Types of addictions: physical vs behavioral

An addiction is a compulsion to engage in an activity or use a substance despite negative consequences. From our last article, we established that this definition is just part of the puzzle of addiction. Now that you know what an addiction is, you may be curious about what the different types of addictions are.

There are two ways you could answer the question ‘what are the different types of addictions’. This article will answer the types of addictions through the lens of the different substances and activities that an addict can become addicted to.

If you are looking for an answer that addresses the different ways addicts can become addicted, you will find that answer in our next article.

Two types of addictions

In the past, people thought that addictions only applied to substances. In most cases, they believed that addictions were to alcohol and drugs. Today, we know that people can also be addicted to activities. Gambling is one of the most common behavioral addictions known today.

These two types of addictions give rise to the two groupings of addictions discussed in this article, behavioral addictions, and physical addictions.

What are physical addictions?

Coffee is a prime example of a legal addictive substance that can lead to a physical addiction

Physical addictions are addictions to substances ingested into the body. These substances can be smoked, swallowed, drunk, snorted, or injected, among many other ingestion methods. In the DSMV, they are classified under Substance Use Disorder. The DSMV also outlines 11 criteria mental health practitioners can use to determine the severity of an addiction.

Examples of physical addictions:

  • Alcohol
  • Opioids
  • Prescription medication
  • Marijuana
  • Heroine
  • Glue
  • Coffee
  • Miraa, e.t.c.

Physical addictions are sometimes further subdivided into three categories; e.g., alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. This subdivision often does not take into account the fact that someone can become addicted to substances not considered illegal, like miraa or soda addiction.

What are behavioral addictions?

Behavioral addictions are compulsions to engage in physical activities that only provide short-term pleasure but have negative consequences. People with behavioral addictions are addicted to the pleasurable feelings that follow performing the activity.

Examples of behavioral addictions:

  • Sex addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Shopping addiction
Exercising excessively is a type of behavioral addiction

The last example illustrates that not all addictions start as problematic behavior. Health practitioners recommend exercising for its numerous health and emotional benefits. However, when done excessively, it can lead to some unwanted consequences like putting excess stress on the body and increasing risks of injury.

While some addictions may pose a bigger threat than others, it is always good to strive for balance and avoid engaging in anything excessively. That is to say that while some addictions are more detrimental than others, there is no good addiction.

To sum things up

In this article, we have established that there are two different types of addictions. Physical addictions are addictions to substances ingested into the body. Some examples include alcohol, marijuana, and soda. Behavioral addictions are compulsions to engage in behaviors that result in brief spurts of pleasure. Examples of behavioral addictions include addictions to food and shopping.

Many physical addictions have detrimental effects on the body. This, however, does not mean behavioral addictions aren’t serious. The body is always in search of harmony and that should be our goal when engaging in any behavior or partaking in any substance.

I’d like to sincerely thank you for making it this far in my article. In our next article we will answer this question through the lens of how addicts are addicted.

Feel free to leave any comments in the comment section below and to share this article with someone you think may benefit

Until next time


13 thoughts on “Types of addictions: physical vs behavioral”

        1. Thanks Phelix for reading.
          You are right, it is an increasingly prevalent phenomenon. It’s part of why I am writing this educative series. Hopefully, more people can become aware of what addiction can look like.

  1. I really liked this piece. Well written and informative without being one dimensional. I wanted to know specifically about addiction to prescription drugs like birth control or painkillers. Thank you ?

  2. This passage especially on behavioral addictions reminds me of the tales of a man called Kamjoro. Yesu anakupenda Kamjoro. Wachana na Vangi.

  3. I personally resonate with the behavioural addiction, mainly exercise and most forms of physical fitness ^ I always thought that they were healthy addictions ? till my body started failing me in many ways, now I see why I wasn’t the healthiest person in the room even though I was working out daily, but I was fatigued throughout the day, my body was crying for rest and moderation * but I’ve learnt alot throughout the years and this article explains some of my struggles, you never fail to amaze me.

    1. Thank you so much ???. And I am happy that my article has resonated with you.
      And I am glad you recognized your body’s need for rest and moderation.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top