LivingThe Science of Addictions and Some Curious Addictive Behaviors...

The Science of Addictions and Some Curious Addictive Behaviors | Science With Lau

If you think that drugs such as alcohol and other substances are the only ones that can generate an addiction in the brain, you are very wrong.

Many everyday activities and strangers can lead to dependency. In this video, we are going to analyze the mechanism of addictions and introduce you to some of the most surprising.

A very common false belief is that an addiction has to do with a choice, or a lack of willpower. Nothing of that. An addiction is a pathology in itself: a long-lasting brain disease.


How do addictions work in the brain?

Normally, before taking an action that we are tempted by, the frontal region of the brain helps us make a rational decision, and allows us to avoid it, for example, if it is harmful or questionable for us.

But when the brain is addicted to a substance or behavior, that normal ‘wiring’ of brain processes is disrupted. Substances such as alcohol and other drugs are capable of ‘hijacking’ the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits.

Drugs alter the brain’s dopaminergic system, causing a great sensation of pleasure and then producing a severe crash.

What they actually do is lower dopamine receptors. So, the more it is consumed, the longer it takes for dopamine levels to rise again, so the individual will need more and more quantity and frequency of the same substance to get it.

Over time, the user ends up needing the drug to feel “normal”, and the tolerance to stimuli that formerly produced this sensation of pleasure will drop, such as taking a walk in the country, for example.

The most curious thing is that not all people can end up suffering from addiction and scientists do not know why. It seems that addiction has a genetic component.

The environment also influences, since the earlier you start, the more vulnerable you are to develop an addiction.

There are two types of dependencies, physical and psychological. Physical dependence refers to a biological addiction mechanism by which the body demands a dose of the substance in the blood. And the psychological refers rather to the state of mind, which is associated with the behavior: anxiety due to the lack of the substance, and tranquility after being administered.

In the case of behaviors, what we become addicted to is the reward mechanism that is generated in the brain when repeating it.

Therefore, an addiction can also develop, in the form of compulsive behavior, to an activity.

Now that we know more or less how addictions work, let’s review some of the most curious addictive behaviors.

Shopping addiction or oniomania . In this addictive behavior a vicious cycle occurs. Happiness when making a purchase is followed by a deep sense of guilt, which is followed by a strong sense of anxiety, which is only relieved by a new purchase. An addiction similar to this is the addiction to stealing, or kleptomania.

Gambling or gambling addiction. You’ve surely heard of gambling. In this type of addiction, a very powerful stimulus comes into play, that of the immediate reward of earning a lot of money in a short time. Those who experience it have the need to play or bet on certain games of chance or strategy.

Addiction to eating one’s hair. It is known as trichotillomania, and the disorder it causes is called rapunzel syndrome. Trichotillomania is the irresistible urge to pull hair from the scalp or from the eyebrows and eyelids. The human gastrointestinal tract does not have the ability to digest hair, so over time a hair blockage develops in the intestinal tract, which can have very serious consequences, and often requires surgery to be removed. It is an addiction closely related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and impulse control.

Tanning addiction or tanorexia. Sounds similar to other disorders you know, right? Like anorexia, it is a type of body dysmorphic disorder, that is, the individual who suffers from it perceives himself, not as he really is, but with a very distorted vision. That is the source of your dissatisfaction, and the source of the addictive behavior. People with a tanning addiction may perceive their white skin in the mirror, even though it is actually very tanned.

Very similar to this disorder is vigorexia, addiction to physical exercise.

And orthorexia, the addiction to eating healthy. These two types of addictions are closely related to each other. Vigorexia is usually associated with a diet that is too strict, to obtain a muscular body.

Finally, another very curious and less well-known addiction is pica, or allotriophagia, that is, the addiction to ingesting inedible things. They are nutritionally void things, like dirt, ash, paper, chalk, paint, or even excrement and urine.

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