7 Strange Habits That May Actually Be Secret Addictions

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Young beautiful woman is sitting in the phone on a park bench in summer.

You call it a habit, they call it an addiction. There seems to be a fine line that separates the two. Knowing the difference between habits, compulsions, and addictions can help you in making much-needed changes in your life. A habit is a behavior you've done so many times you don’t even think about it anymore, you just do it. The behavior may start with you coaching yourself like chewing with your mouth closed. Over time, you've told yourself to chew with your mouth closed so many times that it has become second nature.

You can control or modify a habit. For example, you wake up and automatically brush your teeth.  However, if the circumstance calls for you to wake up, answer the phone, and then brush your teeth, you can do that. Compulsions are behaviors carried out by people who feel they have to do those actions to relieve stress or anxiety. They are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Examples include a person flipping on and off a light switch 5 times before they can leave the room. Another is a person who has to wash their hands 12 times before eating. Addictions are when people repeatedly involve themselves with drugs, alcohol, or some other activity despite the harmful consequences those behaviors cause.

For example, a heroin addict can lose their jobs, their home, and even family but can’t seem to stop using heroin. An intimacy addict will continually put themselves in risky situations that involve intimacy even if they have lost a spouse because of these behaviors. There are many other areas of your life to give attention to decide if you have habits or addictions. Some of these areas seem harmless and we have made them a part of our day. But, as with anything else, if used in excess, can lead to addiction.

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Here are 7 strange habits that may be secret addictions:

1. Watching TV and playing videogames

Television and video games seem harmless. Most people see television and gaming systems as relaxing things to do at the end of a long day. But, there is a downside to watching too much television and playing video games for a long period, you can even become addicted to it. This happens because you create a habit that revolves around television and video games and those habits can turn into addictions.

Is turning on the television the first thing you do each day when you get home? Or do you grab the PlayStation controllers and engage in a game for an hour or two? Do you think about your television shows and games throughout the day? Do you skip meetings or outings with friends to catch your favorite show or make progress in your favorite video game? Do you go on binge-watching or marathon gaming sessions? If so, you may want to make a few changes in your daily routine so that you can break addictive patterns.



It is a fact that watching too much television and playing video games for too long can impact us. Television addiction and video gaming can mimic drug and alcohol addictions. Depending on the shows we watch and the games we play, they can all hurt our mental health. Watching television and playing video games before bedtime can affect your sleep. Also, both have a numbing effect, making you feel like you took a tranquilizer. The zoning-out period begins and before long we are anti-social zombies.

Things you can do to kick your television and gaming addictions include committing to never watching TV or gaming while eating. Another is waiting at least one hour before turning on the TV or the gaming system after you get home from work. If either of these is interfering with your relationships or with other areas of your life, it’s time to get help.

2. Buying cars

We buy them. We restore them. We detail them, inside and out. We spend hours riding around in them. We soup them up, trick them out, and personalize them to match our style. Even after some people have gotten driving under the influence violations, they still take huge risks and continue driving after losing their license. People cannot seem to stay away from their vehicles. We may not realize it, but we could be addicted to our vehicles and driving.

We spend so much time in our cars that it almost becomes like a second home. It becomes easier to care more about the stereo sound and what we can dangle from the rearview mirror than if the transmission is good. Cars are supposed to get us from point A to point B. But as a society, we have made them an extension of our personalities. If you don’t think a person can be addicted to driving, try living one week without your vehicle and see what happens.

Who will take you to work? Who will take you to the grocery store? Not having a vehicle, like when our car is in the shop getting fixed, throws us into a panic and we feel a great deal of stress. Sort of like a withdrawal symptom, the fear, and anxiety of not having something we have been dependent on for a very long time. This is an addictive type of feeling.

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3. Eating candy

Ever tried quitting sugar? It’s hard to do and the withdrawal effects are brutal. Sugar addiction triggers opioid chemicals in the brain. Eating sugar makes you feel good temporarily, boosting the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. The pleasure sensors in our brains go crazy for sugar. This should be our number one clue that it is bad for us. Something that tastes so good and gives us a pleasurable feeling can also be just as damaging.

The National Institute of Health has found sugar to be an addiction similar to any other addiction. Even the withdrawal symptoms are similar to that of more hardcore drugs. You experience headaches, cravings, mood swings, and nausea. Put a person who is on a diet in a room full of donuts. That person will most likely eat the donut. It’s like putting a recovered alcoholic in a bar. The brain starts justifying why the body needs that donut.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

You deserve it because you have worked hard on your diet. Just one donut won’t hurt you or you should eat it so no one else will be tempted by it and therefore, you are taking one for the team. Before you know it, you're obsessing over this donut. So, you relapse and eat the donut.

Then the guilt shows up and your brain throws you under the bus. You should not have eaten that donut. You will have to exercise twice as much to get that donut out of your system. You are not good enough to fight a temptation. Thoughts like these suck. But they happen to people over and over struggling with a sugar addiction.

4. Snacking

Having a snacking addiction is real. You may be the type who likes to snack while driving. You turn up the music and pop open the chip bag and by the time you get to your destination all the chips are gone, you feel full and disgusted, you have crumbs all over your clothes and you wish you hadn’t had those chips.

But the next time you get in your car to drive somewhere, guess what you take with you? Chips or some other snack to help the drive go by a little better. Maybe we snack to relieve anxiety or because we're truly hungry. Maybe we snack because our habit turned into an addiction. Highly processed foods have addictive properties built right into them. That is why so many times you find yourself on the couch eating a whole bag of cookies and you don’t even remember eating half of them.

Mindless eating is becoming a big problem in today’s society and most of the time mindless eating is associated with snacking. It's important to replace snacking with another activity, a positive activity. If that means giving up television because you associate watching TV with snacking, then give up television. Do what it takes to overcome your snacking habits so you can find it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which in turn is good for your mental health.

5. Checking your iPhone

Cell phone addiction is getting worse. Admit it, you check your iPhone or Galaxy every few minutes. You pull it out of your pocket and check to see if there are new updates on Facebook or if any new emails have come through. Even if you have sound notifications attached to each and they haven’t beeped, you still like to check.

So many people are addicted to technology. It is common to see a family of four sitting at a table in a restaurant and all four of them looking at their technological device. Technology is slowly taking away the "social" out of "social events".

Facebook has taken technology addiction to a whole new level. Technology addictions have become so prominent that researchers have created a Facebook addiction scale. It is time we, as a society, start learning how to limit our time with technology and especially our time on websites such as Facebook. It is like one big webpage full of gossip, which happens to be another addiction a person can have.

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6. Gossiping

Gossip is so enticing. It’s intriguing. It lures you in and even when your guilt is screaming at you to let you know that gossiping is wrong, your curiosity screams louder. There are many reasons we gossip. Selfishly, gossip makes us feel better about ourselves, and at least, for a moment, it tells us we're not the only ones on this planet with problems. It becomes an escape from our reality. However, there is a dark side to gossiping.

Gossiping can become addictive for similar reasons we become addicted to other things. Gossip is associated with entertainment and pleasure, according to some research. This is not good since most gossip is negative. Gossip's usual intent is to make others look bad. And because this makes us feel better in some way, it can become something we do regularly.

Media in America capitalizes on our need for gossip by putting false stories on the front covers of magazines and putting those magazines right next to the checkout lines where they know we will have to wait for a while. The temptation to gossip is huge and we find ourselves justifying our gossiping behaviors by calling it "stating the facts". However, gossip is anything but stating the facts.

Challenge yourself to go a full week without participating in any form of gossiping. You can’t listen to it, read it, watch it, or spread it. This will give you an idea of whether you can be addicted to it or not. By the way, this means no Facebook for a whole week. Yikes!

7. Seeking attention

Some researchers call attention-seeking addiction narcissism or attention-validation addiction. There are different types of attention seekers: the sufferer, the savior, the rescuer, the organizer, the manipulator, the mind-poisoner, the drama queen, the busy bee, the false confessor, the abused, online victim, and the victim, All these kinds of attention seekers are a real drag to be around. But it is like they can’t help themselves. They can’t stop making themselves the center of attention no matter how many times they have been talked to or coached.

On some level, their behavior gives them a sense of pleasure and they have gotten a response from others that made them feel good. I know it sounds weird; a negative behavior gives them a positive feeling. But that's very similar to using drugs or alcohol, right? So they continue to seek attention in negative ways, and they don’t understand why they can’t keep friends for a long period.

Attention seekers, along with those struggling with any of the other addictive behaviors, can be helped. Through cognitive and behavior therapies, you can overcome any destructive behaviors that are interfering with your life. While some of these addictive patterns may not relate to your situation, there may be someone else who is having a hard time. People can become addicted to anything. The important thing to remember is that help is available and change is possible.

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Adam Gerbman is a certified life coach focused on individual and group empowerment. He brings years of experience to Vantage Point Recovery, where he offers mental health treatment programming as Chief Strategy Officer