What are the Most Addictive things in Life Besides Drugs? [List]

We all know that heroin will get you hooked. But, what about those things in life that aren’t drugs, but are still addictive? Behavioral addictions are very similiar to regular chemical addictions, except they don’t involve getting high by ingesting a substance.

In this post, we’re going to list the most addictive things in life that aren’t drugs. If you were actually curious to know which substances are the most addictive (ranked by addiction experts), check out this other post first.

Behavioral Addictions

According to ASAM, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the definition of addiction goes like this:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

This definition explains that addiction is a disease of the mind, body and spirit that has to do with compulsively seeking out a reward (in other words, a rush of good feelings). The reward can come from a drug or alcohol, which would lead to a chemical addiction. However, it could also come from a specific activity or behavior, which would lead to behavioral addictions. Also known as process addictions, these are disorders that happen when someone cannot easily stop a certain behavior and it becomes problematic.

Behavioral Addictions are just as real as Chemical Addictions

People with behavioral addictions can behave as compulsively as an alcoholic or drug addict without having that chemical dependency. They will experience the same feelings of emptiness, frustration, lack of control, and erratic mood that ‘regular’ drug addicts feel. It’s important to get to know what kinds of things are causing behavioral addictions so we can identify when our own behavior, or that of someone we love turns into an addiction.

Let’s get started with the:

8 Addictive Things that aren’t Drugs

1. Fast Food:

Junk food manufacturers literally engineer their products to be as addictive as possible. They combine fat, sugar, and salt in proportions that bring us back for more, and more and more. Rich junk foods can easily turn into an addiction and they fuel Binge Eating Disorder which is associated with obesity.

2. Video Games:

We’ve known for years now just how addictive video games can be. In fact, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical of Mental Disorders) includes Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition for further study. People can become so addicted to playing video games, both on and offline, that they neglect their health and wellbeing. Gamers can develop tolerance and withdrawal symptoms just like people with a chemical dependency.

3. Sex

Sex activates our brain’s reward systems similiar to the way that drugs and alcohol do. The whole process of going out, finding someone you like, and having sex can become very addictive. While sex is a normal and healthy part of life, it can turn into one of the behavioral addictions when we do it compulsively, recklessly and without concern for others’ feelings or physical health.

4. Love

A love addiction seems similiar to a sex addiction (it is!), but it’s important to note the differences. Compulsive sexual behavior is very different from compulsively seeking out a new romance. Some people find themselves addicted to the high of new love. That makes them bounce from new relationship to new relationship without ever forming a sense of self or a deep, resilient bond.

5. Internet / Social Media

Nowadays, we all have a bit of an internet addiction since we compulsively use our smartphones. However, for some people, obsession with internet and social media  can turn into severe behavioral addictions. Becoming dependent on the internet can really make a negative impact on someone’s quality of life.

6. Shopping

We laugh about “retail therapy” because shopping to feel better once in a while is no call for alarm. However, for some people, shopping turns into a way to soothe a pathological inner wound. Constantly buying new things to feel better instead of genuinely coping can quickly escalate to an expensive and disturbing addiction.

7. Body Modification

Tattoos and piercings and all other forms of body art are beautiful ways to display our creativity. However, it’s important to remember that body-modification can turn into one of the behavioral addictions. People who compulsively seek out new body modifications, especially plastic surgery, may be taking too many health risks and making regrettable decisions. Over-using plastic surgery is also a red flag for body-dysmorphic disorder.

8. Stealing

So many people have had issues with an addiction to stealing that there’s a special term for it: Kleptomania. Some people become dependent on the rush of doing something so risky, while others love the excitement of getting something new for free. A stealing addiction, not surprisingly, can lead to severe legal consequences and destroy relationships.

People can become dependent on all sorts of things that aren’t drugs and still fall down the rabbit hole of addiction. Unfortunately though, since behavioral addictions don’t look as frightetning as, say, a cocaine addiction, we’re less likely to speak up when we see something. While they may not be as toxic or illegal as drugs, these other types of addiction are just as damaging. They still destroy trust and relationships, cause financial problems, and create spiritual distress. That’s why it’s so important to take these behavioral addictions seriously, and seek help even though you or your loved one aren’t actually using any “hard drugs.”