child ignored by parents
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Smartphones

You can't quit it, can you? You keep it with you all the time and check it every few minutes. You work too much because you can't turn it off on the weekend. You ignore the people you're having dinner with to catch a text or a post from someone miles away. There's not a lot of research yet, but scientists are looking into whether or not your favorite gadget is turning you into a digital junkie.

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espresso cups closeup
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Caffeine

Do you need your morning jolt of caffeine? That’s not necessarily an addiction, but trying to cut it out of your life may leave you anxious for a fix and nursing a serious headache. That's called withdrawal.

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three chocolates
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Chocolate and Other Sweets

Sometimes you have to have it. And you may not be able to stop. Don't feel bad -- foods high in carbs, fats, and sugar can affect your brain just like drugs do. Jonesing for an occasional milkshake doesn’t mean you're hooked. But your sweet tooth can get out of control and lead to other health problems.

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women shoe shopping
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Shopping

We've all bought something we don't really need. If it happens a lot, what you're really looking for might be some dopamine, the feel-good-chemical for your brain. It could also mean you have impulse-control problems or anxiety issues. Hit the stores -- or the one-click online purchase button -- too often and it can cause financial, legal, and social problems.

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tumbling red dice
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Gambling

As many as 8 million Americans have a problem. Whether you do it in person or online, at slot machines or the poker table, that rush provides your brain a hit of dopamine and makes you happy -- for a while. But if lady luck isn't with you, too much betting can wreak havoc with your finances, job, and family life.

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young man plastic surgery
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Plastic Surgery

Some people can't get enough nips and tucks. That's because many of them have "body dysmorphic disorder" and are obsessed with defects only they can see. This problem is caused by some of the same brain chemicals that play a role in addiction.

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oily woman tanning
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Tanning

Addicted to the sun? That's right. The ultraviolet (UV) spectrum of sunlight releases chemicals in your body called endorphins. They can make you feel so good you'll risk sunburns, blisters, and skin cancer for them. Some frequent indoor and outdoor tanners could have this problem. Others might be obsessive-compulsive or have body dysmorphic disorder.

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determined female runner
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Exercise

A good workout can help you get over addictions, as long as you don't become hooked on the activity itself. Exercise helps your brain learn, which can speed recovery. But you have to be able to say "no" to that endorphin-fueled runner's high if you're ill or injured. Plus, a new habit you start while working out may be harder to shake.

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couple on computers in bed
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Social Media

Do you spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter you feel like you're addicted? New studies show that you might be among the 10% of social media users who really are hooked. The random pace of posts affects your brain the same way that cocaine does. Sharing details about yourself with others also creates a rush of positive feelings that leaves you wanting more.

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people in club
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Sex

Can't stop having sex -- or looking at porn? Doing it more, enjoying it less, and risking too much to get it? Maybe you have a strong sex drive. But there could be more going on. It's not an official addiction, but there is a thing called hypersexual disorder. If you have it, your brain may be wired like that of someone with a drug or gambling problem.

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teenagers using smartphones
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How Does Addiction Start?

Anything that alters your mood can become addictive. It begins as self-medication to help you manage pain. The reward you get when you see that text message pop up, find the perfect pair of shoes, or roll a lucky seven makes you want more. That becomes something you can't live without. 

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woman consulting doctor
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Are All Addictions the Same?

Is addiction to shopping or texting the same as being hooked on drugs or alcohol? We know these things can affect your brain in many of the same ways. But experts don't yet agree about how far those similarities go. If you feel you have a habit that's out of control, talk to your doctor or a therapist.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/20/2017 Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 20, 2017

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SOURCES:

Sam Alibrando, PhD, author, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst.

Kwan, M. PLOS One, Feb. 27, 2013.

Ramani Durvasula, PhD, assistant professor, California State University at Los Angeles.

American Psychiatric Association: "Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders."

Corsica, J.A. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, March 26. 2010

Avena, Nicole. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, published online May 18, 2007.

Harvard Health Publications: "The Addicted Brain."

Indiana University: "How Can I Manage Compulsive Shopping and Spending Addiction (Shopoholism)."

News Release, National Council on Problem Gambling.

Mayo Clinic: "Compulsive gambling."

Anselme, P. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, published online December 2, 2013.

University of Chicago Addictive, Compulsive and Impulsive Disorders Research Program: "About Us."

Bonnie Carpenter, EdD, psychologist, Philadelphia.

American Psychiatric Association: "Internet Gaming Disorder May 2013."

The Skin Cancer Foundation: "Tanning Addiction: The New Form of Substance Abuse."

Mustroph, M.L. The European Journal of Neuroscience, October 2011.

Cerrand, C. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, December 2006.

Kor, Ariel. Sexual Addict Compulsivity, published online April 9, 2013.

News Release, University of Utah Health Care. 

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 20, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.