The American Psychiatric Association tells us that addiction is “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction… have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s)… to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems.” When we hear the word addiction, most of us automatically think of drugs such as illegal substances, alcohol, caffeine, or medication abuse. Addictive behaviour, however, is not always centered on these types of substances.
Compulsive behavior – when a person feels they absolutely have to continue doing a certain thing even though it may cause harm – is also often viewed as a form of addiction. Some of the strangest addictions ever are centered around bizarre behavior.
Here are the Top Ten Strangest Addictions Ever (in no particular order)
1. Eating Rocks
When a person eats something usually considered inedible, this is known as pica. We sometimes associate it with pregnancy; stories of pregnant women craving bizarre things are fairly common. However, for many people, pica is a very real compulsion. Typically, people feel compelled to eat certain textures. Among the more common obsessions are dry, crumbly materials such as chalk, dirt or even drywall. At the extreme end of this addiction is the compulsion to eat rocks or sand. This has got to be one of the strangest addictions ever; not only is this incredibly damaging to the teeth, it does untold damage to the digestive system.
Bleach is a pretty useful substance when used correctly and with care. It kills bacteria and viruses to leave surfaces hygienically clean. It is also used in the beauty industry for changing the color of hair. Bleach also features among the most dangerous addictions. At the lower end of the bleach addiction spectrum, there are those who clean compulsively using bleach. Cleaning obsessions are relatively common, and bleach often features. Then there are people who are addicted to bleaching their hair, to the point where the hair literally dissolves, and the scalp sustains serious damage. Other addicts feel compelled to bathe in water laced with bleach – at dangerous concentrations.
3. Eating Glass
It may sound like one of the strangest addictions ever but the act of eating glass – yes, glass – is common enough to have been given its own name. Eating glass is known as hyalophagia and it is just as dangerous and deadly as it sounds. If most of us found a piece of glass in our food, we would immediately throw the food away and probably make a serious complaint to wherever it came from. People who indulge in hyalophagia, however, actively seek out glass to eat. This is usually fine glass such as that in thin glasses or lightbulbs. This can cause bleeding and infection risk to the mouth, throat and digestive system, and sufferers from this bizarre compulsion are at risk of serious injury.
4. Plastic Surgery
Cosmetic procedures to change how a person looks are increasingly popular in many societies. The pressure to conform to a certain beauty ideal is very strong. However, while cosmetic surgery can be a harmless and even positive thing in the lives of many people, for some it becomes a dangerous compulsion. It seems that one of the most common cosmetic procedures is also one of the most compulsive: breast enlargement surgery. There are many cases of women who have had their breasts made larger only to return for further surgeries to increase the size further. This behavior is considered addictive when it is actively causing harm; at extreme sizes, the spine and muscles of the back come under serious strain.
5. Eating Dog/Cat Hair
We all love our pets, but do you love yours enough to groom them using your own tongue? What do you do about that pesky pet hair that gets everywhere during molting season, covering soft furnishings such as couches and carpets? Most of us get rid of it, but those suffering from this extreme addiction actually eat it. Hair that is swallowed clogs up the system just like it does in the plughole of the shower, and that can be incredibly dangerous. In fact, surgery to remove hairballs from people is not unheard of!
6. Growing hair/nails
Hair and nails are two of the most important beauty trends; one season everyone is wearing their hair long and the next, short bobs are all the rage. Same with nails; classy French manicures are in one month and bright colors and gemstones are in the next. But for some people with a particular type of addiction, it’s all about length. Growing the hair until it is literally trailing along on the ground behind the person or growing the nails until they are so long that it is difficult to do anything efficiently, are strange compulsions. These are some of the strangest addictions ever because they make life so much more difficult.
7. Hair pulling
This strange compulsion is recognized as a relatively common method of trying to control the various undesirable symptoms of anxiety disorders. Pulling out the hair is known as trichotillomania. This can be mild or very extreme, with some people pulling out large areas of hair and feeling unable to stop. Other examples of similar behavior include picking at the skin, nails, or lips. While many of us may nervously pick at our nails while awaiting important news for example, this behavior can become extreme. Some people find that the compulsion has damaged their hair or skin to the point of bleeding and pain. Dealing with the underlying anxiety and learning new ways of dealing with it are crucial.
8. Drinking Urine/Blood
To most of us, the idea of drinking urine or blood is pretty repulsive. We know that urine is a waste product, and that our blood should remain inside us. However, there are people who feel compelled to drink these fluids. There are people who believe that urine has certain health-giving properties and who drink it as a medicinal practice, but then there are others who are addicted to the act of drinking it. This can result in health issues. Drinking blood is a rather macabre act that can be a compulsive behavior that requires mental health intervention, especially when there is a risk of self harm.
A bee sting is a minor but painful irritation that we all try to avoid, right? Patches of nettles are best avoided when hiking? Well, there have been a number of documented cases of people feeling compelled to endure stings from bees, nettles and other plants and animals. Whether this is due to a rush of adrenaline from the pain, or the perceived risk of the act, it is difficult to say. However, any sting has the potential to set off a dangerous allergic reaction and enduring many stings over a long period of time is not good for your health.
This is something that many of us do, to some extent. We may have collections that we add to, a stash of emergency supplies or simply find it hard to let go of items that we have sentimental attachments to. For many people, this becomes an addiction. Hoarding useful things can be understood, but for some, hoarding actual trash becomes an odd compulsion. Houses stacked to the rafters with piles of hoarded trash are often a health and safety nightmare, and the risks include vermin, hygiene issues and of course, the danger of being crushed underneath the very items that produce the feeling of security.
There are many strange behaviors and compulsions that most of us will never be able to relate to. Often what we consider to be the strangest addictions ever are actually a sign of mental health problems that require treatment in order to free the person from the risks associated with the compulsive behavior.