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10 common habits that get you hooked

August 7, 2012

These are 10 surprising things you may be addicted to.

FEATURE

We all have certain activities we love, but did you know you could be addicted to your favourite hobby? Check out the 10 surprising things you may be addicted to.

Surfing the internet

You may think that browsing the internet is nothing more than a pleasant way to pass some time. However, researchers in China revealed that internet addiction actually alters the brain in a similar way to addictions to drugs and alcohol. It is thought that sufferers of Internet addiction disorder (IAD) could face similar symptoms to those suffering from other addictions, including withdrawal symptoms. One study of users of internet-ready smartphones found that many are so addicted to their device they now hear “phantom vibrations” in their desperation to receive a message.

Falling in love

We all know that person who goes from relationship to relationship, never seeming to spend more than five minutes alone. Well, according to research, it may be that they are actually addicted to falling in love! Yep, that heart-racing, euphoric feeling of falling in love… turns out you can get hooked on it. According to psychologist Arthur Aron, who led a study investigating love addiction, falling in love activates the same system in the brain as drug addiction, making you crave that feeling again as soon as the first flush of love starts to fade.

Sugar

We all crave our favourite sweet treat from time to time, but did you know you may actually be addicted to snacks such as doughnuts and chocolate? Studies have suggested that when we eat sugary snacks, chemicals called opiods are released in the brain, leading to intense feelings of pleasure, and it is this feeling we often crave in the absence of sugar. In fact, according to research by a University of California team, sugar is both as damaging and as addictive as both alcohol and cigarettes.

Tattoos and piercings

While dabbling in body art will not necessarily lead to you becoming inked up and pierced from head to toe, many people who start out with the intention of getting one tattoo or piercing will feel compelled to get more, which can feel like an addiction. While it is debatable whether this is a true addiction, it is certainly a compulsion for many, which may be partly down to the rush of feel-good endorphins which are released during the process of getting a tattoo to help you cope with the pain.

Work

Although most of us look forward to the weekends, for those suffering from a work addiction these days away from the office may not be quite as treasured. While many of us jokingly use the term “workaholic”, research suggests this is a real condition that can jeopardise sufferers’ health and relationships – it is not simply a case of “working hard”. According to a Spanish study, around 12 per cent of workers in Spain suffer from the addiction, while in Japan “death by overwork” (karoshi) is thought to cause an estimated 1,000 deaths per year.

Tanning

Research findings published in the journal Addiction Biology suggest that exposure to ultraviolet rays in the form of sunshine or tanning beds can cause changes in brain activity similar to drug addiction, keeping you hooked on tanning. According to Dr Bryon Adinoff, an author of the study, the brain responds to UV light in areas that are associated with reward, causing some people to develop an addiction (“Tanorexia”) despite the potentially fatal health risks of tanning.

Video games

Across the world, teenagers are holed up in their rooms in front of television or computer screens feverishly playing video games, yet research suggests this may not be as harmless as it seems. A 2006 BBC-reported lecture revealed that 12 per cent of online gamers polled reported some addictive behaviours, while many countries across the world have set up treatment centres to deal with this growing addiction. Just like any addiction, compulsive gaming can jeopardise relationships and careers, and there have even been cases of excessive gamers dying from exhaustion.

Shopping

Most of us love buying something new, whether it is the latest life-enhancing gadget or a gift for a loved one. However, for some, buying new things can become a destructive addiction. Shopping addiction (or omniomania) is thought to be caused by a rush of endorphins and dopamine which cause the shopper to experience a temporary “high” which they want to experience again. Many shopping addicts use shopping as a way to escape from negative feelings or situations in their life, however the addiction can actually lead to further problems both financially and emotionally.

Lip balm

While not a chemical addiction such as that to alcohol and cigarettes, applying lip balm can definitely be habit-forming. This is because while lip balm offers a temporary moisture boost for dry lips, it can interfere with the process of cellular turnover and the production of natural moisture, leading you to apply more and more lip balm to counteract these drying effects. While it may not be life-threatening or recognised as an official illness, many websites and Facebook groups have been set up dedicated to this potentially expensive addiction.

Music

We all have our favourite songs, the ones we listen to over and over again, but did you ever consider you could be addictive to your favourite music? According to a study by researchers at McGill University, you may well be. The study revealed that when we listen to music we experience a natural “high” and our body releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter also released when people take drugs or eat pleasurable foods. According to the researchers, dopamine makes us want to repeat behaviours, which is the reason we can become addicted to our favourite music.

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