a small number when compared to the more than 35 percent who are obese. Some scientists link an addition to sugar as a contributing factor to over consumption of food.

  • the Internet

    Tests are available to help ascertain a person’s addiction to the Internet. Measures that assess dependence include staying online for longer periods than intended, using the Internet as an exclusive source of new relationships and ignoring household or work duties.

  • shopping

    One indicator of an addiction to shopping is hoarding and the accumulation of clutter. Compulsive shopping leads to financial challenges, and shoppers have many incentives to shop, including store coupons, online downloads, and advertised bargains.

  • work

    WebMD provides some indicators of addiction to work that include an inability to delegate, a tendency to neglect other responsibilities and a desire to turn work into a hobby. A preoccupation with work is at the center of the addiction.

Symptoms of addiction vary according to the substance or activity involved, but there are some common factors among them. MedicineHealth reports that there is no one measure that confirms the presence of addiction.

Scientists tend to agree that genetics, biology, and environment contribute to a person’s tendency toward an excessive use of a substance or a behavior. The likelihood of addiction occurring is related to how seriously the reward circuits in the brain are altered. The abuse of substances and behaviors can change the way the brain responds to pleasant experiences.

Reward circuits that once responded to ordinary pleasures like eating or participating in a favorite activity may respond more positively to addictive substances or behaviors. A central factor in establishing the presence of addiction is whether a person has lost the ability to control a particular practice. Many addicts claim to have the power to stop the specific use or behavior at will, but statistics do not verify the assertions. Psychologists regard the lack of insight that a person may have toward terminating a dependent behavior as a form of denial. Inability to stop is often used as a reliable indicator of addiction.

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