Imagine having an overwhelming urge to pull out your own hair—from your scalp, your eyelashes, eyebrows or any other part of the body. It’s something that as many as 11 million Americans suffer from. Hair pulling—or trichotillomania, better known as trich—is a psychological condition that creates feelings of tension and anxiety in its sufferers until they pull, which brings relief and pleasure. Those with trich may also have the urge to chew or eat their hair. Haley, from TLC’s Strange Addictions, has been pulling her hair for more than six years, and it can keep her in the bathroom for two to three hours a day. For her, the satisfaction lies in eating the follicles attached to the hairs she pulls.
An ice-cold Popsicle is delicious every so often, but have you ever had the need to chew on ice? There’s a name for the addiction—it’s called pagophagia, and it can be a sign of low iron in the bloodstream. Pagophagia is a form of pica, where people desire eating things that aren’t food. Some people have said that chewing ice has become so important in their lives that they can no longer keep jobs or personal relationships. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 16 percent of females between the ages of 16 and 19 are compulsive ice chewers.
People who constantly hear their BlackBerry ringing, feel it vibrating or check their e-mail on the device may be addicted to the technology. Receiving e-mail and text messages boosts the ego, as it makes a person feel more important. While the heightened connection to work allows for more accessibility and efficiency, it also leads to an increase in stress. The addiction has become great enough that there is an actual Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), in which a person’s Internet’s usage interferes with his or her daily life and the person has accompanying withdrawal feelings of tension, anger and depression when they’re unable to go online.
Those who love lying out at the beach or in a tanning bed may be tanning addicts. There is evidence that a day in the sun may produce endorphins in your body, like those experienced in a ‘runner’s high.’ The exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or in a tanning bed is what produces the endorphins and subsequent mood-booster. Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found that people who tan eight to 15 times every month go through withdrawal symptoms when they can’t tan as much as they’d like to, because of the endorphins they’re missing. They may feel dizzy and nauseous, a lot like what a person in withdrawal from drugs and alcohol feels. TLC’s Strange Addictions features 20-year-old Samantha, who tans up to three times a day in tanning beds, along with tanning outdoors with her body coated in vegetable oil.
You’ve probably heard that getting a tattoo is addictive, or maybe experienced it yourself, but why is this? People frequently associate their tattoos with specific characteristics—like rebellion, sexiness, attractiveness and strength. Getting a tattoo is a form of self-expression and oftentimes, the endorphins that are released in your body when you’re getting tattooed cancel out any urgent form of pain. Here, Isobel Varley displays her arm tattoos in June 2001. She started getting tattoos in 1986 and got tattooed regularly until she had a full body suit in 1997.
Video games are a popular fixture in a teenage boy’s life, so when does gaming become an addiction? Those gamers who think about their games when they’re not gaming, lie about their time spent playing their games, and feel tense and worried when they’re not gaming are said to be addicts. The symptoms are similar to those found in a compulsive gambler. When the person is playing their game of choice, dopamine levels rise, causing the gamer to be in a happy, positive mood. It’s also an escape for those people who have low self-esteem and difficulty socializing. With technologies for gaming changing daily, it’s no wonder that so many can’t stop playing. The gaming becomes dangerous when people cannot distinguish between the game world and reality, and act out violently towards others and themselves.
People who suffer from geophagy, or dirt eating, consume dirt or muddy material to soak up the sulphur and phosphorous inside of them. Although this may sound gross, it actually can be nutritionally positive—it’s practiced in many primitive and economically depressed societies to supplement a mineral-deficient diet. People in the slums of Haiti make and eat fried mud pies daily. Geophagy can be coupled with pica, which is the uncontrollable desire to consume non-food items, which is often times dangerous, and could kill the person eating them. Josh, from TLC’s Strange Addictions, has eaten 100 glasses and 250 light bulbs over the past four years. Some women experience pica when they’re pregnant. Mental illnesses and developmental disabilities may also cause a person to eat earthy and non-food matter.
These days, a nose job or breast augmentation is not uncommon. But for some people, it’s just the beginning of a long battle with plastic surgery. People who are obsessed with their physical appearance and must make numerous attempts to “fix” themselves are victims of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. People who are addicted to plastic surgery will do anything to have another procedure, despite any health or financial risks. And with medical advances, nearly every part of the body can be modified. With more surgeries comes a greater risk of something going wrong, which can result in disfigurement or death. This overwhelming urge is coupled with anxiety, social isolation and depression, and is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.
Some people like to drink soda, others water – but for 53-year-old Carrie, she prefers to drink her own urine. Carrie, who will be featured on Sunday’s season finale of "Strange Addictions," said she has been addicted to drinking urine for more than 4 years. She drinks about 80 ounces of her urine each day – sometimes by glass, sometimes using a Neti pot to drink it nasally.
Addictions are not just limited to drugs, alcohol and gambling. People are addicted to everything from everyday activities to strange rituals. Check out these weird addictions, which are more common than you think.