Everyone has an outlet for coping with anxiety and depression. Sometimes these outlets may become unhealthy when obsessive behavior takes over, leading to an addiction. Signs that someone may be addicted to a certain behavior include doing this behavior in secret, continuing to do this behavior despite wanting to stop, and doing so even when it causes harm. Here are six common addictions that people turn to in order to cope with anxiety and depression.
1. Drugs and Alcohol
Drug and alcohol addiction is perhaps the most common behavior one thinks of when they hear the word addiction. The effects of drugs and alcohol on the body and brain vary depending on which substance is being abused, but all substance addictions revolve around one’s mental obsession to continue taking more and more of a substance. Individuals experiencing a drug or alcohol addiction commonly suffer from a co-occurring mental illness at the same time because mood and mind altering substances are effective in masking negative emotions. People with a substance abuse problem may engage in dangerous behaviors, be unable to control their substance intake, and may experience intense cravings for substances when they are not taken.
Feel-good chemicals such as dopamine are released when one exercises. These chemicals increase mood and energy levels. When an individual becomes addicted to exercise, they begin to associate exercise with joy, as the brain considers the release of endorphins to be a reward. A person who is addicted to exercise may experience symptoms such as a strong desire to exercise for extended periods of time, begin to withdrawal from other important life activities, and have trouble regulating the amount of exercise they get. This can be particularly harmful to the body because an exercise addict may continue to exercise even if they are in pain or are causing harm to their body.
3. Compulsive Overeating
Addictions in regards to overeating are tricky to diagnose and overcome because everybody has to eat in order to survive. People who overeat typically do so to mask negative emotions like depression and anxiety, because eating can be linked to feelings of comfort and control. An individual who struggles with overeating may isolate when in public due to embarrassment, eat unusually large amounts even after they feel full, and have an inability to control the amounts they consume. These behaviors can result in excessive weight gain as well as feelings of shame and depression.
4. Video Games
Video games can be addictive because programmers design them in a way that makes people want to keep playing. Gaming can be appealing because it provides an escape from day to day stressors that cause feelings of anxiety or depression. However, this can be unhealthy when an individual begins to obsess over gaming, experience a loss of interest in other activities, play video games in secret, lie about time spent gaming, and experience a deterioration in personal relationships. Video game addiction can result in issues in social settings and can affect both behavioral and cognitive development in children and adolescents.
Like exercise, sex also releases endorphins in the brain. People typically feel happy and euphoric after sex, so it is understandable why some become addicted to this behavior in an attempt to seek relief from negative emotions. Hypersexuality, or sex addiction, is identified by behaviors such as loss of control of sexual urges, constant and strong sexual fantasies, excessive time spent participating in sexual activities, and trouble in limiting the frequency of sexual relations. These behaviors may be destructive to the suffering individual, but his or her sexual partners may suffer from this as well because these sexual fantasies can sometimes become dangerous.
Gambling addiction has been associated with several behavioral disorders, such as bipolar, depression, and anxiety. Individuals who suffer with a gambling addiction have the inability to control their impulse to gamble, regardless of the consequences. A person may gamble even when they don’t have the extra money to spend, leading to financial issues and an incapacity to meet certain important obligations such as providing for their family or paying off monetary debts.
7. Seeking Help
Regardless of the type of addiction, there are many types of counseling and therapy that an individual can participate in to help overcome their problem. In admitting that they have a problem and speaking with a professional, the person struggling can learn about proper methods of coping with anxiety and depression so they no longer have to rely on their addiction to deal with these emotions. It is also beneficial to seek help through a support group of others who are struggling with similar circumstances. Support groups provide a safe place for individuals to speak openly and honestly about their addiction as well as gain emotional support from their fellows.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She advocates spreading awareness on and around addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.