13 Strange Addictions You Didn't Know You Could Develop
From piercings to eating dirt, medical experts reveal the things you didn't know you could be addicted to.
Addiction is a complex issue. It's not always drugs, alcohol, or food that get people hooked. Addiction can manifest itself in many forms—physical, psychological, and behavioral—whether or not there is an actual chemical dependence involved, according to a 2012 analysis of addiction and addictive behaviors out of Indiana University. So people can become addicted to actions, feelings, or behaviors, not just substances. From eating glass to tanning to breastfeeding, here are some strange addictions you probably never knew about.
If you ever find yourself struggling with any type of addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP.
As you might imagine, being addicted to consuming sharp shards of broken glass is extremely dangerous. But addiction by nature is not a behavior driven by reason, logic, or a desire to protect yourself from causing your body harm. Knowing that's the case helps to understand the dangerous disorder called hyalophagia, a categorized eating disorder that's an addiction to consuming glass materials, according to a 2008 case study published in the Indian Journal of Surgery.
Those who deliberately consume dirt, soil, or clay have geophagia. This condition has been defined as everything from a psychiatric disease to a response to poverty, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The researchers found that while rare in developed countries, geophagia has been documented in medical textbooks dating back as early as 460 B.C.
Every time you get a new piercing, your body releases endorphins, a response to the pain of the needle going through your skin. As Stephanie Hutter-Thomas, PhD, a professional body piercer and professor in the psychology of body art, explained to Refinery29: "Pain allows us to experience pleasure by presenting adequate contrast for our brain. Many piercing enthusiasts describe the feeling after getting one as release and relaxation. Some people seek out a piercing procedure as a form of self-therapy, allowing them to release stress."
For some people who seek out tan skin all year round, the use of tanning beds can become more than a hobby. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Addiction Biology, exposure to the UV rays emitted from a tanning bed also triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which scientists believe at least partially explains the reasoning behind tanorexia, the name of the disorder that is tanning addiction.
According to a 2012 study published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reviews, as much as 8.2 percent of the population in both the United States and Europe is dealing with social media addiction. Researchers theorize that people become addicted to social media as a result of receiving "multiple layers of reward" that are similar to the ones sought after by gambling addicts.
When a person is addicted to scrolling through Instagram or posting on Facebook, they experience symptoms "similar to those experienced by individuals who suffer from addictions to substances," Mark D. Griffiths, PhD, a professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University, wrote for Psychology Today.
Just as there are people who seek happiness through love and reciprocated affection, there are also those who find a certain pleasure in feeling rejected. As psychologist Robert Firestone explained to HuffPost, the experience of not being accepted reinforces a pessimistic person's "critical inner voice," and it's easier to keep a negative mindset than it is to challenge those thoughts and work on thinking positively.
In fact, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that getting rejected stimulates the parts of the brain affiliated with motivation and reward (the same receptors that drive addiction).
Yes, there is such a thing as carrot addiction, according to a landmark 1996 study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychology. According to the study, the basis of the addiction is believed to be beta carotene, which may "replicate the addictive component of nicotine." The researchers stated this addiction causes withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, craving, insomnia, and irritability.
Eating healthy in general
Becoming too focused on healthy eating in general can potentially lead to an eating disorder known as orthorexia, as catalogued by the National Eating Disorder Association. For those with orthorexia, the obsession with eating "right" is so overwhelming that it actually has an opposite, unhealthy effect, often leading to malnourishment, stress, and a decrease in quality of life.
If you find yourself exercising through injuries to the point of bodily harm or getting anxious when you miss a workout, then you might have a behavioral addiction to working out. This particular addiction—which affects more than a million Americans, according to 2017 research in the British Medical Journal—is often seen in individuals with eating disorders and body image disorders.
Playing video games
It was only in 2018 that the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized gaming disorder as a real and diagnosable condition. But playing video games has long been described as a potentially addictive activity. To be diagnosed with the disorder, WHO says, "the [behavior] pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months."
Hoarding disorder, or disposophobia, is a condition that the American Psychiatric Association classifies as involving the practice of excessively saving items that other people might view as worthless. In many cases, hoarding addiction impedes upon someone's everyday life, making it difficult to move around the house, host friends, and even stay healthy.
There are plenty of moms all over the world—including actress Penélope Cruz—who've struggled to give up breastfeeding because of the emotional bond it creates between them and their child.
Mallory Bourn, a self-proclaimed breastfeeding addict, described it to the Mirror like this: "I am addicted to the attachment and the closeness it brings—that powerful connection. When I think about stopping, I feel really sad. I'm so attached to it and can't imagine my day without those feeds."
For people with bibliomania, it's not about reading, per se, but more about owning books. In fact, many bibliomaniacs will stock up on several copies of the same book, collecting every single one they can get their hands on until they have no room left in their house. In one severe case, a man in Iowa by the name of Stephen Blumberg even went so far as to steal more than 23,600 books worth a total of $5.3 million, earning him the nickname "the Book Bandit."