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14 of the World’s Strangest Addictions That Are Real

 The word ‘addiction’ is most often associated with a drug or alcohol use disorder, which are, admittedly, among the most widespread addictions out there. In reality, activities and even emotions, and not only substances like drugs, alcohol, or certain foods can be addictive. But that’s all old news to most of you, as you’ve likely already heard of shopping and computer addiction, or trichotillomania - the obsessive urge of pulling out your own hair, all of which are widespread examples of addictive behaviors.
People who suffer from addiction are not in control of their actions, and the reasons for this loss of control are both genetic, neurological, and psychological. To learn more about the science of addiction, you can watch the video: What Addiction Truly Means. However, the complex science of addiction is not what we will be focusing on in this article. Instead, we’ll look at 14 of the most bizarre but real addictions in the world one can actually develop.

1. Fortune Telling

the World’s Strangest Addictions fortune teller
Let's start off this list with one of the most bizarre addictions imaginable - the dependence on frequent fortune-telling services. The only recorded case of fortune-telling addiction has been mentioned in a 2015 case study about a 45-year-old woman named Helen, who has turned to a specific fortune-teller over the phone for more than a decade, often calling every day, sometimes for as long as 8 hours a day.
This behavior has caused financial problems for Helen, who admits that she often calls to learn about minor and unimportant details because she feels like she has to know the "right" decision. Her case ticks all boxes for addiction, and Helen has been undergoing treatment for quite a while.

2. Using Over the Counter Nasal Sprays

the World’s Strangest Addictions man using nasal spray
While not an addiction in scientific terms, OTC nasal sprays, such as decongestant sprays and even saltwater sprays, can make your body depend on it. This is especially true when it comes to people suffering from seasonal allergies, who become heavily reliant on the nasal spray, using it multiple times a day.
This long term use of nasal sprays can cause rebound congestion - the worsening of nasal congestion after frequent use of OTC nasal sprays. The worst part of this phenomenon is that, with time, the spray will become effective for less and less time, making you use it more and more often. This is exactly why physicians recommend resorting to these nasal sprays only in special cases and use it no longer than a few days. The only way to break the vicious cycle is to stop using the spray completely.

3. Being Rejected

the World’s Strangest Addictions woman being rejected
Most of us seek love and compassion in a relationship, and the loss or rejection by a partner is often the cause of grief, sadness, and even depression. But for some people, the most sought-after feeling is to be rejected.
In fact, brain imaging studies show that loss stimulates brain regions in the brain associated with motivation and reward (the same regions as drug craving), which tells the researchers that the participants are addicted to the feelings and thoughts about their former romantic partners. For these people, the ultimate goal is unrequited love.

4. Having Cosmetic Surgery Done

the World’s Strangest Addictions woman botchced plastic surgery
Image Source: Reddit
Cosmetic surgery addiction is probably among the more well-known of the bunch. However, few people understand the depth of this condition. Scientists believe that the condition is a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder, which is also the cause of eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia.
Patients suffering from the condition perceive various minor flaws in their appearance as a reason to avoid social situations and constantly think about these 'flaws', real or not, so much so that it interferes with their life satisfaction and daily life. Some of these patients resort to a never-ending sequence of cosmetic surgeries as a means to achieve the desired appearance, without realizing that their self-perception and not their appearance that is the real issue.

5. Eating Carrots

the World’s Strangest Addictions carrots
We bet you didn't see this one coming, but it's true, eating carrots can be addictive, at least for some people. Scientists from New Zealand found that patients can exhibit addictive behavior to eating carrots, and they even know why. The researchers believe it is beta carotene, the antioxidant that gives carrots their orange hue, which may be addictive, as it is capable of mimicking the same addictive elements that can be found in nicotine.
So, it turns out that munching on a carrot can become similarly addictive to smoking. While carrot addiction may be healthier than smoking, it does cause the same withdrawal symptoms - irritability, nervousness, cravings, and even insomnia.

6. Playing Video Games

the World’s Strangest Addictions person holding play station 4 joystick
Media and medical research have been buzzing about 'video gaming addiction' for quite a while, but it was only recently, in 2018, that the World Health Organization started recognizing it as a diagnosable condition. But before you rush to rip out the joystick out of your kids' or grandkids' little hands, consider this:
As with many addictions, moderate use and the ability to maintain a healthy and full life are both signs that your loved ones are just fine, as they don't qualify for the addiction criteria. It is when a person's social life, education, occupation, and relationships become threatened by gaming for a period of over 12 months that you should start being concerned about their gaming habits.

7. Eating Dirt

the World’s Strangest Addictions handful of dirt
Geophagia, or the habit of eating dirt, sand, or clay, is a surprisingly ancient condition, with the first recordings of the addiction dating back to 460 BC, with Ancient Roman doctors reporting back about the condition. Interestingly, this addiction can occur for many medical reasons ranging from psychological, to a side effect of pregnancy, and even a sign of iron deficiency anemia. 
From an addiction standpoint, geophagia is a sub-type of pica - the persistent eating of substances that have no nutritional value. Other examples of pica include eating rocks and hair, both of which can be quite dangerous, as you might imagine. 

8. Exercising

the World’s Strangest Addictions man exercising at the gym
Exercise addiction is among the most widespread, with an estimated million Americans alone being reported to suffer from the addiction. While some will certainly jokingly say they 'wish' they had this disorder, what makes exercise addiction dangerous is the extent to which patients are dependent on their workout sessions.
People with this addiction will usually get really anxious every time they miss a workout or continue working out through illness and injury. Like cosmetic surgery addiction, exercise addiction may occur due to an underlying self-image issue or body dysmorphic disorder.

9. Hacking

the World’s Strangest Addictions hacker
Don't get us wrong, we think that cyber hacking is a criminal offense, as hackers illegally gain money and control over their victims. At the same time, we might be a bit too judgmental of some hackers, as it turns out that many of them are not capable of controlling their bad habit.
Some researchers believe that compulsive hacking, especially cases not associated with high monetary or crucial information rewards - the type most common in adolescents - should actually be classified as Internet Addiction Disorder and treated medically. There was even a famous European court case of a hacker being cleared of all charges as the jury establishing that he was addicted to hacking.

10. Bleach Baths

the World’s Strangest Addictions bleach
If you were flabbergasted after reading the very word combination "bleach bath", you're not alone. However, the notion of bleach baths is actually less strange than you might think, as people suffering from of chronic eczema (atopic dermatitis) are sometimes recommended to take baths with a very small quantity of bleach to soothe the itchiness and irritation that comes with an eczema flareup (Note! Don't use this method without your doctor's supervision).
Still, for most eczema sufferers, a bleach bath is not a pleasant experience. Then again, Gloria, who was featured in the 'My Strange Addiction' TV series, is not most people. The 30-year-old woman says she cleans her entire house with bleach every day. On top of that, Gloria takes a relaxing bleach bath every morning. The woman uses up 300 gallons of bleach a year, and she refuses to stop using bleach despite the fact that it irritates her skin and eyes, ruins many of her clothes and furniture. 

11. Eating Chalk

the World’s Strangest Addictions chalk
Did you, too, have that weird kid in class that would always eat chalk? If you did, don't be surprised, as chalk addiction is one of the most common types of pica, or the impulse to eat non-edible objects. Some believe that eating chalk can also be a sign of an underlying nutrient deficiency, such as a zinc or iron deficiency.
Remember, while chalk is considered non-toxic, it's typically highly contaminated with everything ranging from rat droppings to dead bugs, chemicals, and metal particles, so it's quite a dangerous addiction.

12. Going to Tanning Salons

the World’s Strangest Addictions tanning bed
Tanning beds are quite harmful for you, as they can cause skin cancer, but it turns out that they are also highly addictive. Tanorexia, as the addiction is known, may be, in part, a result of a body dysmorphic disorder, but that's only half the story. 
A 2011 study also found that UV exposure in tanning beds may also trigger the release of endorphins into the brain. As a result, the patient feels bliss after a tanning session and is encouraged by the 'happiness hormones' to return to the tanning salon. 

13. Being Stung By Bees

the World’s Strangest Addictions bee on skin

Most of us are afraid of being stung by a bee. Some are even allergic to bee stings. But Margaret, a woman in her 50s, is addicted to the process. Her addiction has been going on for over 10 years, and it began as a session of bee venom therapy to soothe arthritis pain (Attention! Bee venom therapy is not a recommended method against arthritis and is very dangerous and potentially deadly).

Margaret gladly accepts bee stings on her hips, ankles, elbows, fingers, forehead, and even nose, and she gets 15-20 stings at a time.

14. Eating Glass Shards

the World’s Strangest Addictions shattered glass
Certainly, one of the most shocking addictions one could have is hyalophagia - the need to eat glass shards or object. As you may imagine, it's an extremely dangerous addiction, as the shards of glass cannot be digested and could easily cut the digestive organs, possibly even causing severe internal bleeding.
Still, people suffering from this condition cannot stop their desire to eat glass. In a way, this very dangerous condition exemplifies how all addictions are not a lack of self-control or willpower, but a real, and often very terrifying disease.
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