Nathalie Jonsson

Science Writer 

Addicted To Behaviour


It is the Christmas holidays – a time for eating and doing nothing. You go to bed way too late, mainly due to late-night TV, slipping back into your old ways at your parents’ house and being inactive. One of the days you break the pattern. One of the days you set an alarm for 7:30. The Christmas sales will start tomorrow and an early start is essential.

This could be an early sign of a shopping-addiction. Maybe not. But shopping has together with eating, exercising, sex, and gambling been described as behavioural addictions. These activate parts of the brain that greatly overlap with those activated by addictive substances.

A behavior becomes an addiction when you show compulsive tendencies. People who are addicted to behaviour show the same symptoms as drug addicts. They crave it. They have poor control over it. They build up tolerance and need bigger thrills to satisfy their need. They suffer when they have to stop. They also have high rates of relapse.

Society has been blamed for certain excessive behaviours, such as over-eating, shopping or even tanning. However as humans, a majority of us are estimated to suffer from some sort of addiction at some point in time (especially when broadening the list of addictions to caffeine and religion). Leading to the conclusion that maybe addiction is just a part of human nature. Some claim that the behaviours that can turn into addictions have been beneficial to our survival in the past and that we therefore are forced by evolution to become obsessed with them. Additionally, some people might be more prone to become addicts.

It is hard to know when your behaviour is normal and when you enter the realm of addiction. All I know is that I bought a really cute jacket today.

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