After I posted Are Addictions Diseases and received some feedback, I was curious as to how many bad habits are listed as addictions and therefore diseases if you follow the popular medical model of addictions.
I found a website (http://www.addictionz.com/addictions.htm) out of British Columbia that listed addictions. I was stunned by the number listed and even more stunned when I read on the website that the list was only partial.
The list is organized alphabetically and within it you can find the usual addictions we’ve become accustomed to, like alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, shopping, tobacco and caffeine.
The list is so broad you can also find coin collecting because according to the website coin collecting is; usually a nice hobby but any hobby can become a compulsion in the hands of a multiple addict.
Here are some more samples from the website that I bet most people never thought of:
- Getting high to produce better art is common. Also the lifestyle of an impoverished artist can be addictive.
- Collecting art one cannot afford may create adrenalin like compulsive shopping or gambling.
- A good characteristic in most cases, but a luxury for an early recovering addict … and a self-destructive minefield for a practicing addict.
- Living in “your head” is common amongst all addicts
- One statistic is that addicts do approximately 80,000 words of self-talk per day – so this addicted ‘ head ‘ is a very busy place
- One saying in 12 step programs is that the head is like ‘a dangerous neighborhood, do not go there alone’
- The lack of reliable structure in today’s daily life leaves a lot of room for imaginative research
- It is wise to examine ones attitudes in all areas.
Clearly the authors of the website are willing to list everything and anything as being addictive or compulsive.
The use of the word compulsive (under the subtitle of Art above) is revealing because the word compulsive means “compelling” as if the person has little or no choice. Furthermore, the word compulsive leads us to a minor distinction between addiction and compulsive behavior.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Compulsive this way:
1. Resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge, especially one that is against one’s conscious wishes: “compulsive eating”
Synonyms: irresistible · uncontrollable · compelling · overwhelming · urgent · obsessive · obsessive · obsessional · addictive · uncontrollable
2. Irresistibly interesting or exciting; compelling: “this play is compulsive viewing”
Synonyms: fascinating · compelling · gripping · riveting · engrossing · enthralling · captivating
Both definitions use the word “irresistible” while the first definition uses the synonym “uncontrollable.” Both words are self-explanatory and imply that a person has no choice.
Now let’s look at WIKI’s definition of compulsive behavior:
Compulsive behavior is defined as performing an act persistently and repetitively without it necessarily leading to an actual reward or pleasure.  Compulsive behaviors could be an attempt to make obsessions go away.  The act is usually a small, restricted and repetitive behavior, yet not disturbing in a pathological way.  Compulsive behaviors are a need to reduce apprehension caused by internal feelings a person wants to abstain or control.  A major cause of the compulsive behaviors is said to be obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).  The main idea of compulsive behavior is that the likely excessive activity is not connected to the purpose it appears to be directed to.  Furthermore, there are many different types of compulsive behaviors including, shopping, hoarding, eating, gambling, trichotillomania and picking skin, checking, counting, washing, sex, and more. Also, there are cultural examples of compulsive behavior.
Now let’s compare the WIKI definition of compulsive behavior with the WIKI article on addiction derived from the DSM-V:
Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences; it can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are (positively) reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they activate the brain’s “reward pathways”, and are therefore perceived as being something positive or desirable). ΔFosB, a gene transcription factor, is now known to be a critical component and common factor in the development of virtually all forms of behavioral and drug addictions.
Potential addictions can include, but are not limited to, exercise addiction, food addiction, drug addiction, computer addiction, sex addiction and gambling addiction. Currently, only substance addictions and gambling addiction are recognized by the DSM-5, which uses physical dependence and the associated withdrawal syndrome to identify an addictive state. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addiction)
The official list of addictions can be found in the DSM-5, psychology’s Bible (http://www.myaddiction.com/addiction_categories.html) where the following are addiction classified as medical disorders:
Alcohol Addiction, Ambien Addiction, Amphetamine Addiction, Benzodiazepine Addiction, Caffeine Addiction, Cocaine Addiction, Crack Addiction, Eating Disorders, Ecstasy Addiction, Gambling Addiction, Heroin Addiction, Hydrocodone Addiction, Internet Addiction, Marijuana Addiction, Meth Addiction, Nicotine Addiction, Opioid Addiction, Percocet Addiction, Oxycontin Addiction, Pornography Addiction, Prescription Drug Addiction, Ritalin Addiction, Sex Addiction, Shopping Addiction, Smoking Addiction, Sugar Addiction, Teens and Addiction, Video Game Addiction, Work Addiction, Xanax Addiction
From these definitions one can deduce the psychology community and the vast majority of Americans believe there are addictions (compulsions) that are behavioral and addictions that are chemical (addicted to drugs or alcohol) and result in physical dependence. The commonality is the perceived “reward system.” In other words we do these things habitually because there is a pleasant pay off even if the consequences can be quite negative.
(In a 1990 survey 87% of Americans believed the disease model of addictions.)
We can also observe there is some level of debate between those who believe certain behaviors are genuine addictions and others who categorize the same things as compulsive behaviors and would therefore fall under the heading of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder rather than a genuine addiction.
The DSM-V is the latest edition of the DSM and in each upgrade the list of disorders and addictions has multiplied. This accounts for the assumption of what is called the medical model of addictions and compulsive behaviors. What that means is if I have a behavioral addiction or a chemical addiction the critical component is: ΔFosB, a gene transcription factor, is now known to be a critical component and common factor in the development of virtually all forms of behavioral and drug addictions.
In other words, addictions and compulsive behaviors are connected to DNA via gene transcription factors.
I should point out that even within the psychological community there is some level of disagreement between those who emphasize choice (minority) and those that emphasize the disease model.
What is the Bible-believing Christian to make of this trend that classifies everything as an addiction or compulsive behavior and is treated as a disease? I’ll discuss that issue in Part 2.