Menu Close

Rare or Little Known Behavioral Addictions

Rare or little known behavioral addictions are prevalent across the United States. Many of these are behaviors that most people would not associate with being addictive. Some believe that life is so stressful in the United States that not being addicted to something is impossible. Anne Wilson Schaef stresses this fact in her book When Society Becomes an Addict.

Has America Become a Nation of Addicts?

Many would argue that yes, it has. However, instead of placing the blame on the culture of the U.S., the blame is being placed on human nature. This is because human beings are so:

  • Restless
  • Discontent
  • Irritable
  • Easily distracted
  • Fidgety
  • Impatient

Because of these characteristics, humans find it extremely difficult to just be still. Instead, we have to find ways to entertain, amuse and distract ourselves. For many of these activities and/or substances soon develop into addictions. Behavioral addictions are often ignored, or thought of as not being real. The fact is, these process addictions can be just as harmful as addictions to substances.

What is Addiction?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine describes addiction as something that: “…is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Addiction is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.” In simpler terms, addiction is a chronic condition that often results in remission and relapse. It is something that you feel you need, even though logic dictates that you don’t.

Rare or Little Known Addictions in the United States

When most people think of addictions, they think of things like alcoholism and heroin addiction. Sometimes they’ll also think of gambling addiction or pornography. These addictions are quite common. In fact, research shows that more than 23.5 million people need addiction treatment for these and other similar addictions. Even so, this is only a part of the problem. Many others are addicted to things that many wouldn’t consider addictions at first glance. Still, they can do quite a bit of damage, long-term.

An Addiction to Exercise

Studies show that 10% of high-performance runners are addicted to exercise. Similarly, about 10% of bodybuilders are also addicted. There is a reason why exercise fiends commonly experience what’s known as a “runner’s high.” It is a very real occurrence for many. It seems absurd to think that exercising could become an addiction. After all, wouldn’t that be difficult to do? Most people have a hard time fitting in 30 minutes of exercise a day. To work out for hours at a time on a daily basis seems highly unlikely for most. That is, unless you have an exercise addiction. Compulsive exercisers are completely focused on exercising. They do so to the detriment of just about everything else in their lives. This means that work, family and other activities take a backseat to exercise. Exercise addiction can involve:

  • Feeling obsessed about the need to lose weight
  • Spending too much time thinking about calorie control
  • Needing to work out with the same routine each time
  • Working out for more than two hours a day
  • Exercising the point of injury, and even exercising despite suffering from an injury

Tanning Addiction

Addictions statistics tell us that more than 50% of beach-goers could be considered tanning addicts. Also, 26% of sun worshipers qualify as having a substance-related disorder. People who tan between 8 and 15 times each month experience withdrawal when they’re unable to tan. This refers to tanning in a tanning booth or under the sun’s rays. Tanning once was something people did for fun. This was long before the dangers of tanning booths and even the sun’s rays became common knowledge. Being exposed to ultraviolet rays (either from the sun or a tanning bed) results in increased endorphins. These serve to boost your mood, and that sensation is highly addictive.

Cosmetic Surgery Addiction

In the year 2000, 7.4 million people had some sort of cosmetic procedure done. By the year 2008, that number had increased to 12.1 million people. 91% of all cosmetic surgery procedures are done on women. For 10% of people who get plastic surgery done, it becomes a serious problem for them. Eventually, they form an addiction to tanning. In many of these situations, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is to blame. This can lead to multiple procedures. For many, their goal is to anxiety and depression symptoms. For those with cosmetic surgery addictions, they get these procedures done in spite of the risks. When health risks and financial issues are a concern, repeatedly getting plastic surgery can be called an addiction.

An Addiction to Chewing Ice

2% of men over the age of 18 in the U.S. compulsively chew ice. The same is true for 16% of women. Between 2003 and 2006, the sale of ice machines that make ice that’s easier to chew increased by 24%. Chewing ice seems like a fairly normal activity. Almost everyone does it, but some people do it compulsively. This is known as a condition called pagophagia. Pagophagia causes people to crave and eat items that either isn’t food or have no nutritional value. Chewing ice compulsively can be an indicator of an iron deficiency. Sometimes when this problem is corrected, no additional treatment is needed. Even so, there are those for whom chewing ice becomes a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can develop into an addiction that needs to be treated for recovery to take place.

An Addiction to Pulling Hair

11 million Americans suffer from a compulsive need to pull hair, or to pull hair out. This is a condition that is referred to as trichotillomania. It is often called trich for short. Trich is classified as a behavioral addiction because it is an impulse control disorder. People with trich may pull hair from:

  • The crowns of their heads
  • Their scalps
  • Their eyelashes
  • Their eyebrows
  • Any other area of the body that grows hair

Bald patches are normal for these individuals. Some will even chew or eat the hair after it has been pulled out. Pulling hair is a painful addiction, but it’s one that so many people suffer from.

A Tattoo Addiction

About 14% of the American population has a tattoo, according to a poll from 2008. For many of these individuals, their tattoos were gotten for a specific reason. Some claim they feel rebellious because of them. For others, tattoos make them feel strong, sexy or more attractive. Tattooing and other forms of body modification can quickly become addictive. There are endorphins released during these sessions that can lead to addiction. They can also result in self-mutilation and self-injury. When tattooing begins to take over one’s life, it’s safe to assume that an addiction may be the reason.

An Addiction to Eating Dirt

While a dirt addiction might seem to be the strangest on this list, it’s also one of the most common. In some parts of the world, eating dirt is considered to be completely normal. In a study of pregnant women, 54% of them consumed dirt daily. Of this number, more than 75% ate at least three teaspoons of dirt each day. Consuming dirt may be typical, but it’s not healthy. When it has become an obsession, there are many risks involved. People who eat dirt can easily be exposed to viruses, parasites, and other dangers. When eating dirt becomes a need, it has become a hazardous addiction that should be treated.

Signs that a Behavior has Become an Addiction

How can you tell if a certain behavior has gone from being harmless to being an addiction? There are some process addictions signs you can look for. These include:

  • You feel a deep need to do this behavior
  • Unless you’re engaging in this behavior, you don’t feel like yourself
  • You go through withdrawal if you’re not able to engage in the behavior
  • You think about doing this particular behavior most of the time
  • You arrange your life around this behavior

Treatment for Bizarre, Behavioral Addictions

If you do have a process addiction or a behavioral addiction, you need treatment. It’s possible that your behavioral addiction coincides with a substance abuse problem. If this is the case, you may need treatment for co-occurring disorders. Either way, you should consider getting addiction treatment. Counseling and group therapy are going to be so important for you going forward.

Do You Have a Little Known or Strange Addiction? Treatment Can Help

You may have a little known or rare addiction that you need help with. It might be something that you once thought was completely harmless. However, now you know that it’s not. Even the most benign of addictions can quickly start interfering in your life. Once a behavior begins to become problematic, it’s time to make a change. At that point, it could be a clear indication that it has become an addiction. If this is the case, you may need to get treatment for it as soon as possible. No matter what you do, don’t put off getting the help you need. Sometimes, behavioral addictions can pave the way toward cross addictions or other issues. It’s time to stop that addiction cycle as soon as possible. Also, there is no shame in having a behavioral addiction. During treatment, you’ll get all the help you need, with unconditional support.

Sources: (9, May 2010). Is Everyone Addicted to Something?. Retrieved from: (19, April 2011). Definition of Addiction. Retrieved from: (2017). 10 Strange Addictions. Retrieved from: (22, March 2016). 8 Common Behavioral Addictions. Retrieved from: