Types of Addictions and Disorders

Substance Addiction

Substance addiction, also known as drug addiction or dependence, is a state that develops from consistent drug use. This often results in withdrawal when drug use is stopped. Regular drug abuse may lead to drug addiction or other bodily harm.

Drug abuse usually involves selling, buying or abusing these substances, which can lead to an arrest, criminal charges, and imprisonment.

Whether they are illegal drugs or prescription drugs, tobacco, or alcohol, addiction is one of the nation’s most pressing public health issues. Drug abuse occurs when people willingly consume illegal substances. Even prescription drugs can be abused for the purpose of altering their mood or getting “high”.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction often involves habitual intoxication. Prolonged and excessive intake of alcoholic drinks can lead to a breakdown in health and an addiction to alcohol. This is especially true in those with compulsive, excessive consumption.

It is also a disease characterized by addiction to alcoholic beverages, resulting in impaired social functioning and in damage to the liver, heart, and nervous system.

Street Drugs

A street drug is a drug that you take for nonmedicinal reasons, usually for mind-altering effects.

Slang names include acid (lysergic acid diethylamide), angel dust (phencyclidine), coke (cocaine), downers (barbiturates), grass (marijuana), hash (concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol), magic mushrooms (psilocybin), and speed (amphetamines).

During the 1980s, a new class of “designer drugs” also known as street drugs arose. These were mainly psychoactive substances intended to escape regulation. Additionally, crack cocaine, a potent, smokable form of cocaine, emerged. In the U.S., illicit use of drugs (cocaine, marijuana, and heroin) recurs in cycles.

Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are the most commonly abused substance across the nation, right on the heels of marijuana and alcohol.

There are many medications that have mind- and mood-altering properties. Because of this, they are often abused in hopes of achieving similar highs that would result from street drug use.

Prescription drug abuse occurs when someone takes them in amounts and/or in ways that are not as a doctor intends. Another example is when they are taken by someone other than who the medication was meant for – both occur in epidemic proportions.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, is the term used to describe patients with both severe mental illness (mainly psychotic disorders) and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.

A personality disorder may also co-exist with psychiatric illness and/or substance misuse. The nature of the relationship between the two conditions may be genetically linked.

A primary psychiatric illness may precipitate or lead to substance misuse. Patients may feel anxious, lonely, bored, have difficulty sleeping or may want to ‘block out’ symptoms or medication side-effects.

Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral addictions can result in many of the same negative effects as substance addictions and can be as difficult to overcome. They are usually associated with impulse control, causing an individual to engage in behaviors compulsively beyond the point at which said behaviors have led to negative personal consequences. Like addiction to drugs and alcohol, behavioral addiction connects to the “rush” or “high” one experiences when engaging in a behavior.

Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction is a serious problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one’s self or others. These behaviors continue despite sincere and persistent efforts to stop. Some might not think sex can be addictive because it does not involve chemicals. However, the body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters during sex that produces the same chemical “high” as drugs or alcohol. Because of the denial and shame associated with sexual behaviors, it is only recently that the reality of sexual addiction has been acknowledged by those caught in its grasp or by treatment professionals. Since this problem was first addressed in 1983, some have argued that sexual addiction does not exist or is exaggerated. Nevertheless, acknowledgment of compulsive sexuality is growing, and more help is available today than ever before.

Risk-Taking Behavioral Addiction

Thrill seekers get a rush from skydiving or rock climbing, but after a while, they seek out even more dangerous adventures to feel that same level of excitement. And studies show that these “thrills” release the same flood of brain chemicals released by addictive drugs. Not all behavioral addictions meet the classic definition of physical addiction, but they do share many of the psychological and social hallmarks — they will respond well to traditional types of addiction treatment.

Eating Addiction

Can food obsessions actually be food addictions — or whether this “disorder”? In truth, binge eating disorder is a real problem that affects about 3 percent of adults in the United States. Symptoms include eating to ease emotions, overdoing it on food. But while food can seem like a drug for people with eating disorders, experts’ say that this is not a true addiction. The cause of eating disorders is not known, but it is probably linked more to depression than addiction.

Gambling Addiction

An addiction to gambling is the one that most closely resembles drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has reclassified gambling disorder from an impulse control disorder to an addictive disorder. Studies show that gambling addictions light up the same areas of the brain as drug addictions — and treatment for gambling disorder usually includes the same type of therapy settings as drug and alcohol abuse.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental illness, like physical illnesses, is on a continuum of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe. More than 60 million Americans have a mental illness in any given year. Mental illness affects one in four adults and one in five children. Very few people, however actually seek treatment for mental illness. The stigma associated with mental illness is the biggest barrier that prevents people from getting or retaining their treatment. A mental illness is a disease of the brain that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior. This results in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are clinical depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia — and anxiety disorders. Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

Stress & Anxiety

Stress and Anxiety are feelings of emotional or physical tension. They can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.


A state of feeling sad: a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Panic Disorder

An anxiety disorder that is characterized by sudden attacks of fear and panic. Panic attacks may occur without a known reason, but more frequently they are triggered by fear-producing events or thoughts, such as taking an elevator or driving. Symptoms of panic attacks include rapid heartbeat, strange chest sensations, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling, and anxiousness. Hyperventilation, agitation, and withdrawal are common results. Panic disorder is due to an abnormal activation of the body’s hormonal system, causing a sudden ‘fight or flight’ response. Treatment involves cognitive behavioral therapy, using exposure to effective symptom reduction, and use of medication is not a true addiction.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. A person’s level of OCD can be anywhere from mild to severe, but if severe and left untreated, it can destroy a person’s capacity to function at work, at school or even to lead a comfortable existence in the home.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a complex disorder that likely stems from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors. The mood episodes associated with it involve clinical depression or mania (extreme elation and high energy) with periods of normal mood and energy in between episodes. The severity of mood episodes can range from mild to extreme, and they can happen gradually or suddenly within a timeframe of days to weeks. When discrete mood episodes happen four or more times per year, the process is called rapid cycling. Rapid cycling should not be confused with very frequent moment-to-moment changes in mood, which can sometimes occur in people with bipolar disorder or other conditions such as borderline personality disorder.


A disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may have PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.


A disorder in which a person is unable to control behavior due to difficulty in processing neural stimuli, which can be accompanied by an extremely high level of motor activity. Abbreviated Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD can affect children and adults, but it is easiest to perceive during schooling. A child with ADHD may be extremely distractible, unable to remain still, and very talkative. ADHD is diagnosed by using a combination of parent and/or patient interview, observation of the patient, and sometimes use of standardized screening instruments. Treatments include making adjustments to the environment to accommodate the disorder, behavior modification, and the use of medications. Stimulants are the most common drugs, although certain other medications can be effective.