How Do Addictions Manifest As Behaviors?

Here, we take a look at the behavioral components of addiction after defining what problematic engagements are.
Last Updated:
January 30, 2020
First Published:
January 30, 2020
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Our addictions do not have to be classifiable as severe or extreme to be worthy of our attention.

Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person's life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially is considered an addictive behavior.

First, let's define a behavioral engagement as "participation in an activity or consumption of a substance". Most types of behavioral engagements probably wouldn't cause you or any normal person any harm or loss. However, for those engagements that are objectively detrimental to a person's wellness, problems can arise if moderation is lacking. Choosing to engage in knowingly harmful activities or usage that you hadn't planned for may come to jeopardize your quality of life, especially when the episodes are repetitive and frequent.

When addictive behaviors (unwanted engagements) dominate your life, you may end up with something called an "addictive disorder", which I'm pretty sure most of us have if you care to diagnose yourself by a textbook definition. An addictive disorder is one of those scary psychology terms that we like to reserve for the most sincere specimens of the labeling; those who exemplify a diagnosis are generally conceptualized as having extreme signs and symptoms. The homeless person camping on the side of the freeway may share the exact behavioral characteristics of a restaurant manager who dips into the company spirits a little each day to ride out a buzz. Thinking, "alcoholic" might conjure the former scene in a subconscious association.

Behavioral symptoms of addiction

  1. Compulsive engagement
  2. Obsession
  3. Seeking
  4. Poor regulation (engaging more than intended)
  5. Secretive engagement
  6. Deceptive reporting of actual engagement to others
  7. Repetitive, predictable engagements

Physical symptoms of addiction

  1. Blackouts (not remembering details while engaged in the behavior)
  2. Withdrawal symptoms
  3. Depression
  4. Ugliness (okay, probably not proven, but still at least low self-esteem or weary eyes can be visible signs of overuse that look like poo)

Remember, addiction is a pretty normal experience

I once borrowed a book called, The Biology of Desire, by Marc Lewis, from the lending library at my work. I didn't read the entire book, but the basic idea I took away from the author was that addiction is a biological phenomenon more so than our hardware was built for a world of scarcity and urgency but we typically operate in an environment of plenty and temptation. In this way, we're set up for lifestyle challenges straight from the get-go. Maybe the modern concept of addiction is actually just the surfacing of harmful consequences imparted on those who've taken "too much of a good thing".

We learn our addictions and we may unlearn them. We can also choose to learn more useful addictions (like flossing after a fibrous meal).

References (no affiliate links)

This video called "What if you could Forget to Want Alcohol? | The Sinclair Method" by What I've Learned brought up the topic of addiction symptoms and got me thinking about the various behaviors that characterize addictive personalities.

The 1st result from my Google search for "addictive behavior" brought me this article from Indiana University

The Biology of Desire, book by Marc Lewis, on Amazon

Short review article of The Biology of Desiree book by Marc Lewis

colton james townsend smiles for the camera with the seattle port in the background

Colton James Townsend

Storyteller and Teacher at, "Fearless Story Productions" and "Wake Up & Do Me"

I live, work, and write in the fine city of Walla Walla, Washington. I help creative people and business owners publish stories and content for the web so they can achieve results online, personally and professionally. You're an expert in your field or a person with a strong story to tell — I help you broadcast your knowledge and experiences effectively. The results? Amplification.

MISSION: "Bringing Your Brilliance to the Whole Wide World"