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What You Crave and Why

People may experience different cravings that compel them to compulsively seek foods, substances or behaviors. Cravings that repeatedly arise have the potential to give birth to full-on addiction if not well-managed. Most of the time, someone’s cravings are only satiated by what they crave. Usually that’s something that isn’t necessarily good for us, such as fast food, ice cream, alcohol, drugs or watching TV. There are some cases where cravings that arise lead us to pursue good things such as yoga, healthy foods, or inspirational music. These cravings aren’t of concern. However, the sad truth is that most cravings people struggle with are related to unhealthy foods, substances or behaviors that aren’t enriching or otherwise healthy.

The most current version of the standard textbook used for classifying psychiatric disorders, the newly published DSM-V, will classify behavioral addictions for the first time. For example, compulsive gambling will now be listed as “Gambling Addiction.” Also, “Internet Addiction” will also be included in the DSM-V even though further research is needed. Some other addictions which are widely recognized although not planned for inclusion in DSM-V are sex addiction and sugar addiction. Overall, behaviors can be just as addictive as alcohol or drugs.

The big question is “Why do people crave what they crave?” For example, some people crave potato chips while others crave video games. The answer to that is that modern science is just beginning to learn the answer to these questions. One factor that contributes to why certain people crave some things and not others is genetics. A study of twin brothers who shared an alcoholic father but were adopted into separate families shows that both twins inherited an increased risk of developing alcoholism even when one was raised in an alcohol-free environment. Another study of similar characteristics demonstrated addiction to other drugs may be just as heritable. So can eating disorders and gambling addiction, implying a strong genetic link for these behavioral addictions as well.

In other research, social factors have been shown to play a role too. For example, advertisements or product placements may initiate cravings. What our friends or people around us are doing, using, or eating can trigger a craving too.

The bottom line is that cravings are very complex and so is what causes them. Both genetic and social factors drive them. Nature largely determines what we crave, although environmental effects are also implicated. So now that we know some of the science behind cravings, is there anything that can be done to combat them? Because cravings have multiple causes, a simple approach won’t work. According to Psychology Today, “Substituting behaviors or foods for the objects of your cravings may work in the short term, but long term recovery requires a more comprehensive approach that deals with the biology, psychology, and social pressures that drive cravings.”

By Kevin G.

Sources: Menejwala, Omar, M.D. “Ice Cream, Vodka, Sex and Online Poker.” Psychologytoday.com. Psychology Today, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

 

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Kevin Giles is a product of Santa Cruz, CA – the stoner capitol of the world. A born again Christian, Kevin loves his Lord Jesus and believes that his purpose in life is determined by God. He first entered drug recovery at the age of 19, suffering from an addiction to marijuana. He is a recent graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master’s degree in Christian Ministry. Passionate about God’s Word, he aspires to become a pastor or missionary. Kevin has also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Monterey Bay. His interests include traveling, movies, golf, fitness and reading. He also enjoys being outdoors as well as spending time with friends and family. Kevin’s faith, education and life experience give him a unique perspective on addiction, recovery and spirituality.

Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Conditions and Disorders, Eating disorders, Featured, Substance Abuse · Tags: Addiction, alcohol, behaviors, Cravings, Eating disorders, food, gambling, genetics, internet, sex addiction, social pressure, substances, TV