5 Often Unrecognized Addictions

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“Approximately, 210 million young adults suffer from internet and social media addictions worldwide. However, most go untreated, because this behavior is considered ‘socially-accepted.’”

~ Anonymous

Most people automatically assume you are referring to drugs and alcohol when you say the word “addiction.” However, researchers are now starting to investigate other types of addictions, such as behavioral addictions.

Behavioral addiction involves an uncontrollable urge or desire to repetitively perform or engage in a specific behavior. The signs are an inability to control one’s actions, obsessive behaviors, compulsions, and continuing behaviors, even though they will most likely lead to negative consequences.

Some behaviors are so praised and supported that it causes addictions to go unnoticed.

Typically unrecognized addictions

Unfortunately, some “addictive behaviors” are considered “socially acceptable,” making it hard to identify and address emerging or full-fledged addictions. So, what is the difference between normal, age-related behaviors and a real addiction?

Love Addiction

Can one really love someone too much? How is that even possible? Well, the answer is “Yes!” There is such a thing as love addiction. And, guess what? It hits young adults the most. Being in love with someone triggers a wide variety of emotions – exhilaration, attachment, and excitement. In other words, it makes you feel “high.”

These are normal emotions. However, people who suffer from a love addiction become so preoccupied and obsessed with the “high” that it takes over their lives. Love addicts feel like they can’t live without their love interests. This heightens the risk for a dangerous situation – for the addicts and other people.

Researchers suggest that approximately 5 -10% of young adults in the U.S. have a love addiction.

Love addicts believe they can only truly be happy if they have the love and affection of their love interests. These individuals are “addicted to love” which means they seek love from others. The goal is to trigger the lovey-dovey feelings they receive during the earlier stages of romantic relationships.

Work Addiction

Another addiction that often goes unnoticed, especially amongst younger adults, is work addiction. The signs of this addiction often go unnoticed because these behaviors are often praised by society. More specifically, people who exhibit work-related behaviors are labeled “workaholics,” which is considered a good thing in the eyes of many people and employers.

“Workaholics” are obsessed with working. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to their jobs, it just has to be a task. These individuals are always thinking about tasks and things they can do. Being a “workaholic” is okay to a certain degree. But when it consumes you to the point that you can’t stop and relax, it is an addiction. In other words, if it negatively interferes with your daily life – it’s a problem. A work addiction, also referred to as “Workaholism,” is a compulsive disorder so an addict doesn’t even have to like his or her job or the task to obsess over it.

Some work addicts are addicted to the high they receive from working. It feels like an adrenaline rush to them. Other work addicts are addicted to the high they receive from the praise, rewards, and sense of accomplishment from successfully going beyond what’s expected.  

Unfortunately, being a “workaholic” is considered a desirable asset that garners praise and applauds from bosses and co-workers alike.  

Caffeine Addiction

Did you know that 50% of coffee drinkers suffer from withdrawal symptoms (i.e. headaches) when trying to reduce coffee consumption? Well, it’s true! Your brain considers caffeine a reward. It also speeds up your cognitive functions. So, the more caffeine you consume, the more dependent you become on it to help you function throughout the day.

Caffeine also causes your body to produce extra dopamine. This hormone controls your moods, energizes you, and helps you experience pleasure – a common catalyst of addiction. Common signs of caffeine addiction include jitteriness, restlessness, chest pains, lethargy, nausea, and headaches.

TV Addiction

Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a TV addiction. One of the often unrecognized addictions, TV is used as a form of self-medication. Sometimes, TV is used to escape reality or reduce or eliminate negative emotions like anxiety, stress, despair, depression, loneliness, and/or pain. Other times, it helps a person relax after a long, stressful day.

As many as 13% of young adults say they’re addicted to TV and approximately 70% of young adults know someone who is addicted to it.

Internet Addiction

As we venture further into a technological age, the risk of Internet addiction will increase – especially for teens and people in their 20s. Every year we become a little more reliant on the Internet. In fact, 5 to 10% of young adults are addicted to the Internet. Specifically, social media, gaming sites, streaming, music sites, and YouTube are addictive.

A recent study found that college-aged people have a 15% higher Internet addiction rate than young children, teens, middle-aged adults, and older adults. Internet addicts spend the majority of their time online, neglecting other tasks and responsibilities.

An obsession or preoccupation with the Internet becomes an addiction when it takes precedence over everything and everyone else in a person’s life. This addict prefers to spend their time online than with other people. He or she craves the Internet the same way a drug addict craves drugs. Thus, Internet addicts are addicted to the high they receive from being online. 

Studies suggest that these addicts experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to wean off the Internet. They may also experience these symptoms when they are unable to spend adequate time online. These symptoms may include depression, anxiety, sadness, irritability, and loneliness.

An Internet addict spends approximately 38-40 hours, per week, online.

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Actionable Steps


Reaffirm your love for someone with one of the commonly unrecognized addictions

The first thing you should do if your loved one is suffering from an addiction is to reaffirm your love for him or her. Explain that the addiction will not change your love for him or her. Reassure your loved one that even though you may not fully understand what he or she is going through, you’re not going to give up on him or her.

An affirmation like this can provide your loved one with the confidence and support he or she needs to seek help for the addiction. Studies suggest that many addicts are scared, confused, and insecure, so abandoning them because of the addiction can actually worsen the situation and reinforce the addiction.


Explain that everyone needs help sometimes

Make sure that your loved one understands that everyone needs help sometimes – even you. Provide him or her with examples from your own life where you needed help from someone. Be candid and honest with your loved one because he or she needs to know he or she is not alone. Explain to your loved one that seeking help is not embarrassing. It doesn’t mean he or she is weak, crazy, or “bad.” Rather, seeking help for a problem is brave and courageous.


Help your loved one understand that it’s not his or her fault

You’ll also want to help your loved one understand that the addiction is not his or her fault. All addictions are diseases. You can encourage your loved one to seek help by explaining to him or her that addiction is a condition – not a choice. So, provide him or her with literature on addiction in general and on his or her specific addiction, so he or she is aware of where the addiction comes from and why he or she became addicted. An addict may not be responsible for the addiction; he or she is responsible for seeking treatment for it.


Be a beacon of hope

For many, addiction feels hopeless. More specifically, when a person is in the midst of addiction, it can feel like a never-ending dark tunnel with no end in sight. So, the best thing you can do for your loved one is to be a beacon of hope. Reassure your loved one that things will get better – he or she just needs to hold on a little while longer.
He or she may not believe you at first but that’s okay. Keep being that beacon for him or her; you can be a positive influence on your loved one. Just keep reminding him or her that although he’s going through a rough time right now, it’s only a season – not a lifetime.


Offer to help

Lastly, offer to help your loved one – if he or she needs it. However, if your loved one simply isn’t ready to seek treatment, offer to be there for him or her whenever he or she needs someone to talk to. Just being available and listening can make a significant impact on a person who is dealing with an addiction, whether it’s one of the commonly unrecognized addictions or not.


Read more about often unrecognized addictions

You can learn more about types of typically unrecognized addictions by reading the following articles: 10 Addictions You Might Not Know You Have, 4 Uncommon Addictions That Are Really Problematic, What is Love Addiction and Symptoms Of Internet Addiction You Shouldn’t Ignore.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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