Understanding the Psychological Aspects of Non-Substance Addiction

         Non-substance addiction has psychological aspects that you fully need to understand if you want to avoid it or fully recover from it. Non-substance addiction takes place when one engages in a compulsive behavior instead of using substances. In exploring psychological aspects of non-substance addiction, the following are ten important points that one needs to keep in mind:

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1. Compulsion

Compulsion is a central concept in non-substance addiction1. This is because individuals who suffer from non-substance addiction experience an overwhelming and strong compulsion to do a certain thing – online shopping, gambling, or sexual intercourse – that leads to the damage and detriment of other parts of their lives.

When one has non-substance addiction, it becomes almost impossible for them to stop themselves from doing the thing that they have been addicted to. The desire to do a thing becomes part of their survival instinct. Their brain gets convinced that they will not survive if they don’t get to do a certain activity. They lose touch with reality.

2. Loss of Control

A person suffering from non-substance addiction has already lost control of himself or herself. One becomes a mere puppet to one’s desire to do a certain activity. It becomes hard to avoid or prevent negative consequences. Reasoning and being logical become things of the past. One’s healthy habits slowly cease to exist.

3. Craving

Just like people who suffer from substance abuse, people suffering from non-substance addiction experience cravings that seem larger than life. These cravings become their main driving force to live and exist. A day ceases to matter or count if they don’t get to do the activity that they’re addicted to. This craving leads to a tragic cycle of compulsion and obsession. This craving is the reason why the lives of people suffering from non-substance addiction slowly fall apart.

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4. Escapism

People who suffer from non-substance addiction have deeper issues. This is because people often crave to do a certain activity over facing reality in order to escape. The thing that they are addicted to doing becomes their way to cope with anxiety, stress, or emotional pain.

This is why most people say that addiction – may it be to substance or not – mainly stems from one’s failure to cope with stress and face reality as it happens. It is when one’s failure to deal with challenges becomes an entirely separate problem. In this light, addiction can be seen as a symptom for people who need to learn and understand basic life skills.

5. Tolerance

Just like any kind of addiction, tolerance is experienced by one suffering from non-substance addiction. This happens over time. As they participate in a certain activity, it becomes harder and harder for them to reach the same level of satisfaction or pleasure. This is why they end up doing more and more of it. The more that they do it, the more that they tolerate it. The more that they tolerate it, the more that they need to do more of it. It is a tragic and sad cycle.

6. Withdrawal Symptoms

Recovering from non-substance addiction primarily becomes challenging because people experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms happen when people suddenly stop doing the activity that they are addicted to. Such individuals often end up being irritable, depressed, or anxious. They end up not being able to stand the symptoms that’s why most people end up doing the activity that they are addicted to all over again.

7. Negative Consequences

People who suffer from non-substance addiction also suffer from the negative consequences of their actions. They often have damaged relationships, problematic work lives, financial problems, and stressful daily lives. This is because they tend to lose control of every other aspect of their lives due to their sole desire to participate in a certain activity. They end up forsaking their responsibilities and obligations.

8. Loss of Interest in Other Activities

As people suffering from non-substance addiction become out of touch with reality and fully obsessed with doing a certain activity, they become uninterested in doing other activities. Other activities cease to give them excitement and pleasure. They will stop from doing their hobbies and other activities that used to play big roles in their lives. Nothing will slowly become essential or important but the very thing that they are addicted to. This is when they start to slowly isolate themselves from others and all the more feel alienated. This is when they start to live double lives as the brain will know that something is wrong – they often hide their addiction – but it will fail to do something about it.

9. Mood Changes

People with non-substance addiction have compromised brains. They experience temporary euphoria whenever they do a certain activity. They tend to crave this feeling again and again. Life becomes meaningless if they don’t get to experience this hit. It then becomes harder to recover.

10.  Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

It is often the case that people who suffer from non-substance addiction also suffer from other mental health issues. They can also be suffering from depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders which makes recovery a more complex process. This is why it is important for people with non-substance addiction to first get assessed by a psychotherapist. Non-substance addiction recovery becomes impossible if one’s co-occurring mental health issue is not dealt with. This very mental health issue may even be at the root of one’s failure to face life’s daily challenges and struggles.


Behavioral Addiction versus Substance Addiction

  1. Zou, Zhiling, et al. “Definition of substance and non-substance addiction.” substance and non-substance addiction (2017): 21-41. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Icy Health Editorial Team
  1. Although I am not an addict but I came across this article and found it really informational and so well-written which is good to spread awareness.

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