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Behavioral addiction[1][2](also called process addiction[3] or "non-substance-related addiction".[4][5]) is a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user himself to his individual health, mental state, or social life. Many such processes within this concept are not harmful or deviant by themselves, but become so when they result in these negative consequences. Frequently discussed examples include gambling, sex, eating, and internet usage.

The applicability of the word "addiction" to these conditions is controversial, and there is not a universal consensus as to the most appropriate phrase used to describe these conditions as a class.

"Behavioral addictions" is proposed as a new class in DSM-5, but the only category included is gambling addiction. Internet addiction and sex addiction are included in the appendix.[6]

The term soft addiction was coined by Judith Wright, an educator, author, and founder of the Wright Graduate Institute.[7] Soft addictions can be activities, moods or ways of being, avoidances, and things-edible and consumable. Soft addictions are different than hard addictions in that they are not behaviors that pose a grave health disease risk - rather, they have the most effect on personal time and productivity. These behaviors were profiled in a 2007 ABC News story titled Bad Habits.[8]

DSM / "Impulse control disorder"

Not all doctors agree on the exact nature of addiction or dependency[9] however the biopsychosocial model is generally accepted in scientific fields as the most comprehensive model for addiction. Historically, addiction has been defined with regard solely to psychoactive substances (for example alcohol, tobacco and other drugs) which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain. However, "studies on phenomenology, family history, and response to treatment suggest that intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, problem gambling, pyromania, and trichotillomania may be related to mood disorders, alcohol and psychoactive substance abuse, and anxiety disorders (especially obsessive–compulsive disorder)."[10] However, such disorders are classified by the American Psychological Association as impulse control disorders and therefore not as addictions.


Many people, both psychology professionals and laymen, now feel that there should be accommodation made to include psychological dependency on such things as gambling, food, sex, pornography, computers, video games, internet, work, exercise, spiritual obsession (as opposed to religious devotion), pain [1], cutting and shopping so these behaviors count as 'addictions' as well and cause guilt, shame, fear, hopelessness, failure, rejection, anxiety, or humiliation symptoms associated with, among other medical conditions, depression and epilepsy.[11][12][13][14] Although, the above mentioned are things or tasks which, when used or performed, do not fit into the traditional view of addiction and may be better defined as an obsessive–compulsive disorder, withdrawal symptoms are only possible upon abatement of such behaviors. It is said by those who adhere to a traditionalist view that these withdrawal-like symptoms are not strictly reflective of an addiction, but rather of a behavioral disorder. However, understanding of neural science, the brain, the nervous system, human behavior, and affective disorders has revealed "the impact of molecular biology in the mechanisms underlying developmental processes and in the pathogenesis of disease".[15]


It is estimated that at least 90% of Americans have at least one form of soft addiction in their lives. Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychology and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, has commented on the issue, saying that while it is healthy to relieve stress with behaviors like drinking coffee and watching television, when they become habitual they become problematic to one's health and happiness.[16]

Cyber-psychologist Kimberly Young, director of the Center for Online Addiction, has addressed Internet addiction, one of the most common types of "soft addictions". Young has likened excessive Internet use to pathological gambling.[17]

Research around addictions and social media sites has been growing. The Retrevo Gadgetology company recently came out with research suggesting that there is an obsessiveness to the way people are checking their pages.[citation needed]


See also


  1. Dan J. Stein; Eric Hollander; Barbara Olasov Rothbaum (31 August 2009). Textbook of Anxiety Disorders. American Psychiatric Pub. pp. 359–. ISBN 9781585622542. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  2. Parashar A, Varma A (April 2007). "Behavior and substance addictions: is the world ready for a new category in the DSM-V?". CNS Spectr 12 (4): 257; author reply 258–9. PMID 17503551.
  3. Shaffer, Howard J.. "Understanding the means and objects of addiction: Technology, the internet, and gambling". Journal of Gambling Studies 12 (4): 461–469.
  4. Albrecht U, Kirschner NE, Grüsser SM (2007). "Diagnostic instruments for behavioural addiction: an overview". Psychosoc Med 4: Doc11. PMC 2736529. PMID 19742294.
  5. Potenza MN (September 2006). "Should addictive disorders include non-substance-related conditions?". Addiction 101 Suppl 1: 142–51. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01591.x. PMID 16930171.
  6. "New Diagnostic Guidelines for Mental Illnesses Proposed: MedlinePlus". Retrieved 2010-04-24.[dead link]
  7. "Judith Wright Appears on 20/20 Friday July 7". 2006-07-07. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
  8. "Bad Habits - ABC News". Retrieved 2009-04-02.
  9. Goodman A (November 1990). "Addiction: definition and implications". Br J Addict 85 (11): 1403–8. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1990.tb01620.x. PMID 2285834.
  10. McElroy, S.L.; J.I. Hudson, Hg. Pope Jr, P.E. Keck Jr and H.G. Aizley (1992). "The DSM-III-R impulse control disorders not elsewhere classified: clinical characteristics and relationship to other psychiatric disorders". American Journal of Psychiatry (American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.) 149 (3): 318–327. PMID 1536268. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  11. Taylor, C.Z. (March 2002). "Religious Addiction: Obsession with Spirituality". Pastoral Psychology (Springer Netherlands) 50 (4): 291–315. doi:10.1023/A:1014074130084. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  12. "Depression". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  13. Nowack, W.J. (2006-08-29). "Psychiatric Disorders Associated With Epilepsy". eMedicine Specialities. WebMD. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  14. Beck, D.A. (2007). "Psychiatric Disorders due to General Medical Conditions" (PDF). Department of Psychiatry, University of Missouri-Columbia. Archived from the original on 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
  15. Kandel, E.R.; J.H. Schwartz, T.M. Jessell (2000). Principles of Neural Science. Magraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0071120005.,M1.
  16. "Soft addictions - information on". Retrieved 2009-04-02.
  17. "Portsmouth Herald Health News: You can get hooked on 'soft addictions'". 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2009-04-02.


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