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What are the Six Major Characteristics of Addictive Behaviours?

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, explores the six major characteristics of addictive behaviours and their impact on individuals and society.

What Is Addictive Behaviour? 

Addictive behaviour is a serious and complex phenomenon characterised by a persistent pattern of substance use or engagement in activities that can lead to significant harm to oneself or others.

What Are Common Behavioural Addictions?


Addiction can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Generally, physical symptoms are required for someone to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder. However, behavioural addiction occurs without the physical issues faced by people who compulsively engage in drug and alcohol abuse.


“Unfortunately, those living with behavioural addictions, like all others who struggle with addiction, cannot cease engaging in the behaviour for any length of time without therapy and assistance,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. 

Significant Characteristics of Addictive Behaviours

While there are various characteristics of addictive behaviours, Affinity Highlights six main traits.

1. Compulsion 

As mentioned, addictive behaviour is characterised by a strong desire or need to engage in the behaviour despite adverse consequences. Individuals may feel compelled to continue engaging in activities even when it harms their health, relationships, or job performance. This compulsive behaviour is one of the critical characteristics of addiction.

3. Denial, Deception, Dishonesty, And Deflection

Those with a behavioural addiction often go to considerable lengths to ensure family, friends, and co-workers are kept in the dark about their condition. Usually, this involves lying, keeping secrets, hiding phone conversations and text messages, avoiding direct responses or being defensive when questioned. Moreover, they lie about their whereabouts, activities, or who they’ve been with.

5. Negative Social Impact 

Addictive behaviour can significantly negatively impact an individual’s social well-being. It can strain relationships, cause financial problems, and lead to legal trouble. Like any other form of addiction, behavioural addiction is a chronic disease that can have a lasting impact on an individual’s life and ripple effects on their family and loved ones.

2. Loss of Control 

An individual with addictive behaviour, often feels like they cannot control themselves. This loss of control can lead to an inability to stop engaging in the behaviour despite the negative consequences.

4. Withdrawal 

When individuals with addictive behaviour stop using substances, they experience withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, they’re prone to physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, tremors, or seizures. This can make it difficult for them to stop and contributes to the cycle of addiction.

6. Losing Interest in Activities, Hobbies or Events That Were Once Important To You 

Addictive behaviour can lead the individual to prioritise the behaviour over other aspects of their life that used to bring them joy.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Addictive Behaviour?

Treatment for addictive behaviour typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support groups.  Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common form of therapy that helps individuals understand the thoughts and feelings that drive their addiction and develop coping mechanisms to deal with cravings and triggers.


Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is often used to help with withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse. Support groups can provide a sense of community and accountability for individuals in recovery.


In some cases, inpatient or outpatient treatment programmes are recommended.


“It is important to note that behavioural addiction treatment should be tailored to the individual and may require ongoing support and monitoring to maintain long-term recovery,” concludes Hewlett.

About Affinity Health 

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to always give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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