Addictive behavior: distinctive features, signs

Look carefully at the people around you. Most are inseparable from their phones: taking selfies, building farms, communicating on social networks. There are also those who cannot do without daily fitness, shopping, betting in the slot machine hall, or several glasses of beer a day. But a workaholic is in a hurry to go to work, who does not know how to rest at all. Truly, the 21st century is a time of various dependencies or addictions. Addiction is a special form of repeated behavior, dependence, which subjugates a person’s life and worsens the quality of his life as a whole.

In this article you will learn about what types of addictions exist, as well as how a person can find a way out of his addiction.

Addiction: causes, types, symptoms and treatment

Any addiction destroys life.
Igor Yuryevich Filimonenko

  • 1.Addiction in psychology: meaning
  • 2.Stages of addiction formation
  • 3.Types of addictions 3.1.Chemical addiction
  • 3.2.Food addiction
  • 3.3.Non-chemical addiction
  • 3.4.Relationship addiction 3.4.1.Love addiction
  • 3.4.2.Sexual addiction
  • 3.4.3.Addiction of avoidance
  • 3.5.Relationship addiction: How to get rid of it?
  • 3.6.Internet addiction
  • 3.7.Alcohol addiction
  • 3.8.Religious addiction
  • 3.9.Urgent addiction
  • 4. To summarize
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    What is addictive behavior

    In psychology, addictive behavior is a type of deviant behavior caused by an individual’s attempts to gain psychological comfort through certain objects, actions or substances. A weak person chooses dependent (addictive) behavior because it gives him vivid impressions and allows him to experience positive emotions again and again.

    In psychiatry, addictive behavior is a destruction characterized by changing one’s mental state with the help of psychotropic substances or painful fixation of attention on an object that causes vivid positive emotional experiences.

    Addictive behavior reduces the adaptive ability of the individual, since the external agent acts coercively and requires complete submission from the individual. The individual has no strength left to resist temptation and addictions. Gradually, the alternative to reality draws a person in more and more; he spends all his free time on a painful addiction. Spiritually, he is deteriorating. A person loses touch with reality and cannot control himself.

    He cannot overcome his addiction. In addition, the addict believes that his supposedly addictive behavior actually includes everything necessary to adapt to a difficult life situation. It turns out that such addictive behavior negatively affects both the person himself and his immediate environment.

    Basic concept

    Addiction in psychology is a kind of dependence on certain factors. Initially, this concept meant only exclusively chemical dependencies on alcohol, medications or drugs, but now this list of dependencies has expanded significantly.

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    Thus, addiction is a dependence on something, a need to regularly perform certain actions or take drugs. Today, such a disorder is at the intersection of psychiatry, clinical psychology and narcology. Addiction in psychology is a dependent behavior, since a person feels the need to repeat certain actions in order to eliminate internal anxiety and escape from reality.

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    This is a gradually developing mental disorder, which is characterized by the occurrence of obsessive states and strange human behavior.


    What are the basic psychological characteristics of addictive behavior? Signs of addictive behavior are as follows:

    • psychological instability of the individual;
    • superficial perception of reality;
    • formal performance of roles imposed by society;
    • weak adaptive potential of the individual;
    • replacement of life values ​​with invented reality;
    • psychological discomfort;
    • guilt;
    • increased personal and situational anxiety;
    • despair and low self-esteem;
    • high self-esteem, bordering on self-confidence and a sense of superiority;
    • deceit, secrecy, isolation;
    • aggressiveness;
    • tendency to blame other people for your failures;
    • manipulation of relatives and friends;
    • fear of being emotionally attached to someone;
    • loss of previous friendships;
    • the emergence of relationships with people who have the same type of addiction;
    • stereotypical behavior and stereotyped thinking;
    • avoidance of taking responsibility;
    • infantilism;
    • avoidance of problem solving;

    Determining the onset of addictive behavior can be complicated by the fact that its signs and symptoms are individual and have varying degrees of severity. In addition, it is easy to confuse the signs of addictive behavior with its causes.

    Adolescent disorders

    Both adults and teenagers can suffer from addiction. According to experts, adolescent addiction is formed in childhood under the influence of personal characteristics and the environment. By adolescence, addiction already manifests itself to its maximum extent. Among the main signs of addiction in adolescents are the following:

    • desire to demonstrate superiority over others;
    • fear of trusting relationships;
    • high degree of anxiety;
    • tendency to lie;
    • avoidance of responsibility;
    • depression.

    Teenagers can have any type of addiction, but most often they are susceptible to Internet addiction. The treatment is quite complicated, since the child’s psyche is not stable enough and is easily susceptible to external influences.

    Reasons for development

    There are many reasons for addictive behavior. This:

    • instability of the political situation in the country;
    • weak participation of the state in the life of the people;
    • incorrect style of raising a child in the family;
    • antisocial behavior of parents, unfavorable psychological situation in the family;
    • childhood psychotrauma as a factor in addictive behavior;
    • genetic predisposition of a person to various forms of addictive behavior;
    • melancholic type of human temperament;
    • minimal brain dysfunction and mental retardation;
    • lack of hobbies and meaning in life;
    • prolonged stay in a state of frustration;
    • poor development of personal emotional intelligence;
    • weak willpower, weak type of nervous system;
    • stress, depression;
    • problems with studies, academic debt among students during the session;
    • parental divorce, family breakdown;
    • death of a loved one;
    • lack of positive emotions in life;
    • problems on the personal front, lack of mutual understanding with loved ones and colleagues;
    • conflict style of behavior;
    • tendency towards conservatism;
    • alcohol abuse;
    • smoking;
    • substance use;
    • excessive enthusiasm for religion, the individual’s involvement in sects;


    Various types of addictive behavior go through the following stages in their development:

    1. First trial stage. One of the reasons for addictive behavior is a person’s familiarity with an object or action that brings him into a state of euphoria due to the production of dopamine by the brain. At this stage, addiction does not have a pathological impact on the individual and the spheres of his activity.
    2. Addictive rhythm stage. The addict at this stage is still thinking clearly. He understands the danger of addiction, hesitates, but makes a choice in favor of harmful actions. Due to the desire to experience an emotional uplift, a person repeats the actions he likes many times. This leads to a change in the usual rhythm of life. At this stage, addiction is still reversible, however, to normalize the individual’s behavior, consultation with a psychiatrist may be necessary.
    3. Actually addictive behavior. In psychology, this stage was defined as the addict’s denial of his own problem. A person convinces himself that this addictive behavior is his true, absolutely natural need. An addict sees addiction as the only possible way to solve life's problems. For example, he says that he can quit addictive behavior at any time if he wants.
    4. Complete neuroticism and subordination of the personality to addictive behavior. The basic construct of personality is destroyed. Irreversible changes occur in the structure of brain tissue, and the functioning of all body systems is disrupted. The object, action or substance that was chosen by the addict as an alternative to reality no longer brings positive emotions. Signs of asociality appear in a person, a tendency to crime and cruel treatment of loved ones.
    5. Personality degradation. The psychological core and biological essence of man is destroyed. At this stage, addiction and addictive behavior develops into a mental disorder and physiological ailments. Returning to normal life at this stage is no longer possible. Most often, this stage ends with the death of the dependent person.

    Binge eating

    Food addiction is both a psychological dependence and, in some way, a physical one. Because it helps you feel full. As regular food acquires greater addictive potential, it is precisely the artificial stimulation of the feeling of hunger that occurs. Any person prone to overeating can create a zone of increased metabolic balance in a similar way. As a result, when the concentration of glucose in the blood decreases after the next meal, the feeling of hunger appears immediately, and the person cannot tolerate it calmly. Physiological mechanisms are very quickly misaligned. The addict begins to eat a lot, often and indiscriminately, everything in a row. At some point, this behavior is supplemented by a constant feeling of shame that increases after eating. As a result, a person intensively hides his addiction, begins to eat secretly, and after any exertion his hunger intensifies. All this ultimately leads to very dangerous consequences for health: metabolic disorders, weight gain, malfunction of internal organs and the digestive system. A person loses control of himself and begins to consume amounts of food that can pose a danger to life.


    Psychology has established that addictions are expressed in different ways. This means that addictive behavior can take different forms; they are united by similar mechanisms for the formation of addictive behavior. From an epidemiological point of view, the severity of pathological consequences varies among different types of addictive behavior.

    All addictive behavior can be divided into 2 large groups: chemical (associated with the use of certain substances that alter consciousness and have an impact on the psyche) and non-chemical (behavioral pathologies).

    In order to form a complete concept of addictive behavior, it is necessary to describe its most common types.

    Alcohol addiction

    This is the most common model of addictive behavior. The state of alcoholic intoxication is associated with high spirits and euphoria. In addition, often in the first stages of the formation of alcohol dependence, a person notices an improvement in his performance and the disclosure of his creative potential. This state is remembered by a person as extremely pleasant. That is why the brain subsequently requires the person to drink alcohol again in order to experience these pleasant sensations again.

    At subsequent stages of the formation of alcoholic addictive behavior, not only creative abilities, but also life skills disappear. They are replaced by apathy, despondency, and depression.

    With prolonged systematic use of alcohol, physical dependence is formed, the main signs of which are:

    • withdrawal syndrome (hangover);
    • causeless change of mood;
    • memory impairment;
    • rigidity of thinking;
    • narrowing the range of interests;
    • decreased self-control;
    • the need for a constant increase in the consumed dose of alcohol;
    • sexual disinhibition;
    • social degradation.

    Female alcoholism poses a special social problem. Women who abuse alcohol try to hide their addiction because it is condemned by society. Women's alcoholism develops faster than men's. Its danger also lies in the fact that in girls it is combined with dependence on sedatives and tranquilizers.


    Drug addiction is an addictive behavior based on a thirst for new experiences. Its consequences have a detrimental effect on a person and his immediate environment. Soft drugs (such as marijuana) quickly become psychologically addictive. Subsequently, marijuana alone no longer brings the desired sensations. A person switches to ecstasy, cocaine and heroin, and taking these drugs causes physical addiction literally after the first try.

    The longer a person uses drugs, the more likely they are to develop co-occurring mental disorders. Psychotropic drugs increase a person’s perception and lead to visual hallucinations. What is the distinctive feature of drug addictive behavior? The fact is that it causes persistent addiction. There is a high risk of a drug addict dying as a result of an overdose. In addition, drug addicts are characterized by a desire to get friends and acquaintances addicted to psychoactive substances and a tendency to commit crimes.

    Substance abuse

    Adolescence is associated with many temptations, one of which is the desire to inhale vapors of highly toxic substances. The peculiarity of this type of addictive behavior is collective use. Inhaling glue vapors puts teenagers in a state reminiscent of alcohol intoxication: they feel dizzy, their mood improves, and they experience hallucinations.

    The longer a teenager engages in substance abuse, the lower his ability to voluntarily remember. A decrease in intellectual functions and deviations from the norm in the emotional-volitional sphere are gradually noted. Deviations such as a tendency to violate social norms and requirements are observed in behavior. Aggression, conflict.

    If substance abusers use aerosols, gasoline, chloroform, ether, and solvents as a means of achieving an altered state of consciousness, then serious damage to the brain and spinal cord occurs. Asphyxia and paralysis of the respiratory center often cause death among drug addicts.

    Food addiction

    This form of addiction is based on a person’s obsession with food and their own weight. In psychology, this definition of addiction includes overeating, anorexia, and bulimia.

    A person with this type of addiction may eat food not to satisfy hunger, but to gain pleasure from the process. In this case, a disruption of metabolic processes occurs at the biological level: if a person is not busy with anything, the brain sends him signals to eat something rather than do something.

    There are cases when people refuse certain foods because they are forced for health reasons to follow a special diet and adhere to the clinical recommendations of the doctor. But there is a type of addictive behavior in which a person fanatically counts calories and, due to his personal beliefs, refuses meat. Self-restraint in food for such people is absurd.

    Examples of addiction

    In everyday life, you can meet addicted people literally “on every corner.”

    Addiction examples:

    • Addiction in relationships. Painful jealousy of a partner, dependence of a mother on a child and vice versa, inability to leave parents are the most common forms of addictive relationships between people that disguise themselves as love. This is where love addiction most often hides.
    • Avoidance addiction in women appears after unsuccessful relationships with men. The most striking example is a “strong and independent” woman with a litter of cats or a woman who has given preference to a career.
    • Shopaholism is an addiction to shopping that affects many people, and young and middle-aged women are especially susceptible to it. Often arises as a desire to fill a void. An example of such dependence is people with Plyushkin syndrome, those who have experienced a personal tragedy, or those who do not know how to assert themselves in other ways. The passion for shopping is closely related to the phenomenon of addiction to spending money. Some people simply cannot save any amount. They spend everything they get in a very short time, and then inevitably ask for loans or take out loans with unaffordable interest rates.
    • Alcohol addiction has existed since time immemorial. There is no need to give examples here - they are on every corner in the form of marginalized individuals begging at the doors of shops.
    • Addiction to work is quite common in modern society. Career replaces family, friends, and hobbies for people. A seemingly successful person is in constant tension. Workaholics often become heroes of feature films and TV series, where they appear as unhappy people who devote themselves to work to the detriment of their own happiness. In the end there is usually a way to change the situation, but in life everything is not so simple.
    • Addiction to power occurs among ambitious people with a strong will. They strive with all their might to “make their way to the top” by realizing themselves in politics. However, there are other addicts - petty domestic tyrants who see the meaning of life in the subjugation of their loved ones and total control over their lives. This could be an overbearing mother or father who considers it their duty to strictly raise children, but in reality they are addicts.


    There are special psychological tests that can reveal a person’s tendency towards addictive behavior: this is evidenced by certain character traits. These include:

    • the need to stand out from the crowd with bright clothing accessories, an extraordinary image, and defiant actions;
    • gambling and risk taking;
    • mental instability;
    • tendency to loneliness and solitude;
    • pessimism;
    • poor development of the emotional-volitional sphere.

    However, the presence of a tendency to addiction does not guarantee the development of one or another type of addiction. Negative character traits only create the preconditions for addiction. It will be formed only if a person finds himself in unfavorable social conditions.

    Psychiatrists diagnose the presence of addictions in an individual through a special conversation and by assessing the patient’s appearance. Signs of addiction are found in the patient’s speech and his reactions to the doctor.

    Diagnosis of chemical dependencies is the competence of a narcologist. It is detected through tests.


    Currently, there are two main mechanisms of addiction to fasting: medical and non-medical. The medical option involves the use of fasting diet therapy. The initial phase of entering hunger has certain difficulties associated with the constantly emerging need to suppress appetite. The next phase is characterized by a change in state. As a result, appetite decreases or disappears, strength appears, a second wind appears, mood improves, and a desire for physical activity appears. Many patients really like this state, and they want to stay in it longer, to prolong it.

    Repeated fasting is carried out independently. As a result, at a certain level of euphoria resulting from abstaining from food, a loss of control occurs. The addict continues to starve even when it becomes unsafe for health and life, and there is a loss of critical attitude towards the condition.

    Any addiction or dependence, be it physical or mental, does not go away on its own. Inaction and unwillingness to fight it can lead to dire consequences, sometimes irreversible. Often a person suffering from addiction is unable to critically assess his condition and ask for help. Patients with gambling addiction, shopaholism, and food addictions cannot really understand the scale of their illness.


    Treatment of addictive behavior will be effective if the person himself wants to overcome the addiction. Therapeutic methods are chosen by a psychiatrist or psychotherapist.

    Psychotherapy has proven itself well in the fight against non-chemical addictions. The psychologist begins his work by establishing the reasons for the formation of addictive behavior. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the psychologist prescribes a course of group or individual sessions. Psychocorrection is aimed at optimizing the addict’s intrafamily relationships, his self-actualization, and correction of the value system. The psychologist corrects habits.

    After completing the course of psychotherapy, the psychologist helps the client socialize and return to a healthy rhythm of life. For 3-6 months, the psychologist monitors the individual’s rehabilitation process, preventing relapse.

    Drug and alcohol addictions are treated in a hospital setting, as it is necessary to detoxify the addict’s body. Therapy in this case involves the use of sedatives to minimize the risk of the patient escaping from the hospital. The support of loved ones is extremely important in the treatment of any type of addiction.


    The evidence is fairly clear regarding the long-term effects of drug addiction: those who were diagnosed died 22.5 years earlier than those who were not diagnosed. This lifespan is associated with toxic effects of substances on multiple systems, including but not limited to the cardiac, respiratory, and neurological systems. Additionally, a five-year study on alcohol and drug addiction treatment found that older adults had favorable long-term outcomes compared with younger adults; in particular, older adults (especially older women) were found to have a 30-day abstinence rate of 52%, compared with 40% for younger adults. Factors such as social media influence and gender play a role in these numbers, along with age.

    There is now a clear relationship between changes in mortality risk with the time that addicted patients enter treatment and the amount of therapy received. Their final prognosis depends on these factors.


    Early prevention of addictive behavior is considered the most effective. Early prevention is based on the diagnosis of an individual’s predisposition to the development of deviant and dependent behavior.

    In educational institutions, addiction prevention is implemented in the classroom. The educational work of a social teacher and psychologist at school includes informing children and adolescents about the consequences of addiction. During class hours and specially organized extracurricular activities, experts offer alternative ways to deal with stress and psychological tension.

    My recommendations

    My work experience shows that the main difficulty in treating addiction is the patient’s refusal to admit his problem. Here I rely not only on the diagnostic results, but also on the help of the client’s relatives. If through joint efforts it is possible to bring a person to admit the harmfulness of his habit, then I enter into a contract with him.

    During classes, addicts systematically move towards a healthy lifestyle:

    – list the reasons why they should get rid of the addiction; – describe their life regardless, make a collage “Past – Present – ​​Future”.

    Despite all the efforts of psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists, it is very difficult to overcome addiction. According to statistics, only 20% of addicts return to normal life after rehabilitation measures.

    Let's sum it up

    There are a great many addictions in the modern world.
    Any addictive behavior helps a person adapt to events that occur (or do not occur) in his life. Addiction is always a way of adaptation! However, such an adaptation often does not lead to positive results. A person’s task is to learn to identify addiction in himself, analyze its essence, i.e. look for an answer to the question: why did it arise. By answering it, you can get rid of addiction and develop a strategy for positive changes in your life. Have you managed to overcome your addiction? Share your secrets in the comments.

    Kholod Victoria May 29, 2018

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