The Broad Category of Addictions
An addiction is a broad term used to describe a pattern of compulsive behaviors related to any activity—using drugs, drinking, gambling, sex, shopping, work, investing, gaming, Internet use, exercise, or even other people. Drinking and using drugs involves the ingestion of a substance; however, there are numerous addictions that are more focused on a behavior not involving ingested chemicals. These addictions are called behavioral addictions.
Some of these behavioral addictions like shopping or investing, involve a self-image of an illusion of importance. This self-image supports the continuation of the behavior even when there are financial difficulties. In a society that is focused on success, some behaviors such as exercise or working can keep a person engaged in these activities. In fact, some individuals continue the behaviors because they are rewarded by others. Even positive behaviors such as exercise or work can turn into an addiction.
The addiction evolves when the person who works or exercises excessively begins to feel tense when they do not get to engage in the behavior. Their involvement in the behavior begins to overshadow other responsibilities such as family, friends, or home activities. The rewards of exercise, shopping, Internet use, or work begin to wane when a person pushes these activities beyond a healthy level. Over time, a person begins to feel irritated and dissatisfied and they may displace these feelings onto other people who in their opinion do not measure up.
As the addiction escalates, the addict finds it hard to experience joy in other activities. The addict will continue to exercise, work, or shop despite financial ruin, injury, or health-related concerns.
Internet addiction is quickly becoming a behavioral addiction that is receiving research support. Internet addiction has been described as one of the fastest growing behavioral addictions today. The anonymity of the Internet makes it easy and accessible for individuals to connect with virtually anyone in the world. There are chat rooms, email, hookup sites, and online dating sites that are used by millions of individuals. Excitement can become the foundation for continued Internet use even if there are consequences associated with the behavior.
The Internet is always open and provides not only anonymity but also a false sense of reality. Many individuals can form romantic relationships with others they have never met. This behavior can increase to the point of becoming possessive or addictive. The person on the other end becomes the focus or object of love even to the point where other responsibilities are neglected.