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Are There Different Types of Addiction?

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For a word that’s commonly used, addiction is a puzzling phenomenon. We hear it everywhere, yet it’s often misunderstood. Addiction isn’t just about indulgence or lack of willpower, but rather a complex condition with biological, psychological, and social factors.

While most people might associate addiction with drugs and alcohol alone, there are other types of addiction that can be just as detrimental to an individuals physical and mental health.

Furthermore, addiction is often misrepresented. Media portrayals can be sensationalized, painting a narrow picture that overlooks the reality for many people struggling. Addiction does not discriminate—it affects people from all walks of life.

In this article, Clear Behavioral Health will identify the different types of addiction, exploring the factors that contribute to its development and discuss how it can be treated. Understanding the nuanced nature of addiction is crucial for effective prevention and intervention strategies to support those affected and their loved ones as they look to begin the recovery process.

How is Addiction Defined?

Addiction is defined as a chronic and treatable condition characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite negative consequences. It can involve substances (such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine, etc.) or behaviors (such as gambling, gaming, or eating).[1]

Addiction is typically marked by an inability to control one’s use of the substance or behavior, continued use despite negative consequences, and often, a craving for the substance or behavior, among other symptoms that impact several aspects of an individual’s life.[2]

Is Addiction Considered to be a Mental Health Condition?

Yes, addiction is widely recognized as a mental health condition. Currently classified as a substance use disorder or behavioral addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the standard classification of mental health disorders used by mental health professionals.

Addiction involves changes in the brain’s structure and function, leading to compulsive behaviors. These changes affect areas of the brain involved in reward, motivation, memory, and self-control.[3]

How Can Other Mental Health Conditions Impact Addiction?

Mental health disorders often co-occur with addiction, complicating diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and other mental health disorders may contribute to the development of addiction or result from substance abuse disorder. Addiction can worsen mental health conditions by exacerbating symptoms, impairing cognitive function, and disrupting emotional regulation.[3]

Conversely, untreated mental health disorders may increase the risk of developing an addiction as individuals may turn to substances or addictive behaviors as a way to cope with distressing symptoms.

Receiving treatment for a dual diagnosis, a term that means you have a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder simultaneously, addresses these intertwined issues by providing integrated care that addresses both addiction and mental health disorders, promoting holistic recovery and an improved quality of life.[3]

Substance Use vs Behavioral Addiction

Addiction manifests in various forms, including drug addiction or substance use disorders and behavioral addictions. While both share similarities in their underlying mechanisms and consequences, they also exhibit distinct characteristics that differentiate them. Understanding these different types of addiction will help tremendously for effective diagnosis, treatment, and support strategies.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) involve the compulsive use of substances such as alcohol, drugs (both legal and illegal), and prescription drugs, despite adverse consequences.

Most Common Characteristics of SUDs:

  • Physical Substances: SUDs revolve around the consumption of physical substances that alter brain chemistry and produce psychoactive effects.
  • Tolerance and Withdrawal: Individuals with SUDs often develop a tolerance to the substance, requiring continually increasing the amount consumed to achieve the desired effects. Once a psychological and physical addiction is formed, withdrawal symptoms can occur if the individual discontinues use abruptly.
  • Neurobiological Changes: Prolonged substance use can lead to significant changes in the brain’s structure and function, affecting areas responsible for reward, motivation, and decision-making.
  • Physical Health Effects: SUDs can have severe physical health consequences, including organ damage, cardiovascular issues, and increased risk of infectious diseases.
  • Legal and Social Implications: Substance misuse can lead to legal problems, impaired social relationships, and difficulties in various life domains such as work, education, and finances.[4]

Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions involve compulsive engagement in specific behaviors or activities, despite negative consequences, which may mimic substance dependence.

Most Common Characteristics of Behavioral Addiction:

  • Non-Substance Behaviors: Behavioral addictions do not involve the consumption of substances but instead revolve around compulsive behaviors such as gambling, gaming, internet use, shopping, or eating.
  • Reward Pathways: Like substance use, behavioral addictions activate reward pathways in the brain, releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which reinforce the behavior and contribute to its compulsive nature.
  • (Potential) Tolerance and Withdrawal: While not universally accepted, some behavioral addictions may exhibit tolerance (requiring increasing intensity or frequency) and withdrawal symptoms (such as irritability or agitation upon cessation of the activity).
  • Psychological Impact: Behavioral addictions can lead to significant psychological distress, impairments in functioning, and negative effects on relationships, work, and daily life.[5]

While substance use disorders and behavioral addictions differ in the nature of the compulsive behavior, both represent significant challenges to individuals’ well-being and require comprehensive assessment and treatment approaches.

Addiction Examples

While there are a wide variety of types of addiction, here are a few examples to be aware of:

Substance Addictions


Alcohol addiction or Alcohol use disorder (AUD) involves the compulsive consumption of alcohol despite undesirable consequences, including tolerance, dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and impaired control over drinking behavior.


While less common, caffeine use disorder can occur due to excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages or supplements, leading to dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and irritability.[6]


Cannabis use disorder refers to problematic cannabis use, characterized by cravings, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and insomnia. This often involves the compulsive use of marijuana or hashish despite negative consequences.


Hallucinogen use disorder encompasses the misuse of substances such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and MDMA (ecstasy), leading to altered perceptions, mood changes, and potential long-term psychological effects.[7]


Inhalant use disorder involves the misuse of volatile substances like solvents, aerosols, or gases for their psychoactive effects. Inhalant abuse can lead to rapid intoxication, dizziness, nausea, and serious health complications.


Opioid use disorder (OUD) involves the misuse of opioids, including prescription painkillers (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone) and illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Opioid addiction is characterized by cravings, tolerance, and opioid withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, and muscle pain.

Sedatives, Hypnotics, and Anxiolytics

This category includes substances such as benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium), barbiturates, and non-benzodiazepine sleep medications (such as Ambien). Misuse of these drugs can lead to sedation, relaxation, and respiratory depression.


Stimulant use disorders involve the misuse of substances that increase alertness, energy, and attention. These stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription medications like Adderall and Ritalin. Stimulant addiction can lead to hyperactivity, insomnia, and cardiovascular issues.


Tobacco use disorder refers to addiction to nicotine, commonly found in cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco products. Nicotine dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms upon quitting, along with numerous health risks, including lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory issues.

Other Substances

This category may include substances not specifically classified elsewhere, such as designer drugs, synthetic cannabinoids, or novel psychoactive substances whose addictive potential and long-term effects are not fully understood.

Behavioral Addictions


Food addiction involves compulsive overeating or binge eating, often in response to emotional triggers. Individuals may have difficulty controlling their food intake, leading to weight gain, health problems, and feelings of guilt or shame. Certain foods high in sugar, fat, and salt can trigger addictive-like responses in the brain.[8]


Gambling addiction, also known as gambling disorder, is characterized by compulsive gambling behavior despite negative consequences. Individuals with gambling addiction may experience financial problems, strained relationships, and psychological distress. Gambling activates reward pathways in the brain, leading to cravings and loss of control.[9]


Sex addiction involves engaging in sexual activities excessively and impulsively. Individuals with sex addiction may experience relationship problems, sexually transmitted infections, and difficulties maintaining employment or social stability.


Technology addiction involves excessive and compulsive use of digital devices, video games, or social media. Individuals may spend excessive amounts of time online, leading to social isolation, sleep disturbances, and neglect of real-life responsibilities. Gaming disorder, recognized by the World Health Organization, is a specific form of technology addiction.[10]

Impulse Control Disorder

Impulse control disorders (ICDs) are a group of problematic behaviors that make it difficult to control actions or reactions. Common ICDs include oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), conduct disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, and pyromania.

What Treatments are Available for Addiction?

A comprehensive approach to addiction treatment involves a full spectrum of care that addresses the physical, psychological, and social aspects of the condition. Addiction treatment encompasses a diverse range of environments, each offering unique benefits and tailored approaches to support individuals in their journey towards recovery.

Many addiction treatment programs provide flexible treatment options, allowing individuals to attend therapy sessions while maintaining their daily responsibilities. These clinics offer a range of services, including individual counseling, group therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and family therapy, providing comprehensive support to address various aspects of addiction.

Residential Treatment Options

Residential rehabilitation centers offer a structured and immersive treatment experience for individuals requiring intensive support in a controlled environment. These centers typically provide round-the-clock care, including medical supervision, therapy sessions, recreational activities, and skill-building workshops. Residential programs often incorporate evidence-based treatments to address the underlying causes of addiction and promote long-term recovery.

Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) offer a middle ground between outpatient and residential care, providing a higher level of support than traditional outpatient services while allowing individuals to reside at home. IOPs typically involve a combination of group therapy sessions, individual counseling, educational workshops, and relapse prevention planning. These programs offer flexibility in scheduling and intensity, making them suitable for individuals transitioning from residential treatment or those with moderate addiction severity.

Similar principles apply for treating behavioral addictions, though the focus may be on modifying maladaptive behaviors rather than the cessation of substance use. Therapeutic programming is utilized to help individuals recognize and change unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior.

Aftercare Treatment

In either case, aftercare treatment plays a crucial role in sustaining recovery efforts beyond the initial treatment phase. This process involves ongoing support and resources aimed at helping individuals navigate the challenges of post-rehabilitation life. Aftercare services may include support groups, individual counseling, sober living arrangements, vocational training, and holistic wellness programs. By participating in aftercare initiatives, individuals can strengthen their coping skills, build a supportive network, and maintain their commitment to sobriety for the long term.

A comprehensive approach to addiction treatment recognizes that each individual’s journey to recovery is unique, and therefore treatment plans should be tailored to meet their specific needs. By offering a range of interventions across the continuum of care, individuals have access to the support and resources necessary for sustained recovery.

Your Choice is Clear for High-Quality Addiction Treatment

Clear Behavioral Health is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for individuals struggling with addiction by offering a full spectrum of services tailored to their unique needs. Our approach encompasses not only the treatment of addiction but also the management of co-occurring mental health disorders, recognizing the intricate interplay between addiction and mental health. We take pride in our commitment to addressing the physical, psychological, and social aspects of addiction at every level of care, providing our clients with the best setting and treatment they need to begin the recovery journey.

Furthermore, our commitment extends beyond primary treatment to include robust aftercare programs, relapse prevention strategies, and ongoing support programs, ensuring that you have the resources and tools necessary for sustained recovery.

At Clear Behavioral Health, we empower individuals to reclaim their lives and achieve lasting wellness. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. We offer a full continuum of care for all types of addiction that starts with detox and residential treatment and ends in recovery and a new zest for life. Take the first step towards recovery and contact Clear Behavioral Health for compassionate support and comprehensive care today.


  1. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019, September 15). Definition of Addiction. ASAM. on March 25, 2024
  2. McNeely, J., & Adam, A. (2020, October 1). Table 3, DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Diagnosing and Classifying Substance Use Disorders [abc]. on March 25, 2024
  3. National Institute of Mental Health. (2023). Substance use and co-occurring mental disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. on March 25, 2024
  4. CDC. (2022, October 5). Disease of the Week – Substance Use Disorders (SUDs). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. on March 25, 2024
  5. Alavi, S. S., Ferdosi, M., Jannatifard, F., Eslami, M., Alaghemandan, H., & Setare, M. (2012). Behavioral Addiction versus Substance Addiction: Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3(4), 290–294. on March 25, 2024
  6. Minkove, J. (2020, December 16). New Insight into Caffeine Use Disorder. on March 25, 2024
  7. Grant, J. E., Lust, K., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2019). Hallucinogen use is associated with mental health and addictive problems and impulsivity in university students. Addictive Behaviors Reports, 10, 100228. on March 25, 2024
  8. Adams, R. C., Sedgmond, J., Maizey, L., Chambers, C. D., & Lawrence, N. S. (2019). Food Addiction: Implications for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Overeating. Nutrients, 11(9), 2086. on March 25, 2024
  9. Mayo Clinic. (2022, June 18). Compulsive Gambling – Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Clinic. on March 25, 2024
  10. World Health Organization. (2023). Gaming disorder. on March 25, 2024
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