Driving Forces of Addictions


The modern reality of access to a wide variety of products and experiences has a significant drawback: individuals develop addictions to them. Gaming, shopping, working, the internet, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs lead to severe mental and physical diseases, causing a massive burden to healthcare industries and economies. Addictions are a national public health challenge because, for instance, more than 40% of the United States population have already developed the harming behaviors they cannot overcome (Chen, 2000). Furthermore, substance abuse and disorders such as alcoholism force the affected individuals to engage in crime and disrupt their lives and their families.

Addictive behaviors can be identified by passing a two-question test about one’s actions or desire to buy items. First, when a product or experience is not necessary for survival yet a person makes it seem valuable and heavily invests in it. Second, when eliminating the subject from an individual’s life makes them feel anxious or restless. If the responses to the statements are positive, the activities or items can be identified as addiction (Gabor, 2018). While substance abuse, gambling, and other similar behaviors are presented as severe by society and culture, working, exercising, or dieting are frequently displayed as rewarding (Gabor, 2018). However, the “good” category of experiences leads to the same severe mental and physical disorders.

It is proven that addictions are being developed through individuals’ mechanisms of coping with traumas or unpleasant experiences. The human brain triggers the behavior when anxiety or stress occurs, convincing us that engaging in certain activities would work as a relief (Chen, 2000). Moreover, individuals become dependent on specific emotions and feelings because of the hormones generated by substances or doings. This paper aims to explain why addictive behaviors are being triggered due to psychological trauma or unpleasant experiences through an individual seeking stimuli and cultural influence.

Background Information

Science referred to the term “addictive” as the activities, experiences, and objects that caused the human brain to release large amounts of dopamine. However, the mechanism of many disordered behaviors has a more comprehensive nature. Individuals are commonly aware of the severe outcomes of their actions yet still engage in them repeatedly, increasing the harm to their nervous system (Gabor, 2018).

Furthermore, several addictions are based on the triggers that occur unconsciously, and a person cannot prevent themselves from engaging in a behavior. For instance, alcoholism can be developed as a reaction to continuous stress at work, and an individual can create a notion that alcoholic drinks help them rest. As a result, when their brain registers overwhelming, stressful experiences, they are triggered to get rid of the inconvenient conditions through alcohol (Thege et al., 2017). Consequently, addictions must be studied and treated primarily by addressing their root causes.

Humans have developed addictive behaviors throughout history; however, modern tendencies are the severest. Today, diverse strategies to quickly receive large amounts of dopamine are available, and the variety of objects or experiences also engages a broader number of people in the addictions (Gabor, 2018). Moreover, psychological traumas based on childhood, difficult life conditions, or cultural influence force individuals to seek ways to cope with them efficiently. Lastly, society develops various standards, and the availability of social networks with artificial images of perfect life makes people set unachievable benchmarks, following those causes addictions (Thege et al., 2017).

Behaviors, such as working long hours, over-exercising, and obsessions over healthy nutrition or lifestyle have equally severe outcomes for human health as alcoholism or substance abuse. Addictions are based on an individual’s approach to coping with psychological trauma, soothing the consequences of unpleasant feelings or experiences, or addressing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Psychological Trauma

Psychological trauma experienced by an individual in childhood when the nervous system and brain’s coping mechanisms were weak is one of the main factors for developing addictions. While not everyone who overcame threatening events would become an addict, all patients with severe behavioral disorders had a solemn occasion in their history (Gabor, 2018). Consequently, psychologists suggest that the most effective strategy to treat addiction is to find the traumatic root and help a person deal with it (Thege et al., 2017). Addicts might not recognize what experience became the trigger, and professional medical intervention is necessary to assist them.

Psychological trauma is a strong driving force of addiction because it is rooted deeply in an affected individual’s mind, making it complicated for them to recognize and prevent engaging in severe behaviors timely. The events that developed triggers for addicts might also occur in adulthood due to the demand for coping with difficult times. For instance, marijuana and heroin addictions have been diagnosed among more than 100,000 American army servants during the Vietnam War (Chen, 2000).

The traumas and anxieties the soldiers continuously experienced led them to use drugs as coping tools, and when they returned home, less than 5% overcame their dependence on substances (Chen, 2000). Their inability to stop engaging in addictive behavior once the war-related stress was eliminated was because of their brain’s setting that any anxiety can be quickly treated with marijuana or heroin. However, psychological treatment combined with family support helped the soldiers overcome the trauma and eliminate the addiction.

Unpleasant Feelings or Experiences

Unpleasant feelings or experiences drive additions’ development if an individual engages in severe behaviors repeatedly. The events that enable a brain to react with stress, anxiety, loneliness, or negative emotions release hormones, such as cortisol, forcing a person to seek ways to soothe themselves. Furthermore, unpleasant experiences trigger the need for receiving dopamine to develop a feeling of safety. Today, a broad range of emotional stimulators exist to help individuals uplift their mood quickly and effectively, and the disadvantage of such assistance is that these objects or activities are highly addictive (Lopez-Fernandez, 2019).

For instance, the UCLA questionnaire for 442 college students revealed that the desire to overcome loneliness causes mobile phone addiction, as a device provides instant access to social networks, communication, and entertainment (Lopez-Fernandez, 2019). Young people chose the quick and effective way of connecting with others rather than more complex approaches to building relationships to stop feeling alone.

Another strategy to avoid or overcome the unpleasant feelings or experiences that drive addiction development is gaming. Escaping the difficulties of reality in virtual circumstances combined with the dopamine release of constant novelties and challenges necessary to deal with winning causes the desire to engage in games repeatedly (Baturay & Toker, 2019). Playing also generates a strong emotional response in one’s brain, requesting to repeat the experience on any stressful occasion.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorders are the deviations of individuals’ behaviors that have severe outcomes yet perform repeatedly. Obsessions over specific feelings or experiences are the driving force of most addictions because once they become habits, they are tough to control and overcome (Chen, 2000). For instance, neurologists Kent and Berridge found that blocking dopamine production does not prevent drug intake because the addicts experience the desire to use them because they got used to the activity (Chen, 2000). Moreover, obsessive-compulsive disorders cause severe mental deviations because of individuals’ frustrating thoughts about their addiction triggers.

The modern example is orthorexia – the intrusive desire to consume only the healthiest products to maintain proper body conditions (Strahler et al., 2018). Orthorexic individuals become obsessed over the foods they eat and cannot think of anything else, disrupting their work and daily life. Obsessive-compulsive disorders can be developed under the pressure of cultural and social influence in one’s aspiration to meet the standards.


Childhood traumas, the desire to escape unpleasant feelings or experiences, and obsessive-compulsive disorders are the driving forces of addictions. People of all ages are at risk of becoming addicted to specific actions or objects when they are in challenging situations that require coping with difficulties. Addictive behaviors are learned more efficiently because of the quick release of positive emotions or relevant hormones, enabling people to unconsciously select more complicated strategies to deal with a challenge. Although addictions are strong because they affect individuals’ minds deeply, they can be treated and eliminated. Indeed, finding the root cause or trauma that triggers the severe behavior is adequate and understanding what precisely an individual tries to escape in their pursuit of quick rewards.


Baturay, M. H., & Toker, S. (2019). Internet addiction among college students: Some causes and effects. Education and Information Technologies, 24(5), 2863-2885. Web.

Chen, P. (2000). A study on the relationship between life stress, failure tolerance and depression tendency of middle school students. National Kaohsiung Normal University. Web.

Gabor, M. (2018). In the realm of hungry ghosts: Close encounters with addiction. Vintage Canada.

Lopez-Fernandez, O. (2019). Internet and mobile phone addiction: Health and educational effects. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Web.

Strahler, J., Hermann, A., Walter, B., & Stark, R. (2018). Orthorexia Nervosa: A behavioral complex or a psychological condition?. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 7(4), 1143-1156. Web.

Thege, B. K., Horwood, L., Slater, L., Tan, M. C., Hodgins, D. C., & Wild, T. C. (2017). Relationship between interpersonal trauma exposure and addictive behaviors: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1), 1-17. Web.

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1. PsychologyWriting. "Driving Forces of Addictions." September 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/driving-forces-of-addictions/.


PsychologyWriting. "Driving Forces of Addictions." September 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/driving-forces-of-addictions/.