10 Most Common Addictions

Addiction is a compulsive behaviour towards a substance or activity that induces pleasure and enjoyment. It’s easy to confine addiction to just drugs and alcohol, but people also compulsively engage in activities such as sex, video gaming and shopping, amongst others. Addiction is classed as a medical condition – not a habit – and calls for treatment, just like any other disease or illness.

Those addicted to a substance or activity often place more priority on their addiction than any other responsibilities. For drug and alcohol users, giving up can be relatively difficult, as they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms that can force them to take the substance again.

Quitting is also challenging for people who engage in addictive activities. For instance, when refraining, they become uneasy and exhibit an irresistible urge to go back to them again.

It’s important to understand that you’ve become addicted to an activity or substance, so that you can get help, before your addiction causes serious damage to your health and life in general. Here, we’ll cover the ten most common addictions – including their symptoms and associated dangers – so that you can spot yours (or those of a loved one) in time and seek appropriate help.

Drug addiction

Drugs are one of the most commonly abused substances in the world. An estimate puts the number of drug abusers and addicts in the UK at more than 440,000 – and that number continues to grow. There are many drugs that a person can become addicted to; from prescription medications to illicit synthesised substances, the prevalence of drug misuse has always been a societal issue.

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Symptoms of drug addiction

You can become addicted to a drug via prescription or recreational use. The most commonly abused substances are opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine and stimulants such as amphetamines and other designer drugs sold on the black market.

There are certain indicators that show you’ve become addicted to drugs. These may include:

  • A compulsive and obsessive need to take drugs, even though you’re aware of the associated dangers
  • Onset of withdrawal symptoms when you stop using a drug that you’ve taken for a long period or when you drastically reduce your dosage
  • Placing priority on your drug use over everything else
  • The need to increase your dosage in order to respond to the effects of the drug (this is known as tolerance)

Dangers of drug abuse

Abusing drugs can cause damage to your physical and mental health, as well as your life in general. You’ll be at risk of experiencing health complications associated with the drug you’re abusing. Your social life will also be affected, as you could spend all of your earnings trying to acquire drugs, experience relationship issues and be unable to hold down a steady job.

Gambling addiction

Gambling is a pastime – a recreational engagement that can turns into a serious addiction for some people. Research has found that the excitement of gambling triggers an increased release of dopamine in the brain. This chemical is known to induce pleasure and extreme euphoria. As a result, you will naturally want to enjoy this feeling repeatedly and return to gambling as a means to feel happy.

If you find yourself or a loved one gambling uncontrollably, borrowing and spending all you have on placing bets and feeling uneasy and uncomfortable when you aren’t engaged in this activity, then you’re most likely addicted to gambling.

Gambling compulsively without control can have serious consequences; you could lose a lot of money and be in serious debt as a result of this behaviour. Your relationship with others will suffer strain, as all you focus on and look forward to is placing bets. Gambling can also affect your professional career and education badly because you’ll have less time for your studies and work.

Food addiction

Food addiction can be referred to as a kind of eating disorder. For instance, people who are addicted to food can’t help themselves around certain food types. Highly palatable foods (which are rich in sugar, fat and/or salt) can affect the brain’s chemistry and induce intense feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, causing the person to repeatedly eat them.

Recognising a food addiction

You can identify food addiction in a loved one if they exhibit the following behaviours:

  • Consuming more food than they can physically tolerate
  • Eating even when they are no longer hungry
  • Gorging excess amounts of food in secret
  • Taking desperate measures to obtain certain foods
  • Irritability
  • Eating uncontrollably, to the point where they become ill

Dangers of food addiction

There are physical and psychological dangers of eating, which can include:

  • Unhealthy weight gain (obesity)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Diabetes
  • Liver/kidney disease
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Sleep disorders
  • Lethargy
  • Panic attacks
  • Emotional numbness
  • Financial problems
  • Career issues
  • Social detachment

Video game addiction

Video game addiction is a disturbing disorder, marked by an uncontrollable urge to constantly play computer games.

If you’re addicted to video games, you’ll exhibit signs of irritation, frustration and misery when you’re unable to partake in this activity. You’ll also be unable to focus on other engagements aside from gaming when you’re addicted this particular activity.

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This can cause certain consequences in your life, which include:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Poor work performance
  • Sleep deprivation (which can lead to related health effects)
  • Mood changes
  • Social detachment
  • Financial problems

Internet addiction

The internet has penetrated many cultures and an overreliance on the worldwide web has become something of a disorder. Research puts the number of internet addicts in the USA and Europe at 8.2% of the entire population. A person is said to be addicted to internet activities such as social media, texting, online gaming, search engines and online shopping when they:

  • Isolate themselves from friends and family in favour of the internet
  • Feel sensations of euphoria and satisfaction when they use the internet
  • Forfeit work and other responsibilities because of the internet
  • Stay on the internet longer than intended
  • Feel miserable, depressed and frustrated when they try to cut back on internet use

Internet addiction can cause physical and psychological issues, which include:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unhealthy weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Poor work and academic performance
  • Social detachment
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Sex addiction

Sex addiction is a disorder whereby a person cannot control their sexual behaviour. Uncontrollable sexual thoughts and actions affect their ability to maintain relationships, hold down jobs and undertake important responsibilities.

Sexual dependency, compulsive sexual behaviour, and hypersexuality are other terms used for sex addiction. The condition is also known as satyriasis in men, and nymphomania in women.

While there is still debate as to whether sex addiction is an actual addiction, ample damage can occur from a compulsive need to always engage in sexual activities. Dangers associated with sex addiction include:

  • Risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases
  • Problems with relationships (especially marriage)
  • Career downturn
  • Financial and legal problems

Shopping addiction

Shopping addiction is a worrying behavioural disorder that is marked by an intense preoccupation to shop and purchase various items. If you suffer from this sort of addiction, you’ll have an uncontrollable urge to embark on spending sprees and will feel miserable when you don’t. You will also experience a sense of euphoria and satisfaction after making purchases. However, you could also begin to feel low after doing so, prompting the continuous cycle of considering more purchases.

Research has found that both gender and age play a role in shopping addiction, with young women in their teens and twenties suffering from this issue the most.

There are also co-occurring mental disorders that often accompany this sort of addiction, including depression and generalised anxiety. Studies have shown that a mood disorder can result in shopping addiction, while the buying disorder could cause one or two mood disorders as well.

If you’re a compulsive buyer, you’ll experience certain issues that could affect both your health and social life. A common problem is the tendency to be overwhelmed by debt. You could also experience issues such as:

  • Feeling worthless
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions and remembering
  • Depression
  • Risk of losing familial and social relationships
  • Sleeping problems

Work addiction

Work addiction has a number of identical behavioural patterns with many other forms of addiction – notably a compulsive need to engage in an activity, despite being aware of the related consequences. Work addiction stems from the need for career progression and to compulsively meet lofty targets. Research has shown that most people addicted to work have parents with high expectations concerning professional success.

If you’re addicted to work, you’ll put in extra hours at your place of work, despite the effects it may have on your mental and physical health, personal life, family and relationships. You’ll also experience low personal satisfaction when you’re addicted, causing you to work even more. Common signs that indicate an addiction to work include:

  • Perfectionism
  • The need to control
  • Self-neglect
  • Feeling that nothing is adequate
  • Irritability and impatience

There are negative consequences associated with work addiction. They include:

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Increased anxiety
  • Burnout that could lead to severe health problems
  • Shortness of breath and chest pains
  • Risk of addiction to harmful drugs and other substances in order to stay alert and energised for work
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Alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction accounts for most cases of substance dependence. People mostly abuse alcohol and become addicted to it because they see it as a means to escape their worries. Addiction to alcohol is mostly reinforced by withdrawal. When you refrain from consumption after becoming dependent on it, you’ll experience harsh physical and psychological health symptoms that will compel you to drink excessively again.

Signs of alcohol addiction

If you consume alcohol over a long period and in high volumes, your body will become used to its presence and depend on it for normal function. Therefore, not abstaining from alcohol for a while after your last drink will result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The occurrence of these symptoms is an indication that you’ve become addicted to alcohol.

Dangers of alcohol addiction

There are numerous dangers associated with alcohol addiction. Serious health issues have been linked to alcohol, while fatal accidents are also caused by alcohol intoxication. According to the World Health Organisation, alcohol addiction is linked to 60 diseases and types of injuries. These include oesophageal cancer, epilepsy, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, auto crashes, murder and suicide.

Smoking addiction

Nicotine is an ingredient found in cigarettes, known to be highly addictive. If you’re addicted to smoking, you’ll find it difficult to quit – even if you want to. Tobacco is known to be one of the most dangerous substances to human health and many life-threatening diseases have been linked to the substance.

A 2002 report by the WHO revealed that 90% of lung cancer cases in men (and 70% in women) were caused by smoking. It also revealed that 22% of cardiovascular disease cases and 56-80% of respiratory related issues were linked to smoking.

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How to recover from any kind of addiction

Addiction is a medical condition for which you can receive treatment issue. The first step towards recovery is accepting that you have a problem and making efforts to seek help. With proper assistance from family and friends – as well as addiction specialists – you can kick your compulsive behaviour and live a healthier life.

The importance of rehab

Rehabilitation will help get your life back on track and recondition you to live without the substance to which you were addicted. It will also help you get a handle on the activities you compulsively engaged in. You’ll undergo a number of behavioural therapies and combination medications that will help you attain sustained recovery.

Choosing a rehab facility

There are rehab clinics dedicated to helping you recover. If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, help is available. You can get be connected to a rehab centre that deals with your kind of addiction by contacting a confidential addiction helpline today.


How can I tell if I’m addicted?

The following are signs that you might be addicted: if you notice yourself engaging in activities and using substances compulsively, placing priority on using a substance, feeling miserable, frustrated, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms (in cases of substance abuse) when you try to quit.

Can addiction claim my life?

An addiction to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs has the potential to claim your life. Some activities can also indirectly cause harm that may prove fatal, though this is rare.

Can I recover from my addiction?

Yes. Recovery is 100% achievable. When attending rehabilitation in centres run by addiction specialists, you’ll undergo therapy that will help you overcome your addiction.

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