What are Behavioral Addictions and How are They Treated?
Just like drugs and alcohol, there are certain behaviors that can trigger the brain’s reward system and create addictive behaviors. The negative consequences of a behavioural addiction can be similar to those of substance abuse.
What are Behavioral Addictions?
Behavioral addictions are intense desires to repeat an action that is pleasurable or seems to improve wellbeing or has the ability to alleviate some personal distress. Behaviors are classified as addictive when it is difficult to stop doing or taking part in those behaviors. Some of the motivating factors for behavioural addiction include the feeling of temporary decrease in depression, anxiety, and other mental illness, so many people continue these behaviors in order to calm themselves down or feel happiness. They can also use it as stress management.
Only because someone is engaging in activities like video games or gambling, it does not mean they have a video game addiction or gambling addiction. However, once these activities interfere with everyday life and become a crutch for co-occurring mental disorders, they could have an issue. These physical addictions start when the person needs large amounts of constant stimulus. Behavioural addiction causes a person to constantly look for the thrill or rush of endorphins created by frequent and increased activity. Secondly, behavioral addictions become serious when they cannot stop or control the behavior.
Examples of Addictive Behaviors
The most common types of behavioural addiction include:
- Gambling addiction
- Sex addiction
- Shopping addiction
- Internet addiction
- Exercise addiction
- Gaming addiction or video game addiction
- Plastic Surgery addiction
- Porn addiction
- Thrill-seeking activities
- Binge eating/food addictions, which could be classified as an eating disorder
Some other, less common types include love and relationship addiction, compulsive stealing (kleptomania), compulsive skin and hair picking, overworking, and excessive television.
What Makes a Behavior Addictive?
When you perform certain behaviors, it can release dopamine, the brain’s natural drug, into the reward system of the brain. This neurotransmitter motivates you to seek satisfaction and pleasure. There are a number of drugs and alcohol that also increase dopamine production, which makes everyday activities feel more rewarding. Rewarding behaviors are also able to boost dopamine, therefore you can feel a high after a shopping spree. A 2010 study found that this chemical high is similar to the high a cocaine user might feel. Behavioral addictions are closely associated with how drug and alcohol addiction affects the brain.
How is Behavioral Addiction Diagnosed?
A behavioural addiction diagnosis can only be given by a medical professional. Every person can enjoy the activities listed on here – shopping, eating, exercise etc. – but it is not considered a problem or physical addictions until the following is true:
- The person experiences negative consequences directly caused by the continued engagement of the compulsive behavior. For example, a gambling addiction may cause someone to gamble away their home, lose a job, and be forced into bankruptcy because of the extreme engagement with gambling.
- They are unable to stop taking part in the compulsive behavior regardless of these consequences.
- The person may develop mental disorders or physical health issues because of the behavior and/or the inability to stop.
- They can have issues in several relationships at home and, in some cases, at work because of the compulsive behavior.
Is There Any Treatment of Behavioural Addiction?
If you or loved ones are struggling with a behavioral addiction, right now, the idea of being able to control that compulsive behavior seems impossible. However, there are several options for addiction treatment programs. Once you have acknowledged that you do have a problem with a certain compulsive behavior, you can start the recovery process. Through proper treatment, mental health professionals can help people overcome and learn healthier ways to deal with these compulsive feelings. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, group therapy and medication are known to be effective in treating these addictions
At DayBreak Treatment Center, our mental health specialist will create a personalized treatment plan for behavioral addiction and any other co-occurring disorder, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or substance dependencies that may be present. If you would like to learn more about our addiction treatment programs, please contact us today at (844) 695-0083.