IDENTIFYING SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Compulsive behaviors include chronic gambling, substance abuse, sexual addictions, unrestrained shopping and spending, hoarding, excessive exercising, Internet gaming, eating issues, and other behaviors. Any compulsive behavior can become an addiction when the act is no longer able to be controlled and impairs a person’s ability to function socially, academically, and professionally. The distinction between “addiction” and “compulsion” can sometimes become unclear, as a person might think frequently about the object of the addiction, and it may become near-compulsive to pursue the addictive behavior.
Determining whether a habitual behavior has become problematic begins with evaluating the benefits associated with the activity and the feelings and beliefs surrounding it. The distinction between a passionate hobby and a compulsive behavior may be difficult to discern. For example, is running 10 miles every day—rain, shine, or snowstorm—an addiction, or is it good athletic discipline? Is a monthly trip to Vegas to play the slots a gambling problem, or just an escape from daily life? Addiction or compulsivity may be indicated when the behavior results in feelings of distress, guilt, or shame or when abstaining from the behavior provokes anxiety or proves to be impossible.