10 Modern Addictions You Need To Be Aware Of

Modern addictions are any of the numerous behaviors we engage in repeatedly and without hesitation in our lives. Much of today's society is characterized by instant gratification, never-ending distractions, and mindless consumption.

By Ramsha Afridi5 min read
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So it should come as no surprise that pleasure behaviors can eventually develop into addictions. These addictions are so deeply ingrained in our culture that many people consider them to be "normal."

It's important to keep in mind that not everyone who partakes in the activities listed below will become addicted to them – it’s simply to draw the distinction between healthy enjoyment and addiction.

Here are 10 modern addictions that you need to be aware of:

1. Going to Therapy

Who would argue against the life-changing power of self-improvement and self-help? Nowadays, getting therapy has become a significant part of many people's lives, especially with the rise in mental health awareness.

You might be wondering right now how and why therapy could even be considered an "addiction," but I would say that therapy today can most definitely become addictive. As mental health awareness is at its highest, there is more work being done than ever before to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness and mental health conditions. This indicates that more people than ever before are looking for ways to take care of themselves and enhance their mental health, which is unquestionably a good thing.

However, there is a fine line between using therapy to help yourself and essentially becoming dependent on your therapist for even the most minor of ills. Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, wrote an article stating that "many patients have a hard time saying goodbye to their therapist. Often the patient feels cared for and safe, and has anxiety about leaving this nurturing relationship. Many feel a lingering fear that if they were to face the world on their own, they couldn't hold it together."

2. Politics

Every now and then, we all like to dabble in politics. Let's be honest, we all have some sort of political opinion, whether we feel strongly about it or not. Politics are all around us; it’s what makes up our world and shapes our society, culture, and even national identity.

However, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, politics have become more tribal than ever, from the vaccine debate to the discussion over lockdowns, and more recently, inflation and even foreign policy. Nearly all of us are being impacted by the more heated political discussions. This can lead to people becoming consumed by politics and tribalism – and engaging in such debates on a regular basis can almost become addictive.

3. Working

Working is a real addiction – you did indeed read that correctly. Work can become addictive for many people in today's fast-paced world. You may have even heard of some people being "workaholics," who are best described as compulsively working excessively hard and long hours.

48% of Americans identify as workaholics. 

Being a "workaholic" is frequently portrayed positively in our popular culture as a sign of enthusiasm for your career. Nevertheless, 48% of Americans identify as workaholics. Even though it might seem harmless, workaholism can have a detrimental effect and be damaging to your health, happiness, and important relationships.

4. Shopping

Have you ever purchased something from a store that you truly adored and experienced an immediate rush of excitement? Ruth Engs from Indiana University claims that some individuals become addicted to shopping because they essentially become dependent on the psychological effects of buying things they love. When some people shop, their brains release dopamine and endorphins – and these emotional states eventually become addictive.

5. Caffeine 

There’s no denying that one of the most common modern addictions is caffeine. In fact, it's likely that you drink coffee or tea every day, and it may feel impossible to start the day without either. It resembles addiction on a close level.

An article on the addictiveness of caffeine in Psychology Today cited Dr. Harold Urschel, chief medical strategist of the Dallas-based addiction management company and author of Healing the Addicted Brain: “Caffeine is quite addictive in the sense that it is a psychoactive substance. It stimulates certain chemical systems in the brain and this keeps you awake…along with waking you up, caffeine also makes you agitated, irritated, and anxious – and those effects increase along with your daily dosage of caffeine. You get acclimated to caffeine's wake-up aspect, but never to its agitation, irritation, and anxiety aspects.”

6. Antidepressants and Anti-Anxiety Drugs 

Antidepressants and anxiety medications are among the most popular modern drugs. According to The National Center for Health Statistics, the United States is the most medicated nation on earth. Antidepressants are frequently prescribed for people under 60, and approximately 45 million people living in the country were taking anti-depressant drugs in 2020. 

The United States is the most medicated nation on earth. 

The fundamental question of whether psychoactive drugs eventually become addictive has been brought up because of their widespread use. Even though drugs such as antidepressants are not inherently addictive, our body is able to get used to them after repeated use. Ultimately, antidepressant remission syndrome or relapse symptoms may occur if a person abruptly stops taking such drugs.

7. Dopamine

We enjoy pleasure, fun, and the good things in life, but too much pleasure can become addictive. This is where dopamine addiction comes into play. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found in our brains that seeks rewards, so understanding it is crucial. 

Dopamine plays a vital role in addiction, which is widely acknowledged in the scientific community. This is because dopamine is released into the brain when partaking in activities considered to be pleasurable and fun, effectively rewarding us when we do so. A problem arises because too much dopamine may lead to addictive behavior seeking instant gratification, which would be detrimental to our brain health in the long run.  

One example is that modern technology can become addicting due to the ease of use and rapid gratification it offers. The constant accessibility of numerous technologies, like social media and mobile phones, can also contribute to their addictive character. The use of technology can cause the release of dopamine in the brain, making it feel pleasurable and possibly leading to addiction.

For instance, research conducted by Temple University demonstrated in a study that when some people were given the option between receiving a little sum of money immediately or a bigger sum at a later time, those who were heavy users of technology and engaged with it frequently were more likely to choose the smaller, immediate reward, indicating that they may have trouble deferring gratification.

8. Hobbies 

Have you ever been able to lose yourself for hours on end in an activity that you truly loved? You may have felt completely enthralled by a certain pastime and simply can't stop engrossing yourself in it, whether it was drawing, painting, playing video games, or spending hours playing sports.

While hobby addiction is not well-known, it’s just as common as other addictions. According to a piece by Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint, a top rehabilitation center, one of the most telling indicators of a hobby addiction is feeling anxious or agitated when you can't engage in your passion.

A telling indicator of a hobby addiction is feeling anxious or agitated when you can't engage in it.

If you respond to your activity more intensely than most people do, then that's another major red flag, according to Ashwood Recovery. For instance, there may be an issue if you frequently break down in emotional outbursts when you discover that you may not be able to spend your time engaging in your favorite hobbies. 

9. Consuming Media

Many people squander countless hours on websites like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and others to watch videos. While engaging in these activities in moderation won't harm us, doing so repeatedly for extended periods of time each day can.

Given that the foundation of the attention economy is the idea that people's attention can be valued as a good that can be bought and sold, this is not shocking. Many modern technologies and digital platforms are designed to be addictive in order to keep people using them for as long as possible.

People may end up becoming addicted to consuming media because they feel the need to repeatedly check their phones and interact with online content continuously in order to stay in the loop with current events, entertainment, and trends.

10. Exercising 

Have you ever had a small amount of cake and then spent the next day working out for two hours in an attempt to burn it off? And before you know it, you're spending a ton of additional time at the gym to make up for a little bit of "overeating." This is a story that many of us can relate to. 

Exercise addiction, also known as compulsive exercise or excessive exercise, is a form of modern addiction in which a person develops a risky obsession with exercising that’s harmful to both their physical and psychological well-being. 

It’s frequently a side effect of eating disorders and body image issues, making it a very serious addiction given that an estimated 28 million Americans, or 9% of the population in the United States, may develop an eating disorder in their lives.

To dive deeper into the prevalence of exercise addictions, studies have also indicated that those who use technology to assist their related sport or exercise program have higher rates of exercise addiction. This is concerning given we’re all reliant on technology in today's society; practically, all of us have fitness monitoring apps and exercise programs set up on our phones, which could possibly serve to make things worse.

Closing Thoughts

Few of us would have thought that the activities listed above could develop into addictive behaviors, but in today's fast-paced society, even our leisure activities can develop into addictions that eventually infiltrate our daily lives. The effects of these addictions can be severe on a person's relationships, quality of life and overall well-being, so it's critical for people to be conscious of their risk of addictions, which is all around us.

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