We think of addiction as something that must be detrimental to one’s health. However, in reality, many of us are addicted to various things that may not hamper our lives in any way.
These addictions are still quite real as well as essential for our day-to-day functioning. It may be coffee for some, cleanliness for others, and obsessively sharing kitten memes for someone else—whatever engages the reward system in the brain for each of us.
It gets weird, however, when we see a compulsion that has no reason to exist in the first place. Ever come across kids who can’t stop eating sand or heard about people addicted to eating ashes?
These addictions—which don’t have a clear-cut reason to exist but are as real as the other dangerous ones—fascinate us the most. Here are some of the most baffling ones.
The artificial UV tanning industry could simply be explained by the inherent human tendency to look different than our usual selves, somewhat like how people with curly hair want to have it straightened and vice versa. And it works well, too, especially for the times of the year when the sun isn’t enough to give you a darker tone.
When it gets weird is when you can’t stop—not because you like the tan too much but because you have an addiction to it.
Cases of people getting addicted to the artificial tanning process are abundant. If you think it’s the same thing as people who just can’t stop having their hair done, it goes a bit beyond that.
Many recent studies have confirmed that tanning addiction is very real and engages the same part of the brain as drugs like heroin. Some research points to the possibility that it may just be in your genes, even if only a small percentage of people who regularly go for tanning can actually be classified as dependent on it.
9 Drinking Urine
You may have heard of people who insist that drinking your own—and, in some extreme cases, other people’s—urine is good for health. As long as they’re not harming anyone in the process, there’s not much we can do to convince them otherwise. Even if no scientific study has ever proven a correlation between that behavior and any health benefits, it’s more of a case of “to each his own” and we respect that.
Sometimes, though, it can go well beyond a general preference for human urine as food. Quite a few people have reported that they start getting withdrawal symptoms if they don’t get their daily fix of urine.
For example, Robert Wells, who is in his sixties, can’t stop collecting urine from younger people—often without their knowledge—and drinking it. He admits that it’s an urge he can’t control. In fact, he has been charged with multiple sex offenses for going out and collecting pee from kids.
Wells believes that urine from young people will help to keep him looking young for a longer time.
8 Animal Hoarding
We’ve all heard of the “crazy cat lady” trope, even though we’re not sure why it can’t apply to men, too. We all know of someone who has surrounded herself with a bunch of animals to make up for a lack of social skills, even if it may just be about loving animals a bit too much rather than a case of loneliness. However, there are those rare occasions that are so bad that it actually harms the animals involved and can border on being an addiction.
Science agrees that animal hoarding has many features of an actual addiction, including denial of the problem, a compulsive need to engage in it, excuses for this behavior, and no regard for maintaining the individual’s personal surroundings. It may sound like the “crazy cat lady” stereotype is true, but in actual cases, it’s much more serious than just collecting a lot of pets. It’s also difficult to overcome without help.
7 Human Blood
Vampires have been a part of Western folklore for as long as we can remember. We’re not sure if these stories are based on real cases of people obsessed with human blood, but mythology often doesn’t care about facts. We also don’t know if these individuals were actually addicted to drinking blood or if they just occasionally dabbled because they liked the taste of it. But again, they’re fictional and don’t require an in-depth explanation for how vampirism works.
If we talk about real life, though, an addiction to drinking blood is certainly scientifically possible. In fact, a Turkish man was reportedly addicted to drinking his own blood. The doctors described his need for blood to be “as urgent as breathing,” even though they weren’t able to explain how he developed it.
He had no disorder or deficiency that could explain it, though he was afflicted with a personality disorder. Also, he had witnessed some violent events earlier in his life, though those things don’t come close to explaining how he developed the compulsion. Thankfully, he was just addicted to drinking his own blood.
6 Coffee Enema
An enema may sound gross, but it’s one of the most effective and widely used medical methods for relieving severe constipation. Although enemas are mostly administered by professionals, there are ways to do it yourself at home by injecting your backside with fluids to stimulate a bowel movement.
A coffee enema—an experimental variation done with coffee and first introduced in the 1940s by Dr. Max Gerson—is not the same thing. Many doctors and scientists have pointed out its ill effects on the body, and it’s no longer offered by medical facilities in the US for those reasons.
That hasn’t stopped a Florida couple from developing an addiction to coffee enemas. They feel a rush while doing it and get withdrawal symptoms if they don’t. They describe the feeling as a kind of euphoria and give themselves coffee enemas an average of four times a day. The wife has admitted to giving herself one up to 10 times in a day in the past.
5 Getting Tattoos
You may have come across people with a bunch of tattoos all over their bodies. Given the increasing acceptance of tattoos in society, there’s a high chance that at least one of these individuals is in your social circle. Tattoos may mean different things to different people, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact psychological reasons for why we like getting them so much.
In some cases, however, tattoos can go beyond just inking a piece of art on your body that means something special to you. Tattoo addiction is a real thing for more people than you’d guess. According to research, about 32 percent of Americans admit to being addicted to tattoos and feel the need to go out and get a new one shortly after their last one.
Some scientists have tried to explain it as an addiction to the pain that comes with the process of getting a tattoo. It may also have to do with being addicted to the attention. However, science is still figuring out exactly what causes a chronic addiction to tattoos.
4 Romantic Rejection
Asking someone out and getting rejected is one of the most normal parts of most people’s dating lives. Almost all of us have experienced it in one form or the other. Sure, it may not be the preferable outcome, but it’s still something you have to wade through if you actually like dating.
It’s a problem, though, when some people can get addicted to it to the point that they enjoy all the heartbreak and pain arising from rejection. And we are not making this up.
According to a study published in Journal of Neurophysiology, romantic rejection involves the same parts of the brain that cause us to get addicted to something. The researchers even came up with a parameter for it—the Passionate Love Scale—and concluded that romantic rejection is definitely a form of addiction.
We may be making it sound like all fun and games, but it also does a lot to explain cases of rejected people becoming violent toward the person who rebuffed them. In many cases, this leads to extreme outcomes like suicide or murder.
3 Plastic Surgery
For the longest time in our history, permanent disfigurement due to accidents was irreversible. Back then, we didn’t have today’s medical tech to do something about it. Plastic surgery was a revolutionary development, allowing us to fix parts of our body. It was obvious that we’d soon be using it to make us look better.
It’s when some people compulsively feel the need to keep changing their appearance with plastic surgery that it turns into an actual addiction. Although scientists don’t understand how that manifests itself, we know of too many celebrities who can’t stop themselves from getting plastic surgery.
Some experts explain it with a disorder called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Sufferers feel the need to continually change their looks. Not everyone addicted to plastic surgery is diagnosed with BDD, and we don’t quite understand why so many people without any other underlying medical conditions would compulsively get up to 10 plastic surgeries in a day.
2 Milk Products
Even people who do not experience lactose intolerance may suffer from a dairy-related ailment. For these individuals, milk derivatives like butter or cheese are something they’d never refuse.
Some people are unhealthily obsessed with these products, often using them to replace regular meals no matter what it does to their health. If that sounds like an addiction, it absolutely is. Milk and its derivatives contain molecules that attach to the same parts of the brain as drugs like opiates.
Milk contains casein as well as other similar chemicals like casomorphins. These substances act like the highly addictive painkiller morphine. In fact, they’re like each other in chemical composition and what they do to our brains. The brain also releases quite a bit of dopamine while eating cheese, further exacerbating its addictive effects and essentially making us hooked on it.
1 Drinking Water
Humans are a water-based species. So it doesn’t take a health professional or an Instagram fitness blogger to convince us of the benefits of drinking a lot of water each day. It keeps our bodies running the way they should, does wonders for our skin, and generally helps us feel better than someone who doesn’t consume enough of it.
If we told you that it’s possible to become addicted to water in the same way as other harmful substances, you’d probably tell us to get out of here. But according to science, it’s absolutely possible to get addicted to water.
In some cases, people who don’t get their daily fix of water can experience headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. For many people who have “aquaholism”—as it’s unofficially called—staying away from water for even an hour may mean irritation and the compulsive need to get back to it.
Like everything in excess, this can lead to some serious negative effects on the body. Occasionally, it may also be related to a disorder called polydipsia in which a lack of sodium content in the blood can lead to excessive thirst. But most people reported to have been addicted to water don’t have that.