One way of distinguishing between the different kinds of behavior that are included in the addictions guidesite concerns whether they are perceived as socially acceptable or socially deviant behavior. Behavior that is perceived as socially deviant is highly stigmatized, which often causes as many or more problems for the person engaging in the behavior than the addiction itself -- if there even is an addiction.
There is also a large grey area between socially deviant behavior and socially accepted or "sanctioned" behavior, although sub-groups of people with addictions have their own prescribed behaviors and social sanctions that keep addicts feeling like they belong.
The table shows some examples of common addictive behaviors, which illustrate the continuum from socially deviant to socially problematic to socially acceptable behaviors in mainstream Western cultures. These are not meant to be rigid categorizations, but simply examples of how behaviors tend to be perceived -- for example, illegal activities such as underage drinking are classed as "deviant," whereas in reality, this is quite common and often accepted by youth and adults. Some behaviors have shifted position in recent decades, for example, smoking cigarettes is socially problematic, but not yet socially deviant, while it was socially acceptable thirty years ago.
The Continuum of Social Acceptability
|Addictive Behavior||Socially Deviant||Socially Problematic||Socially Acceptable|
|Alcoholism||Binge drinking||Occasional/social drinking|
|Underage drinking||Public drunkenness|
|Drinking at the wrong time/place||Drinking in "drinking establishments"|
|Illegal drug use||Methadone maintenance|
|Painkiller over-use||Appropriate painkiller use|
|Binge eating||Moderate eating|
|Excessive gambling||Losing a lot of money in a gambling binge||Bingo, lotteries, trips to Las Vegas|
|Sexual abuse||Promiscuity||Sex within a relationship|
|Exploitative sex||Sex work|
|Hard core pornography|