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Habit, Productivity

How To Identify Addictive Behaviors And Get Rid of Them

Written by Kim Monaghan
Career Happiness Coach, HR Consultant, Trainer & Speaker
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There are times when you need activities that bring your relaxation and allow for release. Exercise, writing, playing, creating, and reading are all examples of healthy behaviors that provide an escape—but only to a point.[1] Some pursuits can quickly turn costly if the behavior causes harm or is used as a coping or escape mechanism or if it becomes an unhealthy obsession. If you find yourself engaged in costly addictive behaviors, then it’s time to create a positive change.

Definition of Addictive Behaviors

Most people think of ‘addiction’ as being dependent on a substance like drugs or alcohol. Many people, however, are addicted to behavior’s rather than drugs and have similar feelings to those who are dependent on a substance. Some claim that “getting high” is a natural reaction that occurs in several situations.

Behavioral addictions are characterized by a series of acts that expose a person to “mood-altering events”[2] on which they gain pleasure and become reliant, which may change neurotransmitter function, notably mesolimbic dopaminergic turnover.

In other words, consuming substances causes the brain to release feel-good neurotransmitters that are also released by other reward-based actions, both healthy and bad. Rather than being motivated by the behavior itself, urges and desires to engage in certain behavioral addictions stem from wanting to feel that way again.

Because their brain chemistry alters as their addiction advances, a person with an addiction has little control over what they are doing, using, or taking. Their addiction may have progressed to the point where it is causing them harm.

Addictions are not restricted to the physical things we consume, such as alcohol or drugs, but can encompass almost anything, including gambling, sex, and food.


Psychological dependence, such as with a smartphone, sex, gambling, or job, is now widely regarded as an addiction since it causes emotions of shame, guilt, failure, despair, anxiety, hopelessness, and humiliation.

Some Characteristics of Addictive Behavior

1. Giving Up Social and Leisure Activities

Some persons may give up or stop participating in activities as a result of their addiction. An internet junkie, for example, may decide not to go camping if they know they won’t have access to the internet. Similarly, an alcoholic may avoid extended excursions where they will be unable to obtain alcohol.

2. Maintaining a Consistent Supply

Individuals addicted to a substance will always have enough of it, regardless of their financial situation, to guarantee that they have a sufficient supply.

3. Keeping a Stockpile

Addicts are known to keep small stashes of their drugs hidden about their homes or in their cars.

4. Dangerous Behavior

Occasionally, an addict will engage in dangerous behavior to obtain their desired substance, such as trading sex for drugs, money, or stealing. An addict who is under the influence of drugs, on the other hand, may engage in unsafe activities such as irresponsible driving.

5. One Cannot Discontinue Using the Substance

In many cases, such as with alcohol or drug addiction, a person has made a sincere attempt to break free from their addiction at least once but has failed.

6. Their Addiction is Unaffected By Their Health Difficulties

Despite developing ailments linked to the substance, the person continues to take it as normal. An alcoholic, for example, may continue to drink even after learning that they have liver disease.


Here are some tips on how to identify addictive behavior’s and get rid of them.

1. Heed the Warnings

Right off the bat, I’m going to urge you to gauge whether this behavior has become harmful to you or someone else. While this article is not designed to address or diagnose unhealthy addictive behavior’s, it is a wake-up call.

If you or someone you know is compulsively engaging in a detrimental behavior, heed the warnings. Your first step should be to contact your local mental health provider or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline1-800-662-HELP (4357). Addictive behavior’s that call for integrated treatment require more than self-help mechanisms and should always be handled by a professional.

2. Identify the Addiction

If the addictive behavior is something you can self-manage, then the first step is to put a label on it. Overeating, overworking, or spending too much time engaged in a hobby to the detriment of obligations are just a few examples.

I want to stress once more that even though these may often require professional support, some activities can help you thoughtfully manage them. Start by defining what that addictive behavior is. If you are over-stressed but find that eating gives you a pleasurable escape, then overeating may have evolved into that addictive behavior. If you are constantly on your phone or find yourself searching social media platforms all day long—and it’s not your job to do so—that could be a sign of another addictive behavior.

3. Understand the Addiction

The next step in getting rid of an addictive behavior is understanding whether or not it is classified as an addiction or simply a bad habit. If the behavior has a pull so strong that you cannot separate yourself from it for very long, odds are it’s an addiction and will require professional support.

If you can, say, turn your phone off for several days without feeling anxious, depressed, or acting out or uncomfortable, then it may be something that you can control. If it is simply a bad habit, then practice separating yourself from the behavior for stretches of time until you no longer turn to it as an instant stress-releaser.


4. Know the Risks

Poor health, lost finances, and broken relationships are just a few of the costs associated with addictive behavior’s. One of the most compelling reasons for change often lies in understanding the risks involved. Gambling is an addictive behavior with enormous costs, but some cannot see the risk behind the potential reward.

If you are challenged in identifying why change is necessary, talk to someone and let them help you see how costly the behavior can be if left unchecked.

5. Understand Your “Why?”

Working too many hours, while seemingly a noble activity, can be a sign that you’re avoiding other activities in your life. It could mean that you are unprepared and disorganized or lack confidence in your abilities. Filling your void in your life with work, substances, and activities is either a sign that something is missing or a mask to avoid facing the truth. Working with a trained professional can help you uncover your “why” and healthily process the systemic issue that could be causing the addictive behavior in the first place.

6. Avoid Toxic People

People are often surprised to discover that relationships can also be addictive behavior’s. Deep connections with friends or loved ones that partake in unhealthy addictive behavior’s can be a slippery slope to adopting one for yourself. This kind of affiliative or peer pressure style addiction can prey on a weakness or need to feel a sense of belonging. Even the relationship itself can be unhealthy. Allowing a relationship with a negative or addicted person to continue is fostering a pattern that may eventually result in emotional pain.

7. Clarify Your Triggers

Triggers can be internal or external, and they can occur at any time and in any place to reinforce the addiction. Triggers cause stress which provokes addictive behavior that serves as a coping mechanism for calming the nervous system.

For example, if one is sensitive about their weight, unhealthy internal and external dialogue can lead to overeating or avoiding food altogether. Work-related stress such as having an overbearing supervisor could be the trigger that causes someone to either work themselves sick or shut down and fail to perform. There isn’t always a drastic reaction when a trigger takes place, nor does the trigger need to be catastrophic.


A friend shared that he ate most of his meals while watching television. He lives alone, so it helps him relax and he feels less guilty watching shows while eating because he’s doing something, rather than laying listlessly on the couch. But television also became his trigger. Every time it was on, he wanted to eat. So, watching and eating became an addictive behavior that he eventually needed to address.

8. Find a Substitute

Socially responsible addictions—like consuming caffeine and sugar—are still difficult behavior’s to change. And they do have their downsides. While you may not see the immediate downsides, failing to take into account the long-term effects of overindulging can be detrimental. Occasionally substituting decaf, tea, or fruit instead of candy is a gentle way to get rid of the addictive behavior without going cold turkey.

9. Find Some Support

People need people. And when it comes to addictive behavior’s, the best way to get rid of them is with the support of others. In addition to professional care, connecting with others that share the addiction can be comforting and supportive.

Communities exist in your neighbourhood and online for all types of addictive behavior and there are plenty of people to support your positive change and hold you accountable to your goals. Remember, this also includes your friends and family. While they may not share the same addictive behavior’s, they will be there for you when you need them.

10. Apply Healing Techniques

Some mild addictive behavior’s can be thoughtfully managed without the support of a professional. But it begins with understanding your “why.” When you define the underlying reasons, you might find there are healing techniques at the ready to help you overcome.

Take social media addiction. For some, the compulsion to always be on Facebook or other platforms can be tempered with practice, accountability, substitutions, and support. But digging a little deeper, you may find that your “why” is centred around a need to be liked. Applying positive self-talk, biofeedback, positive reinforcement techniques, exercise, and meditation may help shore up your confidence and self-image.


11. Build Your Willpower

It’s a known fact that when you can build your willpower through less daunting challenges than overcoming a more substantial one—like addictive behavior—it’s more likely that you’ll succeed. Navy SEALs in BUDS training go through gruelling tests, challenges, and exercises to build up their stamina and willpower so that when faced with real-time adversaries, they are conditioned to respond at a high-level.

While you don’t have to become a SEAL to overcome addictive behavior’s, you may find that smaller willpower-building exercises will help you manage bigger challenges over time.


1) What Are the Different Types of Addictive Behaviors?


  • Addiction to Shopping
  • Addiction to Gambling
  • Addictions to Gaming
  • Additions to sex and love
  • Food addiction
  • Addiction to physical activity

2) What Are the Different Types of Personalities Associated With a Person With Addictive Behavior?


Many people are unaware that their addictive behavior’s are the result of underlying problems. To make matters worse, there’s a prevalent assumption that if you stop using drugs or alcohol, you’ve effectively recovered.

Types of Personalities of Individuals with Addictive Behavior

1. The Risk-Taking, Adventurous Personality

Some personality qualities put people at a higher risk of being addicted than others. Individuals who enjoy taking risks and have low impulse control when trying new experiences and dangerous activities are more inclined to experiment with drugs. According to Reuters, this may have something to do with the individual’s dopamine levels and the brain’s sensitivity to it.

2. The Obsessive-Compulsive Trait

A lack of impulse control occasionally causes addiction, but it is not always the result of an inability to resist impulses. In reality, as a manifestation of an obsessive-compulsive behavior pattern, excessively rigorous persons restraining their impulses may end up using narcotics.


3. Inability to Self-Regulate

All of these characteristics have one thing in common: the individual’s inability to control their behavior’s, thoughts, and feelings, which would ordinarily allow them to manage their use of alcohol or other substances. Studies are beginning to indicate that an inability to manage behavior around the anticipation of earning a reward is closely linked to the development of addiction, according to an article from the University of Rochester Medical Center.[3]

3) What Signs Signify That You Have Behavioral Addictions?


  • Spending a significant amount of time dealing in, thinking about, or planning to engage in, or recuperating from the impacts of the behavior
  • Using the behavior as a coping mechanism for emotions and to ‘feel normal’
  • Persisting despite bodily or regardless of their financial situation mental
  • Having difficulty cutting back despite your want to do so
  • Putting off the job, school, or family obligations to participate in the practice more frequently
  • When attempting to quit, experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as depression or irritability)
  • Minimizing or concealing the problem’s scope

4) How to Keep a Journal of Behavioral Addictions?


When recovering addicts enter treatment, they bring a lot of baggage with them, and they have to cope with all of the new challenges that life throws at them as they try to navigate the world without their crutch. People in this scenario benefit from journal writing because it allows them to assess everything that has occurred to them and everything they are feeling in a much easier way for their minds to digest.

Human beings are storytellers at their core, and putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – assists those in recovery to organize their experiences into a comprehensible narrative form. Addicts can benefit from journaling, but it’s critical to stay present and aware rather than lingering on the past.

One must be dedicated to their efforts and take the assignment seriously for journal keeping to succeed for you. Take at least 20 minutes each day to write down everything you’ve been thinking and feeling; don’t hold anything back, and try to arrange it all into a structure that makes sense to you.

5) What is the Impact of Behavioral Addictions?


Behavioral addiction is described as an excessive want to repeat a pleasurable or seen to improve well-being or capable of easing some personal distress behavior, despite the knowledge that such action may have negative repercussions. From a psychological, neurological, and social standpoint, such “addictive conduct” is similar to drug and alcohol addiction.


Final Thoughts

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are struggling with addictive behaviors is to get the support that you need. That begins with identifying whether or not the behavior needs professional care. And of course, building on that professional care by employing personal management strategies, like those listed above.

Remember, if left unchecked, addictive behavior’s can grow more engrained and may have bigger costs over time. Therefore, it’s important to identify them early and work on getting rid of them.

More Tips on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: Umur Batur Kocak via unsplash.com


[1]American Psychological Association: Healthy habits for healthy families
[2]Science Direct: Adolescent Addiction
[3]University of Rochester Medical Center: Study Sheds Light on Source of Drug Addicts Risk-Taking Behavior
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