It is easy to mock someone that has an addiction we don’t understand. TLC’s My Strange Addiction brought a lot of these strange addictions to light but many people merely watched to see people doing weird things. The problem with this should be pretty obvious. Any addiction – no matter how bizarre – is a serious matter. In order to be considered an addiction, a person must do something compulsively despite any negative consequences. We all know drug addiction, alcoholism and gambling addictions can have severe consequences for an addict and to the people who love the addict but the addictions on this list can be almost as destructive. In some cases, they can be every bit as destructive as the more recognized addictions. Let’s take a look.
10: Chewing Ice (Pagophagia)
Chewing ice is likely one of the least destructive strange addictions we’re going to talk about but it can cause the same problems that come with doing anything compulsively. People who suffer from an addiction to chewing ice may also face a variety of dental issues as well as issues with nutrition that should be addressed. The theory on this one is that people begin chewing ice because of an iron deficiency and once that deficiency is addressed, the addiction will go away. Sometimes, however, an iron deficiency is not the reason and the compulsive ice chewing may be the symptom of a larger, underlying issue. Chewing ice compulsively may indicate a developmental disorder, elevated stress or may be a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. If that is the case, the addiction will not go away until the underlying issue is dealt with.
It’s hard to imagine but reading can actually be a fairly serious addiction that can prevent the addict from having a normal life. Someone who is addicted to reading may find themselves unable to sleep or unable to leave the house, even to go to work or to school. In order to really be considered an addiction though, we can’t be referring to one or two books over the course of a year or two. Reading addicts feel compelled to read constantly, no matter what material they’re reading and therefore, the effects can be fairly dramatic. Some reading addicts will not stop reading for days on end. They can lose their jobs, alienate loved ones and suffer severe issues related to the lack of sleep. They become entirely focused on reading and are unable to stop. It is possible to treat reading addictions but like most of the other strange addictions we’ll be talking about, the first step is identifying the underlying problem behind the addiction. Once that has been addressed, work can start on treating that problem and ending the addiction as a result.
Tanning is far from the strangest addiction on this list but it is one of those strange addictions that can become quite serious even if people don’t recognize that as often as they should. Tanning addictions are dangerous because tanning is dangerous. Skin issues like aging, skin condition disorders and skin cancer are just three of the major concerns someone with a tanning addiction is more susceptible to. In addition, this is one of the few strange addictions on our list that can lead to actual physiological withdrawal symptoms. Someone with a tanning addiction may feel nauseated, dizzy, irritable and just generally physically uncomfortable if they are not able to tan. In order to be considered a true tanning addict, a person must tan (either via direct sunlight or in a tanning bed) 8-10 times a month or more – far more than how often the average person would tan.
07: Shopping (Oniomania)
People like to joke about shopping addiction but it really can be a serious addiction that needs to be treated before it gets out of control and destroys the addict’s life. It’s important to recognize though that being addicted to shopping is not the same as enjoying shopping a little too much. I love shopping. I go shopping when I probably shouldn’t and I sometimes feel guilty about the things I buy but I would not say I’m a shopping addict. Shopping addiction is the compulsive need to shop. A shopping addict will spend hours upon hours shopping on a near daily basis. They hide the things they buy from family members or other loved ones because they are embarrassed or ashamed of their behavior. They will run up bills they can’t possibly hope to pay but will still continue shopping despite the mounting debt. Many shopping addicts will hide how much they spend from the people in their life by hiding the things they buy, as I mentioned, but also by lying about the amount of money they paid for something. They may lie about a sale, say purchases were gifts or may even say they won more expensive items in a contest. Most shopping addictions are rooted in feeling of inadequacy, emptiness, anger, depression and various other negative feelings an addict may be feeling. Those feelings have to be addressed before the addiction can be controlled and treated but treatment is possible. Medication, therapy and support groups can help a shopping addict control their addiction and get their life back on the right track.
Exercise addiction can actually be very dangerous, not just because of the addiction itself but because of how easy it is to overlook the seriousness of the addiction. Of course, an addict is often in denial about their addiction long after others have become aware of the problem but loved ones can at least try to get through to them, giving the addict the chance to get help before the addiction becomes too serious. It can be more difficult for the loved ones of an exercise addict to recognize the problem though because of the nature of the addiction. Exercise is good for us. We all know that. When we see someone we care about working out all the time, we can sometimes just write it off because we think they’re focused on being healthy. The problem is that exercise addiction can get very serious rather quickly. The addict may work out more than two hours every day. They may start skipping work or social events to work out. This can lead to serious injuries and often, the addict will continue to workout even after the initial injury, making it worse or leading to secondary injuries. The addiction itself is often the result of the addict’s need for control and can be exacerbated by stress. Treatment is possible if the underlying issue is addressed but care must be taken in times of stress to avoid relapses.
05: Hair Pulling (Trichotillomania)
Hair pulling is recognized as an impulse control disorder and is usually merely a symptom of a larger, underlying condition such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or stress and depression related issues. With this strange addiction, people feel compelled to pull their own hair, sometimes pulling it out completely leaving bald patches. This can have an extremely detrimental effect on a person’s professional or social life. The good news is that there are treatments that really seem to work, including taking certain over the counter medications. Of course, the underlying issue must be addressed or the chance of a relapse is always there. Relapses can be difficult because they cause the addict to feel even more depressed or stressed out which can lead to an escalation in symptoms.
04: Body Modification
Addictions to body modification can manifest in many ways including addictions to body piercing, cosmetic surgery or tattoos. These modifications can be perfectly healthy on their own. In other words, a person is not addicted to body modification if they have two tattoos, has a piercing in their nose and their lip or has had breast augmentation and lip injections. An addiction is present when the body modification is taken to an extreme and has had a negative impact on their lifestyle, their appearance or their social life. There is often an underlying mental condition that needs to be addressed before the addiction itself can be dealt with because it is almost always the underlying condition that is leading to the addictive behavior.
03: Eating Things Not Intended to Be Food (Pica/Geophagia)
If you’ve come here looking for strange addictions you might see on a show like TLC’s My Strange Addiction, this is likely what you’re looking for. Many of the most puzzling strange addictions fall under the eating things not intended to be food category. Not just bizarre, some of these addictions can prove fatal. Additions of this sort can include:
- Addiction to eating ashes
- Addiction to eating buttons
- Addiction to eating chalk
- Addiction to eating clay
- Addiction to eating coal
- Addiction to eating coins
- Addiction to eating dirt
- Addiction to eating feces
- Addiction to eating nails
- Addiction to eating rocks
- Addiction to eating toilet paper/paper towel and other paper items
The psychology behind these kinds of addictions isn’t always quite as clear as it is with some of the other strange addictions on our list. It is believed many people who suffer from pica (addiction to eating non-food items) or geophagia (addiction to eating earthy materials like chalk, clay, coal or dirt) suffer from a variant of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which means therapy and sometimes medication can help control the symptoms. It is also believed that these kinds of addictions often begin because something is missing in the addict’s diet and eating non-food items is an attempt to correct that imbalance. The problem is that even when that imbalance is corrected with changes to the diet, the actual addiction often remains, necessitating further treatment.
I want to make something very, very, clear before I even get into this one. Sex addiction is a very real, very dangerous and very misunderstood condition that has kind of become sort of the go to excuse for bad behavior on the part of men and women who get caught cheating. The problem with this should be obvious. It gives real people with sex addictions a bad name. The truth is that a sex addiction can be one of the most destructive addictions a person can have. It can tear apart families and ruin lives. It can leave the addict feeling as if they have no one to turn to and can even mean a long stay in prison depending on how the addict’s behavior. Sex addicts often derive no pleasure from sexual activity which makes the condition even more perplexing. Instead of feeling good about sex, a sex addict often feels shame, guilt or remorse, even when having sex with a willing partner they have romantic feelings for. Sex addiction can lead to compulsive masturbation, a fixation on sex that makes it difficult to think about anything other than sex, aggressive sexual behavior, multiple anonymous sexual encounters and sometimes even rape. The root cause of sexual addiction is difficult to determine. Sometimes rape or sexual abuse is the cause of sexual addiction. Other times, there is some other underlying condition that leads a person to become addicted to sex. Other times still, there is no obvious cause. Treatment is available but the underlying cause often has to be identified and addressed before treatment can be successful.Then again, while there are treatments for those addicted to sex, far too many sex addicts do not even know they have an addiction, much less realize they need help.
01: The Internet/Gaming
Internet and gaming addictions are fairly similar in that a person feels compelled to play their game or surf the internet constantly, often at the expense of their friends, family members or even themselves. It is easy to laugh at the idea of someone becoming addicted to a game or to the internet but people have lost everything, some have even died, because of these addictions and there just isn’t any humor in that. A game or an online persona can make a person feel things they don’t feel in their normal lives. They may forge relationships they may not be able to maintain otherwise. Someone who is anti-social in their normal life may find freedom in talking with strangers online or playing a character who is more social in a game. Someone who feels weak in real life may be able to feel stronger and more powerful online or in a game. These addictions are real and may even need treatment. Many researchers believe internet or gaming addictions are forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or are a kind of impulse control disorder but when the addiction is recognized and help is sought, treatment can be effective and can help the addict resume a normal, healthy life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, check out this website. There are resources there for all kinds of addiction that may help you or your loved one get on the path to recovery.