Addictive behavior

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Addiction glossary[1][2]
addiction – a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding behavior or compulsive drug use, despite adverse consequences
reinforcing stimuli – stimuli that increase the probability of repeating behaviors paired with them
rewarding stimuli – stimuli that the brain interprets as intrinsically positive or as something to be approached
addictive drug – a drug that is both rewarding and reinforcing
addictive behavior – a behavior that is both rewarding and reinforcing
sensitization – an amplified response to a stimulus resulting from repeated exposure to it
drug tolerance – the diminishing effect of a drug resulting from repeated administration at a given dose
drug sensitization or reverse tolerance – the escalating effect of a drug resulting from repeated administration at a given dose
drug dependence – an adaptive state associated with a withdrawal syndrome upon cessation of repeated drug intake
physical dependence – dependence that involves physical–somatic withdrawal symptoms (e.g., fatigue)
psychological dependence – dependence that involves emotional–motivational withdrawal symptoms (e.g., dysphoria and anhedonia)
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An addictive behavior is a behavior which is both rewarding and reinforcing. It may involve any activity, substance, object, or behavior that becomes the major focus of a person's life resulting in a physical, mental, and/or social withdrawal from their normal day to day obligations.[3][4]

There are different types of addiction and virtually any activity or substance has the potential to become addictive. Drugs, alcohol, and nicotine are examples of substance addictions, whereas behavior addiction (also known as process addictions) may include gambling, sexual activity, Internet, food related behaviors, shopping, work, or exercise.[4]

Typically an individual becomes dependent or addicted to a substance to alleviate the pain and agony deriving from certain emotions. The phenomenon occurs subsequent to the first trial where the individual derives some pleasure which increases with additional usage. Continual usage leads to psychological strengthening which ultimately leads to psychological dependence or physical addiction.[4] Drug tolerance is a biological state that occurs when the body adapts to the current amount of the substance. Increased quantities of the desired substance is necessary in order to bring about the same psychologic or physiologic effects previously obtained with smaller dosages, thus it may lead to physical and psychological dependence.[5][6]


Drug dependence is the term which has formally replaced addiction in medical terminology. In 1964 the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Abuse proposed that the terms addiction and habituation be replaced with the term dependence and distinguished between two types psychological dependence and physical dependence.[7]

From the 1920s to the 1960s attempts were made to differentiate between addiction; and habituation, a less severe form of psychological adaptation. In the 1960s the World Health Organization recommended that both terms be abandoned in favor of dependence, which can exist in various degrees of severity. Addiction is not a diagnostic term in ICD-10, but continues to be very widely employed by professionals and the general public alike.[7]

Dependence and addiction[edit]

Psychological dependence vs addiction[edit]

Although psychological dependence and addiction are often used interchangeably by layman, professionals continue to discuss the ambiguities while acknowledging some overlap in their meaning. Notably, psychological dependence is a yearning for a certain substance whereas addiction is a want for that substance as it provides enjoyment to its user. Second, addiction shows physical signs of withdrawal like sweating or shaking while psychological dependence exhibits signs of mental withdrawal like anxiety and depression. Third, psychological dependency may occur when the user engages in anything that he deems as beneficial such as the Internet, pornography, or drugs, but there is no such possibility in the case of addiction.[8]

Physical dependence vs addiction[edit]

As there is overlap in the meanings of psychological dependence and addiction the same is also true for physical dependence and addiction. It is important to understand that a person with an addiction may or may not become physically dependent. Signs of physical dependency may appear dissimilarly from one person to the next. Indicative behaviors of physical dependency include the continued use of substances despite negative consequences, and demonstrates difficulty with employment and/or engagements with school, family, or other relationships.[9]

Compulsion vs addiction[edit]

Compulsions and addictions are intertwined and reward is one major distinction between an addiction and a compulsion (as it is experienced in obsessive-compulsive disorder). An addiction is, by definition, a form of compulsion, and both addictions and compulsions involve reinforcement learning; however, in addiction, the desire to use a substance or engage in a behavior is based on the expectation that it will be rewarding (i.e., involves positive reinforcement). In contrast, someone who experiences a compulsion as part of obsessive-compulsive disorder may not get any reward from the behavior he carries out. Often, it is a way of dealing with the obsessive part of the disorder, resulting in a feeling of relief (i.e., also includes negative reinforcement).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Malenka RC, Nestler EJ, Hyman SE (2009). "Chapter 15: Reinforcement and Addictive Disorders". In Sydor A, Brown RY. Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical. pp. 364–375. ISBN 9780071481274. 
  2. ^ Nestler EJ (December 2013). "Cellular basis of memory for addiction". Dialogues Clin Neurosci 15 (4): 431–443. PMC 3898681. PMID 24459410. DESPITE THE IMPORTANCE OF NUMEROUS PSYCHOSOCIAL FACTORS, AT ITS CORE, DRUG ADDICTION INVOLVES A BIOLOGICAL PROCESS: the ability of repeated exposure to a drug of abuse to induce changes in a vulnerable brain that drive the compulsive seeking and taking of drugs, and loss of control over drug use, that define a state of addiction. ... A large body of literature has demonstrated that such ΔFosB induction in D1-type NAc neurons increases an animal's sensitivity to drug as well as natural rewards and promotes drug self-administration, presumably through a process of positive reinforcement 
  3. ^ "Free Online Medical Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia..". Elsevier. Retrieved 30 June 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. ^ a b c "Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist". Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Addictive behaviors - sex, shopping, eating disorders, etc.". Tichenor Publishing Company,. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  6. ^ "Free Online Medical Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia..". Elsevier. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Jellinek, EM. "WHO | Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms published by the World Health Organization.". Hillhouse. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  8. ^ VandenBos,, Gary R. (2007). APA Dictionary of Psychology. 1st ed. American Psychological Association. Print: Washington D.C. 
  9. ^ Welsh, M.D., Christopher J. "Is Physical Dependence The Same As Addiction?". ABC News." Retrieved 3 July 2012. 

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