A craving is an intense urge for something such as a food, chemical, or activity. While cravings are commonly associated with addiction, most people experience cravings.

What is a Craving?

Everyone knows what it is like to feel hungry for a certain food or to want to do a particular activity. But a craving is an overwhelming desire that often makes it difficult to think about anything else. A person craving pizza might, for example, be uninterested in eating anything else, and might take extraordinary measures such as driving in the middle of the night to fulfill the craving.

Cravings can cause physical side effects, particularly when they are associated with addiction. A former smoker craving nicotine might develop a headache, cold sweats, or nausea. Cravings can also cause psychological disturbances. A person who gambles compulsively might become agitated, anxious, or angry when he or she avoids gambling.

What Causes Cravings?

Not every craving can be explained. People sometimes crave something for no apparent reason. However, many researchers believe that cravings exist to meet physiological needs. A person craving a sweet snack, for example, might have a nutritional deficiency or low blood sugar. Cravings can also fill psychological needs. A person craving a shopping trip might be trying to eliminate feelings of boredom or frustration in his or her life.

Cravings are common during pregnancy, and may serve to ensure that pregnant women get adequate nutrition and calories. People experiencing strong cravings when going through addiction withdrawal may need medical treatment to deal with the physical effects of the cravings. In other cases, the cravings simply go away on their own. Cravings are usually short-lived and typically only last for a few minutes, but may occur frequently, particularly among people recovering from addiction.


  1. How to fend off a food craving. (2012, September 17). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from
  2. McCall, W. (n.d.). Brain buildup causes addiction. Biopsychiatry. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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  • Michael


    December 27th, 2016 at 3:39 PM

    I’m working on my sobriety but my way is not good enough.I did not get my kiss miss wish this Holliday and I’m afraid I’m heading towards another relapse gap in my life.Do you know of a SALEM treatment that is out patient and takes my blue shield cross California insurance. I’m depressed and self medicating.

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