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The word addiction usually causes people to think of alcohol, drugs or even sex. But what about eating toilet paper or bodybuilding or ventriloquism?
A new show called “My Strange Addiction” on TLC explores the unusual addictions that some people have, including those mentioned above and others, like an addiction to cats.
Many of the people featured on the show happen to be women.
Mike Dow, a psychotherapist and addiction expert for the show "My Strange Addiction" and "Freaky Eaters" (a show about food addiction), said that in his experience men and women tend to be addicted to different things.
“Men tend to gravitate toward some of the addictions that are more dopamine-based,” Dow said. This includes sex and drug addiction.
Women tend to gravitate toward painkillers and alcohol, he said. There are also probably more women with body-associated addictions - women tend to have more disorders associated with body issues anyway, like eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, though statistics are changing.
“It’s no coincidence to me because women also have less serotonin in their brain, and a lot of the behaviors on ‘My Strange Addiction’ … are really helping the women to get a sense of peace in their life,” Dow said. “They’re not really seeking excitement … they’re getting some comfort that they really need in their life that they’re not getting.”
Most people are not familiar with the addictions present on the show, but perhaps the show is bringing awareness.
“Certainly there’s no 12-step group if you’re addicted to sleeping with your hair dryer, but I think a lot of people have compulsions like this that give them a sense of peace or well-being,” Dow said.
For example, some people bite their nails or light a certain candle at night or have certain rituals.
“I think we can all relate to things becoming a habit in our lives, and if those habits are bad for you, then they have the power to be labeled as addictions or compulsions,” Dow said.
Basically, addictions are “bad” and rituals are “good.” Addictions can be harmful to the self and/or another person.