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Excessive appetites


Explanations > Addiction > Excessive appetites

Description | Discussion | See also



There is a view expounded by Orford (2001) of addiction based on the principle of 'excessive appetites'.


There is a range of human appetites or desires for consumption of some sort, some natural and some of our own construction. At times, we feel 'hunger' or desire for this consumption. When we are sated, we feel 'full'.

Core-group appetites include drinking alcohol, gambling, drug-taking and sex. Other appetites include stealing, fire-setting and other criminal activities.


Sometimes, the appetite runs out of control, such that we seek to indulge the appetite beyond what may be considered 'normal'.

The nature of excess may vary by frequency or intensity, for example regular and/or bingeing indulgence.

The person forms an attachment with the addictive actions and thus integrates them.

Complex model

The excessive-appetites model assumes a complex model with multiple interacting determinants, particularly ecological, socioeconomic and cultural factors that can offer more or less opportunities to indulge.

The model also assumes numerous and varying personal functions may be served, for example self-expression, mood modification and identity protection.

As behavior may vary over time, a longitudinal view is more effective for understanding this complexity rather than a simple snapshot.

The main pattern of the model is:

  • Multiple social and personal determinants, leading to...
  • Emotional-cognitive-behavioral attachment, leading to...
  • Strong addictive attachment, leading to...
  • Costs and conflicts, leading to...
  • Decision to change, leading to...
  • Change and recovery

Changing behaviors

As the addiction develops, thinking and acting also change, both coping with and increasing the complexity of the condition.

By and large, we make decisions through breaking down choices into discriminating parts. In excessive appetites, the process of increasing attachment leads to generalization rather than discrimination.

Secondary emotional cycles and processes develop to cope with the negative effects of the addiction, such as the alcoholic's hiding of bottles and the gambler's increasing bets to try and recover losses.

There are many costs that may not be apparent to the addict, at least not until they are deeply attached. These include financial, social and physical losses.


Historically, excessive appetites have the suffix 'mania' as in kleptomania, nymphomania and pyromania.

Learning theory is important in the Excessive-appetites model which assumes learning uses a powerful set of attachment processes, including the effects of conditioning.

The depth of addiction may be shallow or chronic and the person may have to get to rock bottom before they accept their condition and think realistically about recovery.

The good news is that many people climb out of the hole by themselves and without professional support. After a point of realization and choice, which may have social and moral components, they decide to act.

See also

Learning Theory, Conditioning


Orford, J. (2001) Excessive Appetites: A Social–Behavioural–Cognitive–Moral Model, Chichester: Wiley.

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