Compulsive and Addictive Behaviors

Addiction is not limited to biochemical substances such as cocaine, alcohol, inhalants, or nicotine. It is increasingly possible for people to experience so-called behavioral addictions. Activities such as gambling, eating, pornography viewing, and playing video games are particularly conducive to addiction because they provide the opportunity for immediate reward. The fast feedback that occurs in a gambling setting can quickly turn a pastime into a compulsive pursuit of reward, where one can't voluntarily disengage from the activity and harmful consequences occur-from losing large amounts of money to disruption of relationships.

Similarly, the frequent cell phone texting that many young people do, in which they send and receive hundreds of messages a day, contains the conditions for addiction. Many observers contend that it is especially problematic because it can interfere with one of the major tasks of development-developing effective mechanisms of impulse control.

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