Addictive Behaviors

Avoid Addictive Behaviors

There are many destructive and addictive behaviors that relate to addictive substances including alcohol and drugs. These are addressed on the page Avoid Addictive Substances  If you think you might have trouble with alcohol or drugs, I strongly recommend that you read that page and then visit your school’s clinic for help.

Many Addictive Behaviors that do not involve substance abuse.

This page will cover problems in three categories:
1.  Addictive Behavior related to serious health problems
2.  Addictive Behaviors related to everyday activities
3.  Addictive Behaviors related to sex

1. Addictive Behaviour related to serious health problems:

  • Binge eatingA woman eats a large bar of chocolate
  • Eating disorders
  • Cutting and Self-harming
  • Risky Behavior
  • Sex addiction: can lead to sexually transmitted disease and other more serious problems
  • Addiction to pornography (Doesn’t sound dangerous? Think again!)

The woman with the large bar of chocolate is a binge eater. Look into her eyes. As much as she loves eating chocolate, she is still feeling guilty. She knows she shouldn’t do it.

But right now she’s upset. She just failed a History test. Eating anything makes her feel better Eating chocolate, a lot of chocolate, helps the most.

Eating disorders and self-harming are serious issues. You need better advice than I can give you.  For binge eating, other eating disorders, cutting and self-harming, I strongly recommend that you go to  Note: the links take you to different parts of their great website.

For immediate help with self cutting or self-injury  call 1-800-DONTCUT.

It is also important to ask for help on your campus. The people at your campus clinic are accustomed to these problems and will either help you or send you to someone who can.

Do NOT Wait until the problem gets worse.  GET HELP NOW.
If you have friends who need help,  go with them to the clinic. They can use your support.

2.  Addictive Behaviors related to everyday activities

My first experience with addiction was in elementary school and I took it very seriously. For a period of five or six months, I spent every penny of my allowance to buy comic books. I found it almost impossible to save anything to get an after school snack with friends or anything else. One day I decided this was an addiction, much like my parents’ addiction to smoking. I went “cold turkey” (yes, I knew the term) and I never bought another comic book. This may seem trivial and quite silly, but I was very clear that this habit was controlling me. Here is a list of addictions that may affect you and your friends, especially if these activities are affecting your studies.

  • watching television hour after hour
  • watching or participating in sports
  • playing video games
  • surfing the web
  • checking or commenting on Facebook and other social networking sites
  • talking on cell phones
  • texting
  • gambling
  • card playing
  • shopping
  • joining too many organizations
  • going to too many parties

You can probably add to the list. Any behaviors that prevent you from attending classes and studying is addictive and can cause you to make poor grades and often will result in failure and dropping out of school.

Addictive Behaviors can lead to failing all your classes.

1. Playing Cards and Gambling

My first college roommate played bridge. Early in our first semester, she joined three other girls in the dorm who all enjoyed playing bridge. Nothing wrong with that. But I sometimes watched as they played in our room.

Four aces on a pile of money.
Four aces on a pile of money symbolize card playing and gambling.


One girl would say, “I really should go. I have a class in fifteen minutes.”
Another girl would respond, “If you leave, none of us can play. It won’t hurt to miss class. Copy someone’s notes.”
“But I’ve missed that class four times already. I really need to go.”
“Yeah yeah, I know. You can’t miss anymore classes. But not today.”
Sometimes one girl would mention that she really needed to study for a test.
“Now? You really have to study right this minute? Won’t it wait for an hour or so? We’re in the middle of a game.”

How could they resist? They often played until two in the morning when it was too late to study.

A time or two I was invited to fill in for a missing player. I always said “Absolutely no,”  explaining that I didn’t know how to play bridge . I added, No. I really don’t want to learn. I need my time to study.”

I could see how addictive it was. I understood, early in the semester, that these girls were either going to have terrible grades or they’d flunk out. I resolved to never play bridge or any other card game until I graduated from college including graduate school. Getting an education was important to me.

Getting an education must not have been as important to those four girls. Even those who wanted to do well in school, cared more about what the other girls in the group thought of them than they cared about passing. It wasn’t a surprise when, at the end of the first semester, all four girls flunked out and went home.

I’d love to know what happened to the four girls. I hope they stayed home and went to a community college for a few years. I hope they had another chance to finish college and, this time, avoided card playing. Some people, once they see how destructive their behavior can be, manage to get that second chance and change their behavior. But some people never learn.

If playing bridge or poker or whatever your game might be is more important to you than your classes, stay home. Don’t waste your parents’ money on college. Don’t recruit others to fail with you. Since then, I have met another person who played bridge in college. He obviously made time to attend classes and do assignments as an undergrad.  But, because his bridge-playing took up so much of his time, he flunked out of graduate school. And no, he didn’t go back. What a shame.

Gambling can be even more addictive. It often starts with playing cards. Adding the excitement of winning and losing money makes it more addictive and causes far more serious problems. It’s hard to call home for more money less than a week after Mom and Dad sent you a check. How would you explain?  Sometimes these students end up stealing or selling drugs to feed their habit. They not only fail their classes. They might end up in jail.

2. Joining too many Organizations

I remember one friend who had few opportunities  to be active in school organizations when he was in high school. He made up for lost time by joining and participating in many college organizations. When these took time from his classes and study time, he also flunked out.

3. Watching Television

I have known students who could not study because it was time for their soap operas or their football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf or whatever on television. If television is that tempting, you might want to cut out all television  until you finish your education.

I’m really not against television. When you plan your weekly schedule and have time available, there’s no problem scheduling time to watch the news, a game show OR some other  favorite show. But, be sure study time comes first. If you are getting behind, cut out television and other unnecessary activities until you catch up with your assignments.

Those addicted to Sports may spend endless hours watching games on TV as well as attending actual games. Any unnecessary activity that controls your life, that takes up time you know you need for studying, is an addition.

4. Video Games, Surfing the Web, and Facebook.

When I started college, we didn’t have video games. We didn’t have computers. (We didn’t even have pocket calculators.) I know. It was back in the dark ages or something. But I’ve known students who spend many hours every day surfing the web, checking Facebook, playing video games, etc. They might survive Middle School and High School by doing math homework in English, English homework during Physics, Physics homework during History, and so on.

But, in college, you need to spend many hours a day studying for your classes. Any of these behaviors, when they prevent you from attending classes and studying, can lead to failure, the end to your college career, and possibly an end to your hopes for the future.

5. Texting

A young couple texts each other instead of talking.The young couple in the picture are texting instead of talking. It implies they are texting each other. Hopefully they really have good news and each is in a hurry to share the news with a friend. Texting on a date isn’t a serious problem. Texting during class, exams and study time is  serious. It often becomes an addiction. Estimate how much time you spend each day texting or on your cellphone. Is it really necessary?

There was an article in the Palm Beach Post (12/3/10) by Michael Rubinkam (through the Associated Press) that said  “During boring college classes, texting replaces doodling.”

He quoted a student, a senior, who described sending text messages across the room during a lecture. He wasn’t doing it because he thought of something important. He made comments like “I can’t wait to get out of here.”  He also said “Every single person I know texts in class at least occasionally.”

The articles described a study conducted by Wilkes College Psychology Professors, Deborah Tindell and Robert Bolander. The study showed that “texting … has surpassed doodling, daydreaming and note-passing to become the top classroom distraction. The anonymous survey of 296 Wilkes students found that nine in ten admit to sending test messages during class…”

Even more troubling, ten percent say that have sent or received texts during exams, and that three percent admit using their phones to cheat.” Another student says she “sends an average of 150 texts a day.”  But she’s the rare student who doesn’t text during class. …”I figure it’s a waste of my time if I’m not going to be listening,” she said.

This is clearly an addiction. If you are a serious student, you will limit the number of texts you send a day and put your cell phone away completely during class. You might set two or three short periods during the day (10-15 minutes each) and do all texting and phone calls at those times except for real emergencies. Turn your cell phones off, not only during lectures and exams, but while you are studying.

6. Probably the Number One Cause of Failure: Too many Parties

There’s no problem with going to an occasional party. We all enjoy parties. But there are students who seriously believe that the main reason to attend college is to go to parties. They aren’t satisfied with parties one or two nights a week. They want a party every night, and if they can also  find a daytime party, that’s great. You’ve probably A young couple at a party share drinks.met students like this.

They tend to drink too much and stay up too late, so they certainly can’t imagine going to class the next morning, and it’s not easy arranging all your classes for the afternoon. These are the students who advise freshmen to go to as many parties as possible and to “try everything.”

They suggest you try getting really drunk, even if you never drank before. They suggest you try to visit every bar in town. They suggest you try drugs: like trying them once or twice won’t hurt you…( But they will!)  “Try staying out all night. Try having sex with lots of people. Hey! This is your freshman year! This is what freshman year is all about! Have a BLAST! You can study next year.”

This is the worst possible advice anyone can give you. If you want to spend your time partying and doing stupid things, then don’t pay tuition. Just move to town, get a job and your own apartment, and go to parties. It’s still not a good idea but you can save your tuition money until you’ve grown up a little and you are ready to study… unless you end up addicted to alcohol, drugs or both, until you end up pregnant or paying child support, until you end up with HIV-AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, unless you drive drunk and end up in jail after killing someone, or possibly killing yourself. The too-much-partying lifestyle  is a dead-end road.

Note: the links take you to different parts of their great website.For help with self cutting or self-injury, binge eating or other eating disorders go to  Even if you don’t have a problem, you might find this site helpful.

Next: Addictive Behaviors II: Addictive Behaviors related to Risky Behavior and Sex

Avoid Addictive Substances          Control Emotions       Manage Stress        Relaxation

Note that Control Emotions has additional pages on Anger Management  and
Control Anger   You might try similar methods to control your problems.

If you want to leave comments o questions that are confidential, go to Contact Judy.  I will respond as quickly as possible to urgent questions.

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