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Understanding the different types of addiction

Updated: Jun 6

Addiction is a diverse and multifaceted issue affecting millions of people worldwide. While the term "addiction" often conjures images of substance abuse, such as alcoholism or drug dependency, the reality is that addiction can take many forms. Understanding the different types of addiction is crucial for recognising, addressing, and treating these issues. This article explores the various forms of addiction, ranging from substance abuse to behavioural addictions, to help you identify addiction in yourself and others.

If you are concerned about potential addiction issues with yourself or someone close to you then please get in touch via our website or by calling 01433 350500 to speak to a recovery expert for advice.


Substance Misuse Addictions


Substance misuse addiction is perhaps the most widely recognised form of addiction. It involves the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol, despite the negative consequences it brings to one's health, relationships, and daily life. Common substance misuse addictions include:


·       Alcohol Addiction: Also known as alcoholism, this form of addiction involves a dependency on alcohol. It can lead to severe physical and mental health issues, including liver disease, depression, brain damage, cancer. According to the Office for National Statistics there were close to 10,000 alcohol-specific related deaths recorded in 2021 which is rising year on year.


·       Drug Addiction: This encompasses a range of substances, including opioids (such as heroin and prescription painkillers), stimulants (such as cocaine and amphetamines), and other illegal or prescription drugs. Drug addiction often leads to significant health problems, including overdose, infectious diseases from needle use, and neurological damage.


·       Nicotine Addiction: Often overlooked, nicotine addiction is highly prevalent and can lead to chronic respiratory issues, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers. The addictive nature of nicotine makes quitting smoking or using other tobacco products exceptionally challenging.


Behavioural Addictions


Behavioural addictions, also known as process addictions, involve compulsive behaviours that provide a temporary sense of relief or pleasure but ultimately cause harm in the long term. These addictions can be just as debilitating as substance abuse addictions and often require similar treatment approaches. Key types of behavioural addictions include:


·       Gambling Addiction: This addiction involves an uncontrollable urge to gamble, despite the negative impact on one’s financial situation, relationships, and mental health. Problem gambling can lead to severe debt, relationship breakdowns, and even criminal activity to fund a gambling habit.


·       Internet and Gaming Addiction: A growing issue particularly amongst younger age groups, addiction to the internet and video games has become increasingly common. Research published by researched at the University of Cambridge this year highlights both the prevalence and life-satisfaction consequences of online addiction in young people. Individuals may spend excessive amounts of time online or gaming, leading to neglect of personal responsibilities, social isolation, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.


·       Shopping Addiction: Involves an uncontrollable urge to shop and buy items, often leading to financial problems, clutter, and strained relationships. The temporary high from purchasing can quickly be followed by guilt and remorse.


·       Food Addiction: This addiction involves an unhealthy relationship with food, when individuals consume large quantities of food, often ultra-processed foods high in sugar and fat, whilst low in nutrients, to cope with stress or emotions. Food addiction can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other serious health issues. Reports published last week suggest 1 in 6 adults in the UK identify as having an addiction to ultra-processed foods, with stress appearing as the leading cause of this behaviour.


Recognising the Signs of Addiction


Identifying addiction, whether substance-related or behavioural, is crucial for seeking timely help. Common signs of addiction include:


·       Increased Tolerance: Needing more of the substance or behaviour to achieve the same effect.

·       Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing physical or emotional symptoms when not engaging in the addictive behaviour or substance use.

·       Loss of Control: Inability to reduce or stop the addictive behaviour for longer than short amount of time despite attempts to do so.

·       Neglecting Responsibilities: Ignoring duties at work, school, or home due to the addiction and prioritising the behaviour or substance above these responsibilities.

·       Continued Use Despite Harm: Persisting in the behaviour despite knowing and suffering its negative consequences.



Understanding the different types of addiction is essential for recognising the breadth of this issue and the various ways it can manifest. Whether through substance misuse or behavioural compulsions, addiction requires comprehensive treatment and support to overcome.

At Eleven Recovery we understand through lived experience and years of professional experience what is needed to treat addiction and come out the other side ready to live a purpose-driven and satisfying life without substance misuse or harmful behaviour.

Please get in touch via our website or by calling 01433 350500 if you think our advice could help you or somebody close to you.

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