The A-Z of Strange and Bizarre Addictions (Part 1)

Can individuals really be addicted to carrots, fortune-telling, and joyriding?

Posted Aug 22, 2018

Aaron Amat/Shutterstock
Source: Aaron Amat/Shutterstock

Today’s post is the first of a three-part series looking at some of the stranger addictions that have been written about in the academic literature (or by academics who have tried to argue that these behaviors can be addictive). Some of these "addictions" would not qualify as addictions by my own criteria, but others have argued they are. The papers or books that have argued the case for the cited behavior being a type of addiction can be found in the "References" section below.

Argentine tango addiction.

A French study published in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Addictions by Remi Targhetta and colleagues argued that a minority of 1,129 Argentine tango dancers they surveyed may be addicted to dancing. In 2015, I and some of my Hungarian colleagues developed the Dance Addiction Inventory (published in PLoS ONE) and also argued that a minority of dancers (more generally) might be addicted to dance and conceptualized the behavior as a form of exercise addiction.

Badminton addiction.

While there are many behaviors I could have chosen here, including addictions to box-set television watching (aka "box-set bingeing"), bargain hunting, bungee jumping, blogging, and bodybuilding, a recent 2018 paper published in NeuroQuantology by Minji Kwon and colleagues carried out a neuroimaging study on a sample of 45 badminton players. Using the Korean Exercise Addiction Scale, 20 percent of the sample were defined as being addicted to badminton.

Carrot-eating addiction.

Again, there are many behaviors I could have chosen here, including alleged addictions to crypto-trading, chaos, collecting, crosswords, and cycling. There are a number of published case studies in the psychological literature highlighting individuals addicted to eating carrots, including papers by Ludek Černý and Karel Černý, K. (British Journal of Addiction, 1992), and Robert Kaplan (Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1996).

Death addiction.

A recent paper by Dr. Marc Reisinger entitled "Addiction to death" in the journal CNS Spectrums attempted to argue that an attraction to death be considered an addiction, similar to a gambling addiction. Reisinger related the concept to individuals who have left Europe to join the jihad in Syria and outlined the case of 24-year-old, French-Algerian Mohamed Merah, who committed several attacks in Toulouse in 2012, and who "glorified" death. The paper claimed that this “addiction to death is taught by Salafist preachers, whose videos, readily accessible on the internet, are kind of advertisements for death, complete with depictions of soothing fountains and beautiful young girls.”

Entrepreneurship addiction.

There are a couple of papers by April Spivack and Alexander McKelvie (a 2014 paper in the Journal of Business Venturing, and a 2018 paper in The Academy of Management Perspectives) arguing that entrepreneurship can be addictive. They define "entrepreneurship addiction" as “the excessive or compulsive engagement in entrepreneurial activities that results in a variety of social, emotional, and/or physiological problems and that despite the development of these problems, the entrepreneur is unable to resist the compulsion to engage in entrepreneurial activities.” They also make the case that entrepreneurship addiction is different from workaholism.

Fortune-telling addiction.

Although I could have included addictions to financial trading or fame, a 2015 paper in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions by Marie Grall-Bronnec and her colleagues reported the case study of a woman (Helen) who was "addicted" to fortune tellers. They used my addiction criteria to assess whether Helen was addicted to fortune-telling and argued that she was.

Google Glass addiction.

In previous post, I have written on addictions to gossip and gardening (although these were based more on non-academic literature). However, a 2015 paper published by Kathryn Yung and her colleagues in the journal Addictive Behaviors, published the first and (to my knowledge) only case of addiction to Google Glass (wearable computer-aided glasses with Bluetooth connectivity to internet-ready devices). The authors claimed that their paper: (i) showed that excessive and problematic uses of Google Glass can be associated with involuntary movements to the temple area and short-term memory problems, and (ii) highlighted that the man in their case study displayed frustration and irritability that were related to withdrawal symptoms from excessive use of Google Glass.

Hacking addiction.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I wrote a number of papers on internet addiction and included "hacking addiction" as a type of internet addiction. Given the criminal element of this type of internet addiction, I wrote about it in criminological-based journals such as The Probation Journal (1997) and The Police Journal (2000). One of the most infamous cases that I have written about took place in London in 1993, where Paul Bedworth was accused of hacking-related crimes causing over £500,000 worth of damage. On the strength of expert witness testimony, he was acquitted on the basis that he was addicted to hacking. Since then, various papers have been published arguing that hacking can be an addiction. For instance, in an in-depth interview study of 62 hackers, Siew Chan and Lee Yao used addiction as a framework to explain their participants’ behavior (see their paper in the Review of Business Information Systems, 2005).

Internet search addiction.

Although I was tempted to go for IVF addiction, I thought I would go for "internet search addiction," which basically refers to constant "Googling," where individuals spend hours and hours every day using online databases to go searching for things. This behavior was first alluded to by Kimberley Young in her 1999 classification of different types of internet addiction (in the Student British Medical Journal), which she called "information overload," and was defined as compulsive web surfing or database searches. More recently, Yifan Wang and her colleagues developed the Questionnaire on Internet Search Dependence (QISD) published in Frontiers in Public Health (FiPH). I criticized the QISD in a response paper published in FiPH, not because I didn’t think internet search addiction didn’t exist (because theoretically it might, even though I’ve never come across a genuine case), but because the items in the instrument had very little to do with addiction.

Joyriding addiction.

There have been a number of academic papers published on joyriding addiction. Arguably the most well-known study was published by Sue Kellett and Harriet Gross in a 2006 issue of Psychology, Crime and Law. The study comprised of semi-structured interviews with 54 joyriders (15 to 21 years of age), all of whom were convicted car thieves (“mainly in custodial care”). The results of the study indicated that all addiction criteria occurred within the joyriders’ accounts of their behavior, particularly "persistence despite knowledge and concern about the harmful consequences,"  "tolerance," "persistent desire and/or unsuccessful attempts to stop," "large amounts of time spent thinking about and/or recovering from the behavior," and "loss of control." The paper also cited examples of "withdrawal" symptoms when not joyriding, the giving up of other important activities so that they could go joyriding instead, and spending more time participating in joyriding than they had originally intended.


Černý, L. & Černý, K. (1992). Can carrots be addictive? An extraordinary form of drug dependence. British Journal of Addiction, 87, 1195-1197.

Chan, S. H., & Yao, L. J. (2005). An empirical investigation of hacking behavior. The Review of Business Information Systems, 9(4), 42-58.

Grall-Bronnec, M. Bulteau, S., Victorri-Vigneau, C., Bouju, G. & Sauvaget, A. (2015). Fortune telling addiction: Unfortunately a serious topic about a case report. Journal of Behavioral Addiction, 4, 27-31.

Griffiths, M.D. (2000). Computer crime and hacking: A serious issue for the police. Police Journal, 73, 18-24.

Griffiths, M.D. (2017). Commentary: Development and validation of a self-reported Questionnaire for Measuring Internet Search Dependence. Frontiers in Public Health, 5, 95. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00095

Kaplan, R. (1996), Carrot addiction. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 30, 698-700.

Kellett, S.  & Gross, H. (2006). Addicted to joyriding? An exploration of young offenders’ accounts of their car crime. Psychology, Crime & Law, 12, 39-59.

Kwon, M., Kim, Y., Kim, H., & Kim, J. (2018). Does sport addiction enhance frontal executive function? The case of badminton. NeuroQuantology, 16(6), 13-21.

Maraz, A., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M.D. & Demetrovics Z. (2015). An empirical investigation of dance addiction. PLoS ONE, 10(5): e0125988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125988.

Reisinger, M. (2018). Addiction to death. CNS Spectrums, 23(2), 166-169.

Sparrow, P. & Griffiths, M.D. (1997). Crime and IT: Hacking and pornography on the internet. Probation Journal, 44, 144-147.

Spivack, A., & McKelvie, A. (2018). Entrepreneurship addiction: Shedding light on the manifestation of the ‘dark side’ in work behavior patterns. The Academy of Management Perspectives.

Spivack, A. J., McKelvie, A., & Haynie, J. M. (2014). Habitual entrepreneurs: Possible cases of entrepreneurship addiction? Journal of Business Venturing, 29(5), 651-667.

Targhetta, R., Nalpas, B. & Perney, P. (2013). Argentine tango: Another behavioral addiction? Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2, 179-186.

Wang, Y., Wu, L., Zhou, H., Xu, J. & Dong, G. (2016). Development and validation of a self-reported Questionnaire for Measuring Internet Search Dependence. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, 274. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00274

Young, K. S. (1999). Internet addiction: Evaluation and treatment. Student British Medical Journal, 7, 351-352.

Yung, K., Eickhoff, E., Davis, D. L., Klam, W. P., & Doan, A. P. (2014). Internet Addiction Disorder and problematic use of Google Glass™ in patient treated at a residential substance abuse treatment program. Addictive Behaviors, 41, 58-60.