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Why Do We Become Addicted to Risky Behaviors?

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

We can be addicted to any number of things, not only to substances but also to risky behaviors that we engage in compulsively even though we know they endanger us and put us in harm’s way. Why do we become addicted to risky behaviors?

Sometimes we engage in risky behaviors because we feel we have nothing to lose. We may have already suffered so much and fallen so low that we feel we can’t fall any lower. We are often self-destructive by nature and our risky behaviors are simply manifestations of our inner feelings of worthlessness. The shame we’ve been carrying within makes us feel like we have nothing to hold out hope for. Our tumultuous pasts make us feel as though our lives will always be this way. There is no hopeful future to protect ourselves for, no point in living.

Very often we put ourselves at risk because we are suicidal, or even subconsciously suicidal, where we might not have consciously made any suicide attempts or verbalized these thoughts but are feeling so much pain that we feel death is the only relief. We feel there is no purpose or meaning to life, so engaging in risky behaviors makes no difference.

Just like with any addiction, risky behaviors provide a form of escape, however temporary, from our pain. The high of the thrill helps us forget our pain, so we return to it as often as possible. Rather than address the pain itself, we seek out the thrill again and again, burying our pain deeper as we go. Our dangerous behaviors have consequences, though, and very often we cause ourselves and the people around us even more pain, compounding the issues we were attempting to escape in the first place.

Risky behaviors can include drunk driving or other kinds of unsafe driving, such as driving way too fast or in reckless ways that put not only the driver but everyone else on the road in danger. Risky behaviors can include compulsive sex, including unprotected sex, which can be highly dangerous especially when with strangers, partners whose sexual history and infection status we simply don’t know. Risky behaviors can include shoplifting or any other illegal activity. We often are addicted to risky behaviors not because we enjoy the activities themselves but because the thrill feels better than the pain we’re trying to avoid.

We’ve helped many people to recover, and we can help you. Call (800) 871-5440.