The 7 Most Common Non-Drug Addictions

When we think of the term “addiction,” most of us think of drug abuse such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis or amphetamines, but in fact there are many different kinds of addiction included in, or being considered for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): the psychiatry “bible” for such matters. With 1 in 8 Americans addicted to something, the list makes for some scary reading. In no particular order, the most common non-drug addictions in North America are:

1. Caffeine

Caffeine addiction didn’t make it into the most recent update of the DSM, although caffeine withdrawal and caffeine overdose did. Nevertheless, it is widely considered to be the most common addiction in the world. Around 68 million Americans drink at least three cups of coffee a day, and it is estimated that 3 out of 4 regular caffeine drinkers are actually addicted to the drug.

Although caffeine addiction is not as harmful as some other drug addictions, it can have serious consequences for a minority of people. Caffeine withdrawal can induce nervousness, restlessness and agitation, as well as severe headaches and depression.

2. Gambling

Compulsive gambling is an addiction which did make it into the DSM, and it’s a problem which is growing. In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever to gamble, whether you’re betting on sports, playing scratchcards or gambling with online slot machines.

Gambling addiction is an impulse control problem, and it can start very young—figures suggest that an astonishing 750,000 people between the ages of 14 and 21 have some form of gambling addiction. Although not associated with the physical health problems of drug addiction, gambling addiction wrecks lives and is strongly associated with a fall into criminal activity.

3. Internet

Internet addiction per se is not in the DSM, although Internet gaming addiction is being considered for inclusion. However, most of us know someone who’s preoccupation with online activity is disruptive to their lives, and online technology now encroaches upon every area of life. Of course, just checking your Facebook and email umpteen times a day does not necessarily constitute a problem addiction, but for many young people in particular Internet addiction can bring about or exacerbate serious psychological and mental health issues, including depression and social anxiety.

4. Alcohol

Clearly one of the world’s most prominent addictions, alcohol addiction (technically a drug addiction) is estimated to directly cause nearly 2 million deaths worldwide each year, and is strongly linked to over 60 diseases. It is also linked to spousal abuse and violence, yet this drug is widely and legally available around the world.

Estimated to cost the US alone over $170 billion a year, the cost to individual families is incalculable. As well as serious liver disease and other health problems, alcohol addiction is a serious issue for society as a whole.

5. Nicotine/Tobacco

Another perfectly legal drug, but one we often don’t consider as a drug addiction—and another huge addiction problem is nicotine addiction. Nearly half a million premature deaths a year in the US alone are directly attributable to smoking. Although smoking does not have the same societal problems as alcohol or drug addiction – people rarely resort to crime to fund their smoking habit, for instance – it’s an often overlooked addiction which is very hard to beat.

6. Work

Workaholism is much more than just working hard or putting in some extra hours. Those who are addicted to work use their work as a psychological crutch which often masks other underlying mental health conditions. An addiction to work can prevent the individual from forming healthy relationships, enjoying any leisure time or getting or staying physically healthy.

Work addiction is not in the DSM, but it is increasingly recognized as a unique set of symptoms by health professionals, and typically requires quite a complex therapy treatment in order to uncover and beat the reasons why the work addiction formed in the first place.

7. Shopping

Shopping addiction is similar to gambling addiction in that it is an impulse control problem, and for the first time it is being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the DSM. It is estimated that around 5% of people have some kind of spending addiction, and one of the giveaway signs is often a secret life of some kind, as the individual attempts to hide how much they are spending. This creates a vicious circle, whereby the stress of the secrecy leads to more emotionally-based spending.

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