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The Two Types of Addictions You Can Have

By: Leah Hovey

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Addiction is something that is rampant within our society. Addiction can be a word used very loosely or a word that is not taken seriously enough. While most of us have a general knowledge of what addiction is, you may not know that there are two areas of addiction that are diagnosable within the DSM-5. These two distinct areas help us understand the key elements that are involved in separating out the different types of addictions or compulsions (Hesin et al., 2013).

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use is the most commonly known addiction that is throughout our society. When discussing substance use, it is very important to distinguish substance abuse from substance dependence. Substance abuse is the indulgence of drug or alcohol use. Substance dependence is when there is a physical and chemical reliance on these substances. Without these things, an individual can experience physical and emotional withdrawal. The person must keep using the substance to avoid physical and neurological suffering. There is a huge difference between these two terms, which is why, when there is a dependence on the substance, it is categorized as a substance addiction. Some examples of substances that can be abused are:

→ Alcohol

→ Caffeine (note: more research is needed to learn more about caffeine addiction; however, the DSM-5 does mention there are significant withdrawal symptoms shown among caffeine abusers)

→ Nicotine

→ Opioids

→ Cocaine

→ Cannabis

→ Prescription medication

→ Hallucinations

→ Inhalants

Non-Substance Related Disorders

While gambling and internet gaming are classified as specific addictions within the DSM-5, there are other addictive behaviours or disorders that can be classified as an addiction. While there is not a large amount of dependence with these disorders, certain things can be abused or used in an inappropriate way. These disorders can also be classified as behavioural addictions, which are behavioural compulsions an individual has (as opposed to a physical dependence one has for a specific substance). There can be controversy regarding whether or not overindulgence in these behaviours can be classified as a behavioural addiction. However, having an addiction to the behaviours listed in these examples can still negatively impact someone's life, and some research suggests over-involvement in specific behaviours can be seen as an addiction (Tracy, 2012). Some examples include:

→ Food

→ Working

→ Love or Sex

→ Pornography

→ Video games

→ Exercising

→ Pain seeking

→ Spiritual Obsession

→ Shopping

→ Self-harm

Some of these examples may be confusing to individuals. Examples such as food, working, sex, or exercising can pose a conflict, as many people might think, “but how can this be an addiction if I need food and exercise to live? How can sex or love be an addiction when it is a natural human urge? I can’t just give up these things!”

These are great questions, but the answer remains the same. With these types of addictions, you may not be able to fully give up or “quit” these behaviours like you can with substance abuse, but you still can abuse these things or partake in behaviours in such a way that is unhealthy for you. This is why individuals can still have an addiction to natural things such as food (overeating) but their behaviour needs to change in order to be healthy.

Addiction is complicated, but during the following month, the Conscious Counselling team will bring you more insight into these lesser-known or controversial addictions. Keep an eye out for the following articles posted this month!


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). DSM-5 Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders (5th ed.).

Hasin, D. S., O’Brien, C. P., Auriacombe, M., Borges, G., Bucholz, K., Budney, A., Compton, W.M., Crowley, T., Ling, W., Petry, N.M., Schuckit, M., & Grant, B.F. (2013). DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders: recommendations and rationale. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 834-851.

Tracy, N. (2012, January 12). Types of Addiction: List of Addictions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 5 from

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