What is addictive behaviour?

For many, the concept of addiction has typically involved drugs

In the 1990s, two researchers proposed wider models that included other behaviours. Which do you think is most comprehensive?

For many, the concept of addiction has typically involved drugs. In the 1990s, two researchers proposed wider models that could be applied to all addictions, not just substance dependence. Which do you think is most comprehensive?

Do you see any overlap between the two? What would you add to or take away from these, bearing in mind other definitions of addictions you have come across?

Glenn Walters

Walters describes addiction as “the persistent and repetitious enactment of a behaviour pattern”. He outlines four important components – known as the ‘4 Ps’ – that are important in defining addictive behaviour:

  • progression to higher tolerance and risk of withdrawal symptoms
  • preoccupation with the behaviour
  • perceived loss of control
  • persistence in spite of negative consequences.

Mark Griffiths

Griffiths outlines an addictive behaviour as a “need to be fulfilled”, with six elements to the addiction:

  • salience – the activity is/becomes the most important thing in your life
  • mood modification – after engaging in the behaviour you feel a ‘buzz’ from it
  • tolerance – you need to increase the amount of the activity to achieve the same feeling (or ‘high’) as before
  • withdrawal feelings – you suffer unpleasant feelings and/or physical effects if you reduce or stop the activity
  • conflict – this can be between the addict and other people, or an internal conflict within the addict, who may be conflicted between the short-term need to engage in the activity and concerns for the long-term effect of the addiction
  • relapse – you have a tendency to go back repeatedly to the activity, even after a long period without it.

References

Questions for discussion

  • Do you see any overlap between the two?
  • What would you add to or take away from these, bearing in mind other definitions of addictions you have come across?

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Addiction’ in June 2010 and reviewed and updated in September 2015.

Topic:
Psychology
Issue:
Addiction
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development