The Different Types of Addictions: Why They Happen and What You Can Do To Overcome Them

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Addiction is a complex condition that can lead to a myriad of different outcomes. This makes it challenging for those grappling with an addiction to know how to get out of the vicious cycle. Addictions can take root very quickly, which makes them extremely difficult to break. The good news, though, is that there are many different types of addictions, and most people who struggle with one or more will be able to successfully recover from it if they seek professional help sooner rather than later. Read on to learn more about the different types of addictions and how they differ from one another.

What is an addiction?

Simply put, addiction is a condition where a person’s body becomes so dependent on a certain substance that it produces a physiological response once that substance is removed. It doesn’t matter if the substance is legal or illegal, what matters is that it becomes the focus of the person’s life. When a person is addicted, they experience intense cravings for the substance, regardless of how it negatively affects them or others around them. When they try to quit the substance, their bodies go into a state of shock, resulting in physical symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and insomnia. Those who persist in trying to quit the substance despite these symptoms are said to be “cold turkey” or “freaking out.”

Binge eating/Purging/Compulsive Behaving

In order to be considered a binge eating disorder (BED), a person must be uncontrollably eating a large amount of food while feeling depressed or guilty after the fact. BED is associated with a great deal of shame and secrecy, which is another reason why it is frequently undiagnosed. BED can also be associated with a compulsion to engage in repetitive behaviors like hand-washing, checking, rearranging, or order-keeping. When a person is engaging in compulsive behaviors, they have no control over them and are unable to reason with them as to why they continue. While compulsive behaviors can be associated with a variety of conditions, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they are most frequently associated with an addiction.

Chemical Dependence

A person has chemical dependence when their brain has become so dependent on a certain substance that it produces a physiological response when that substance is removed. Many people first become dependent on drugs like painkillers or prescription drugs like antidepressants. This type of dependence may begin when the person is a teenager and has not yet developed the brain chemistry to deal well with the effects of a substance while they are still growing and developing.

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence is not the same as chemical dependence. Psychological dependence is a result of long-term use of a substance—such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, or nicotine—and it creates an addicting effect on the brain. It does not produce a physiological response like chemical dependencies do. A person who is psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, but they do not lead to the same kind of physiological dependence as chemical dependencies do.

Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders

We are living in an age of increasing co-occurrence of mental health issues and substance use. This can make it very difficult for individuals to know if they are suffering from an addiction or a co-occurring disorder. However, there are a great many cases where a disorder like BED is actually masking the symptoms of a co-occurring disorder. BED is frequently associated with anorexia, bipolar disorder, and an obsessive-compulsive disorder. BED can also be associated with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.


Addiction is a brain disease that robs people of their self-control. When someone is addicted, their brains have become so accustomed to the effects of a certain substance that it becomes synonymous with “normal.” It’s like a person with a drinking problem who feels an intense craving for alcohol even when they aren’t drinking, who craves the buzz and numbing effects that alcohol has on the nervous system. Addiction not only affects the part of the brain that controls the desire to drink, but also the part of the brain that controls the desire for food, sleep, sex, or other normal human functions. If you or someone you love is struggling with any type of addiction, there is hope. In order to overcome an addiction, you must reach out for help and make a change in your life. There are many different organizations and groups that can help.

Contact us today at 866-963-7200 to get help from our experienced addiction therapists.

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