2022 California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA) Conference

Addiction 2.0

When we think about addiction, we associate the word with an addiction to substances, such alcohol, tobacco, pills or other drugs. But in recent years, researchers have been studying behavioral addiction, an overwhelming desire to engage in a particular behavior or action. Some of the characteristics of substance addictions and behavioral addictions are similar, including lack of compulsive or obsessive behaviors, lack of control, and continuing to engage despite very negative consequences.

Behavioral addictions leave us distracted, frustrated, empty, and not as productive as we could be. However, they are so common that they are considered socially acceptable, making the addiction harder to identify and treat. Although self-destructive, these addictions can easily go by unnoticed. Let’s look at 7 things that some people – maybe even you – might not even realize you’re addicted to:

Social Media

Researchers in Norway have published a new psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction, the first of its kind worldwide. They write about their work in the April 2012 issue of the journal Psychological Reports. Heavy use of Facebook has been linked to mood swings. Researchers are calling this “Facebook depression.” Psychologists divide Twitter users into “informers,” those who pass along interesting facts, and “meformers,” those who pass along interesting facts about only themselves.

Dieting

We’ve all seen how addictive dieting can be and how some people end up anorexic or bulimic, but what is it about dieting that makes it addictive? Dieting is something where you see gradual improvement over time, or incremental rewards for your effort. It is possible to continuously check your progress by measuring your weight (especially with today’s new apps) – a continuous reward and motivation to try harder while providing a constant source of pride. Many chronic dieters often have an underlying emotional cause for their addiction – such as feeling they do not have much control in their real lives. On an unconscious level, they use dieting as a way to feel in control.

Lottery Tickets

A review of the literature suggests that lottery players are distinct from non-players, and that addicted gamblers differ from normal gamblers. Excessive lottery playing may be a manifestation of a general compulsive consumption trait that is evident in other consumption areas. Surveys reveal that lottery players are getting younger and have less income and education than non-players. Heavy players are found to have less income and to fantasize more than light players. Very heavy lottery players share characteristics of addicted gamblers: they are older, higher in income, fantasize more, and engage in other forms of gambling. A subset of them also exhibits compulsive consumption in the forms of browsing and heavy buying, sensation seeking, and risk-taking. The dream of winning the lottery seemingly accommodates their strong fantasy needs.

Checking Medical Data

All the medical data available online has created a class of people known as “cyberchondriacs.” Dr. Rosen examined how the constant use of technology may be rewiring our brains. One study he cites calls the impact on memory the “Google effect,” that is, an inability to remember facts brought on by the realization that they are all available in a few keystrokes via Google.

Work

In an article in Forbes, Dr. Bryan E. Robinson calls work addition the nation’s “best dressed addiction.” Work addicts have desks stacked high with projects; they’re always working, they’re very demanding, and constantly sweating the small details. They’re perfectionists with no life outside the office. “It’s not about long hours,” says Robinson, a psychotherapist and author of Chained to The Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and The Clinicians Who Treat Them. “It’s about the inability to turn it off. It’s a question of balance.” Corporate pressure doesn’t create workaholics. Robinson notes that workaholics often come from dysfunctional homes and have learned that putting in long hours helps calm their anxiety about other aspects of life. A workaholic is driven to put in long hours by internal needs, typically a desire to escape intimacy and social relationships. Like heavy drinking or overeating, workaholism only masks the underlying problem while creating other difficulties.

Technology

Some expert believe that social media sites may spawn narcissism and how constantly checking our wireless mobile devices can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Others believe technology addiction can lead to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Larry D. Rosen, a California psychologist and author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us” believes there is a very real possibility that mobile devices may be making some of us mentally ill — especially those who are prone to narcissism, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Another issue is the lack of verbal and in-person communication. Communication via device can be very isolating. Eye contact, social cues, voice modulation, and body language are all critical to communication and they are lost.

Online Games

Like Tetris before them, Farmville, Bejeweled, Candy Crush Angry Birds — a mobile phone game in which players use a slingshot to propel birds at tiny little green pigs — has been a runaway hit since its 2009 release, with more than 700 million downloads. NPR’s Neal Conan described the fascination with and addiction to “stupid games” as a phenomenon. The game’s basic mechanism — using your index finger to pull back a slingshot, over and over — is described as the perfect use of the new technology of the touch screen: “simple enough to lure a suddenly immense new market of casual gamers, satisfying enough to hook them.”

For those combating some form of techno-addiction, such as iPhone, IPad or iPod, Dr. Rosen advises regularly stepping away from the device for a few minutes and connecting with nature. Interestingly, research shows that just standing outside and staring at the trees has a way of resetting our brains.

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