The word addiction often connotes images of drugs and alcohol. Such substances, we’re told, have inherent properties that make them chemically irresistible, and drive the human body on a one-way street toward physical dependence. It’s the drug, they say, not the person.
However, recent research, including analysis out of Indiana University’s department of Applied Health Science, indicate that it’s more a combination of brain composition and circumstances that drives addictive behaviors. In other words, you could become addicted to absolutely anything—and it doesn’t have to be a tangible object. Actions, too, are addictive. From eating glass to hoarding garbage, herein, we’ve rounded up the strange addictions you can fall victim to. And if you ever find yourself struggling with one, know that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is available all day, every day, either online or via phone at 1-800-662-HELP.
Moms all over the world—including actress Penelope Cruz—struggle or have struggled to give up breastfeeding, due to emotional bond it creates between mother and child. As Mallory Bourn, a self-proclaimed breastfeeding addict, explained to the Mirror: “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.”
As you might imagine, being addicted to consuming sharp shards of broken glass is extremely dangerous. However, addictions don’t respond to reason, and so people with hyalophagia—the scientific name for this categorized eating disorder—can’t come to terms with the fact that their addiction puts their health at risk. And, as reported in the Indian Journal of Surgery, the condition tends to continue even after it leads to surgery.
Naturally, most people think that what they want is to find true love and happiness—but oddly enough, it is possible to become so negative that rejection feels better than a happy relationship. Here’s why. As psychologist Robert Firestone explained to the Huffington Post, getting rejected 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. What’s more, one 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).
The Internet and Social Media
According to one study published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reviews, as much as 8.2 percent of the populations in both the United States and Europe suffer from “problematic computer use,” characterized by several hours spent online in a non-work capacity. Researchers theorize that people become addicted to the internet as a result of receiving “multiple layers of reward” from using it, similar to gambling addicts.
A lot of the reward comes straight from social media, and the notification-reward system built into each platform (Facebook “likes,” Snapchat “fires,” et cetera). 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,” according to Mark D. Griffiths, a professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University.
Eating Foods You’re Allergic to
When the body detects what it perceives to be a harmful foreign substance (an allergen), it releases a horde of endorphins as part of its response, which boost your mood despite whatever other pain and discomfort you might be experiencing. And because of this hormonal response, many people become addicted to eating foods they’re allergic to, hoping to achieve that same state of euphoria—all health risks aside.
Most people can’t fathom the idea of wasting precious space on useless trinkets, but people with disposphobia have the opposite problem, seeing as they can’t fathom the idea of not holding on to absolutely everything. In many cases, this hoarding addiction impedes the sufferer’s everyday life, making it difficult to move around the house, host friends, and even stay healthy.
Those who consume dirt suffer from geophagia, an eating disorder focused on the consumption of earth, soil, or clay. And while there are many reasons as to why someone would eat dirt, ranging from supposed nutritional values to hunger relief, what researchers do know is that the addiction, according to research in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, has been documented in humans since as early as 460 B.C.E.
While it’s natural to strive for a glistening glow in the summer months, some people take this pigmentation quest a bit too far, turning it into an all-consuming addiction. One study published in Addiction Biology found that exposure to UV light triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which scientists believe at least partially explains the reasoning behind tanorexia, as the addiction is referred.
After the death and subsequent funeral of his father in 1983, Luis Squarisi became so obsessed with attending funerals that he was forced to quit his job in order to keep up with his craving. For more than 20 years, the Brazilian man has attended every single funeral in his hometown, and he admitted that part of his morning ritual is to “turn on the radio to find out if anyone has died. If I don’t hear anything, I call the hospitals.”
Listening to Music
Listening to a toe-tapping tune has to ability to make humans feel good—so good, in fact, that, according to researchers from McGill University, it can even become addictive. In their study, they found that even just thinking about listening to good music can cause the release of dopamine (just like doing drugs or having sex does), often cited as the neurotransmitter responsible for addiction.
Yes, there is such a thing as becoming too focused on healthful eating, and it’s an eating disorder known as orthorexia, as catalogued by the National Eating Disorder Association. For people with orthorexia, the obsession with and addiction to 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 be suffering from what is considered to be a behavioral addiction. This obsession—estimated to affect some 0.5 percent of the population (put another way: that’s more than a million Americans), according to research in BMJ—is often seen in individuals who are also suffering from eating disorders and body image disorders.
Playing Video Games
Anti-video game sentiment has been around for decades, in various forms, but it was only this year that the World Health Organization decided to recognize “gaming disorder” as a real and diagnosable condition. According to the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases, someone suffering from gaming disorder makes it their top priority to the degree that it ” takes precedence over other interests and daily activities,” including work, school, an in-person social life, and familial obligations.
Every time you get a new piercing, your body releases endorphins, thanks to the pain of the needle going through your skin. As Stephanie Hutter-Thomas, a professional body piercer and student 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.”
Several cases of carrot addiction in humans have been recorded and researched, with people suffering from the obsession comparing it to being addicted to tobacco, if not more intense. Researchers aren’t sure as to why, exactly, this root vegetable of all root vegetables is so addictive, but many speculate that it has something to do with its large stores of beta carotene, which may “replicate the addictive component of nicotine,” according to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychology.
Thanks to trackers that are able to monitor quality of sleep, people are now, more than ever, striving to getting a good night’s rest—often to their detriment. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers found that people who rely on wearables to track their sleep—some 15 percent of American adults—usually end up inaccurately reading the data, leading to a negative feedback loop that further fuels their obsession.
“The perfectionist quest to achieve perfect sleep is similar to the unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating,” study author Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, MPH, explained to Science Daily. “It’s not always possible to hack the perfect night of sleep.” With the ubiquity of trackers, researchers have now given a name to this obsession—orthosomnia—and are working on figuring out ways to treat patients who psych themselves into fatigue.
For people with bibliomania, it’s not about reading, per se, but more about just 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.”