Types of behavioural addictions common among younger people

Behavioural addictions

Most people think of drugs and alcohol when they think of addiction among younger people. But the illness of addiction can develop in behavioural ways as well. 

That is, indulging in certain behaviours that change the way someone feels. Doing these things also acts as a distraction from negative memories and feelings. 

Addiction is a medical disorder that causes changes in the brain by releasing various “feel-good” chemicals into the body such as dopamine. With behavioural addictions, the reward centre in the brain acts in the same way as when a person is using alcohol or drugs.

What are behavioural addictions? 

Behavioural addiction is non-substance addiction โ€“ but in a similar way to drink and drug addiction, the person has little or no regard for the consequences of their behaviour and feels powerless about doing it. This affects people physically, socially, mentally, emotionally and in financial terms. 

Also known as “process addiction”, it includes addiction to:

  • Exercise
  • Internet and Social Media
  • Shopping
  • Gaming
  • Pornography
  • Tanning
  • Gambling
  • Plastic surgery
  • Work and money
  • Sex
  • Relationships
  • Piercings, tattoos and body modifications
  • Risky behaviour including extreme sports

What are the main behavioural addictions for younger people?

Perhaps due to what attracts them, what’s most easy to access and peer pressure, younger people are more likely to get addicted to certain behavioural addictions. They are:


Gaming addiction

This is the excessive and compulsive use of video games. It includes seeming to have little or no control over gaming behaviour. This can mean losing time to gaming and not achieving much else in life, which can obviously cause problems at school, college, work and home.

A gaming addict will be thinking about gaming much of the time and talking about it when not playing. They will feel bad when they cannot play โ€“ and need to play increasingly more to try to reach the “highs” they used to get from it.


Eating addiction

Eating problems such as binge eating disorders are a real problem. For instance, binge eating disorder is believed to negatively affect around three percent of adults in America.

It includes eating to try to change negative emotions. But then almost immediately after the eating, they will feel deep remorse.

Relationships & Sex

Relationship and sex addiction

When we are teenagers it’s normal to discover and be excited about the heady highs that getting a crush on someone or falling in love gives us. But some people get addicted to this and are then always chasing the euphoric high of new “love”. 

Of course, sex is a part of relationships โ€“ and can get us high as well as act as a distraction to negative memories and feelings. Someone who’s addicted to relationships and/or sex is likely to have one partner after the other. Or be in an on-off relationship that is clearly not healthy for them or their partner.


Exercise addiction

Most people who exercise โ€“ for instance at the gym or who go running โ€“ are doing so to stay fit and healthy. But for other people it becomes all-consuming and fits a good definition of all addictions: they cannot seem able to stop and stay stopped from something that is detrimental to themselves and/or those around them.

Excessive exercise as with almost anything excessive is not healthy. It can harm joints and muscles and put a strain on the heart. An exercise addict can also use damaging steroids as part of their exercise compulsion. As well, some exercise addicts will not have time for anything else, including family and friends.

Risky Behaviour

Risky behaviour addiction

This can include driving fast, shoplifting, extreme sports, causing fights, unprotected sexual activity, “sexting” and risky social media use. Just as with drug addiction, these produce a high and are an attempt to mask negative feelings.

As well as the actual behaviour, there is the distraction of the planning, preparation and then frequently the picking up of the pieces caused by it afterwards too. As with all addictions, it is all-consuming and subconsciously designed to be that way to keep someone away from the negative feelings they have.


Risky behaviour addiction

Most of us get some pleasure when we buy something new. But when it becomes something that someone does to change the way they feel โ€“ because they don’t like the way they feel โ€“ it can become an addiction. They could be a shopaholic. 

Also known as compulsive shopping or compulsive buying disorder (CBD), it is the compulsion to buy things, regardless of need or financial means. As well as negatively affecting finances โ€“ such as running up huge debts that create stress and anxiety โ€“ a shopaholic can affect their studies or work life and all their relationships.

Internet & Social Media

Internet and social media addiction

Research presented at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual meeting in 2014 showed there were changes in the brain caused by addictive internet use. This addiction to the internet can mean isolation, poor health and financial struggles due to lack of free time.

Social media addiction is also a growing problem, especially among young people. Many are seeking love and approval โ€“ usually, that was insufficient during their childhood, so they have unmet needs โ€“ through their posts on such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

When they get lots of attention from these it gives a short-term high โ€“ and then as with a drug addict, they crave more as the high starts to wear off. This can lead to increasingly controversial or attention-seeking posts that can put the person posting them at risk.


Gambling addiction

According to the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors, up to seven percent of teenagers might have signs of developing or already having a gambling addiction.

Also known as a gambling disorder or compulsive gambling habit, it is the compulsion to gamble and make bets โ€“ despite the negative impact it can have, such as leaving someone in debt with the anxiety and stress that brings. It becomes addictive because when a person wins, it releases a flurry of endorphins โ€“ the “happiness hormones”.

Fortunately, there are various proven successful treatments for behavioural addictions.

Our group of experienced professionals at Centres for Health and Healing has helped people with every type of mental health problem. This includes all addictions.

Reach out to us today to discuss how we can help you or someone you love.

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