Category Archives: Addiction Behaviors


Definitions Useful to Addiction Recovery

These general definitions are useful in addiction recovery:   “A”

Abstinence, Clean, Clean, Sober: Free of all mood-altering substances and addictive behaviors.

Addict, User, Abuser: A person who is using substances or practices any behavior excessively and consistently, in spite of negative consequences.

Addiction, Using, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Addiction: An addiction is an excessive behavior or a physical and emotional dependence. One feels compelled to indulge in the behavior or use, even after it has created major life problems.

Addictive Process: The process where one practices their addictive behaviors or substance abuse, in spite of negative consequences.

Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA), Addict or Dysfunctional Family: Someone raised in an addicted or chaotic family system. ACAs are characterized by lack of trust, fear of abandonment, and approval-seeking.

Alcohol, Drug, Mood-Altering or Psychoactive Substances: Substances that create a positive change in perception, mood, or consciousness, usually with a lot of pleasure.

Amino Acid Repair: The healing of brain and body through, amino acids (protein) and other quality nutrition.

Anchor, Trigger, Que: A memory of a person, place, situation or something that’s wired into the memory and is experienced when stimulated.

Attitude: An expression of favor or disfavor towards something.

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS): Negative thoughts, often based on lies, which become an automatic, declared as true, and damaging your self-esteem and self-concept.

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Evaluating Addictions

Brain Activity

Addictions and addictive behaviors are often defended by the addict. When you defend, it usually means you fear there is a problem. A healthy person doesn’t need to defend an annual indulgent evening on New Year’s Eve, an occasional cosmetic procedure, or hanging on to a tacky, old chair.

All regularly repeated, nonessential behaviors need to be explored for the degree of their addictive nature. For example, feeling compelled to jog daily for an hour may be a bit excessive, but feeling bad about yourself if you don’t train every day for weekly triathlon events is clearly an addictive pattern.

Brain Chemistry’s Role

The main role of the neurotransmitter dopamine is to signal the frontal lobe that a behavior is desirable, important, or better than most, which causes heightened awareness and a craving for more.

All natural pleasures produce dopamine, including drugs and addictive behaviors. Drugs induce a very large release of dopamine, which serves to intoxicate the brain into thinking that the experience was overpoweringly wonderful. And, indeed, perhaps it was.  However, with enough use, the brain’s pleasure center becomes rewired to believe that use of mind altering chemicals is the highest form of pleasure, and when triggered, your chemical response eventually becomes, “I must use to survive.” This results in persistent using and a loss of control, even when there are significant negative or even disastrous results.

Potential positive addictions

Positive Addiction

The term positive addiction sounds good, but if something is a true addiction, it’s not positive. Some maintenance addictions, like exercising or dieting, have positive aspects, but can be unhealthy when done in excess. It creates an unclear gray area where addiction problems are compared to the added value of the addictive behavior, resulting in an almost equal balance of cons and pros. This is especially tricky when dealing with addictions related to everyday tasks like eating and working. If your behavior falls into this category, consider cutting back when possible and getting involved in another positive activity.

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Abstinent and Maintenance Addictions

It’s essential you have a clear and strong response to your addiction. Depending on the type of addiction and your relationship with it, this requires either abstaining or maintaining, or abstaining after attempting to maintain.

Abstinent Addictions

Abstinence requires total avoidance from the addiction. Consider the following:

Drugs or Non-Prescription Medication

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine: Smoking or chewing
  • Opiates
  • Over the Counter Medications
  • Performance Enhancing Medications: Steroids, human growth hormones, etc.
  • Synthetic or designer drugs
  • Tranquilizers



Ingestion of non-food materials

Self Harm

  • Burning, Cutting, and Pounding
  • Suicide attempts


Pornography, Internet

Maintenance Addictions:

With some addictions aspects of the addiction are unavoidable or have some redeeming value. Your recovery approach needs a structured plan with specific limits. Some addictions may necessitate a brief period of abstinence, such as sexual abstinence when you are in recovery from a sex addiction.


  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Tanning: Tanorexia



  • Cluttering and Hoarding
  • Status: Art, cars, women, an entourage


  • Sports: Watching or participating
  • War: Against self or others


From high risk behavior

  • Criminal activity
  • Drama
  • Extreme activities: bungy jumping, hang gliding

Extreme Exercise and Body Building


Ego-acknowledgment, achievement, money, attention


  • Overeating
  • Binging/purging
  • Dieting
  • Eliminating:  suppository
  • Obesity
  • Sugar or carbohydrate abuse
  • Under-eating: Anorexia

Gambling and Gaming

  • Personal or Interactive
  • Video: Units and online


  • Saving
  • Spending: For pleasure
  • Spending: For effect, status, control, ego

Power and Control

  • Accumulation: Making, keeping
  • Institutional: Organizational, religious

Prescription Medication

Relationship, Love, Romance


  • Personal, Interpersonal
  • Video, Television, Movies, Porn

Work, Personal Projects

Note: Categories are not clear-cut. Depending on the details, addictions could be in a different or more than one category.

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Addictions: Causes & Types – Part two

Addiction Defined


There are two types of addiction: addiction to substances and addictive behaviors.

Traits of Addiction

Traits of Addiction

Many addictions and addictive behaviors have similar traits, such as:

  • Acting in response to negative emotions or negative situations.
  • Doing more than you want to, need to, or can handle.
  • Being emotionally disconnected.
  • Feeling compelled to act.
  • Feeling a rush or a high, which is followed by a lack of pleasure and the need to maintain using to keep from feeling negative symptoms.
  • Shame and guilt.
  • Feeling big, proud, and empowered; or small, self-conscious, and out of control.
  • External focus:
    • Controlling people, places, situations, and things; not focusing on self.
    • Looking outside of self for a fix of mood.
  • Inadequate and inconsistent nutrition.
  • Increasing energy, focus, and time involved in the practice of the addiction.
  • Planning your life around your addiction.
  • Lying to important others.
  • Rewarding yourself by making using, an okay choice: “Because I need it, it’s okay.”
  • Thinking about it a lot.

Addictive Behaviors

Addictive Behavior

Addictive behaviors can be simplified as any behavior causing significant or regular harm, loss, or problems to the addict or someone close to the addict. The addict continues to use in spite of the negative impact on others or him/herself.  The addict’s behaviors are focused on the reward or high, not the depth or consequences of the experience.

It’s necessary to recognize that the using behavior is the primary issue in addiction and occurs independently of other mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or mental illness. Poor impulse control is considered its own diagnosis but should not be ignored; it can lead to more serious addictive behaviors and other issues.

In order to be diagnosed with an addictive behavior, a person must have at least five of the following symptoms:

Preoccupation You have frequent thoughts about all aspects of using.

Tolerance:  You require larger amounts or more frequent using to experience the same rush.

Withdrawal:  You experience emotional/physical pain that is associated with attempts to cease or reduce using behavior.

Escaping:  You use addictive behavior to improve your mood or escape issues.

Chasing You use to compensate for losses.

Lying: You try to hide the extent of your behavior by lying to family, friends, or professionals.

Loss of control You have unsuccessful attempts to reduce the behavior.

Breaking of boundaries:  You break a personal, social, or legal limit in order to fulfill your desire.

Rescuing You turn to family, friends, or another third party for assistance.

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