Having an addiction is not limited to drugs and alcohol alone. In fact, there are plenty of other addictions that are as destructive as that of substance addiction; these are commonly known as behavioral addictions. But what are behavioral addictions? How does one develop it? If you are looking for answers then this article can help shed light on that. 

Behavioral Addictions Defined

Behavioral addiction is defined as a mental health condition wherein an individual engages in a particular activity or behavior repeatedly even if this behavior can cause them harm. Individuals who experience this usually have the urge to engage in this activity and cannot resist whenever they start doing it.  What makes these addictions hard to treat is that they are considered acceptable in society. For example, internet addiction is not considered to be an addiction because the internet is part of our daily activities. However, these addictions have the same effect as substance addiction, and treating it must be done with a psychiatrist or psychologist in order to address these problematic behaviors, improve relationships, and learn coping skills to overcome the addictions. 

Signs That You Have a Behavioral Addiction

Knowing what the signs of a behavioral addiction can help you determine if the behavior is addictive, a problematic behavior that is not an addiction or if it is normal behavior that is non-problematic and healthy. There are always red flags to watch out for and if you or anyone you know displays the following signs, then you may have a behavioral addiction on your hands:

  • You become dependent on the behavior as a means to cope with emotions in order to feel “normal”.
  • You spend the majority of your time engaging in this behavior without thinking about the effects or consequences of the outcome. 
  • You have a hard time cutting back even if you want to stop doing it. 
  • You continue to do so despite the mental and physical harm that could happen. 
  • You feel depressed, irritable, and show other withdrawal symptoms whenever the behavior is ceased or stopped. 
  • You neglect your work, school, family, and friends in order to engage more in this behavior.
  • You don’t really try to hide the extent of your behavioral problem. 

Types of Addiction

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2014, an estimated 21.5 million American children ages 12 years old or older have a significant problem with substance addiction. Among the most common substances abused by teens include uppers and downers but this is not the only thing that they are addicted to. Behavioral addictions are also very common among many individuals and here are the most common behaviors that many people are hooked on: Gambling Addiction Addiction to gambling is one that most resembles being addicted to alcohol and drugs. According to the American Psychiatric Association, gambling addiction or gambling disorder is classified as an addictive disorder that many Americans are suffering from. Studies show that when a person is addicted to gambling, the same areas in the brain affected by drugs and alcohol are also affected by gambling. That is why treating gambling disorder is usually included in the same therapy settings to those with substance abuse.  Gambling disorder is usually characterized by recurrent and persistent gambling behavior that often results in personal and social distress. You may be suffering from this addiction if you meet four or more of the following signs within a 12 month period:

  • You have a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to feel excited.
  • You have repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop, reduce, or control your gambling behavior. 
  • There is restlessness or irritability when you are being restricted or cut back from gambling. 
  • You gamble to relieve stress.
  • There is a preoccupation with gambling like how to get money to use for gambling and reliving past experiences with gambling.
  • You constantly lie to hide your gambling debts, involvement, and activities. 
  • You return to gambling even after monetary losses with the intention of gaining back what you have lost. 
  • You rely on others to help you get out of desperate financial situations caused by your gambling habits.
  • You jeopardize your own relationships, work, or education for the sake of gambling.

Hoarding Hoarding is classified as an Obsessive-Compulsive disorder that is identified as a persistent difficulty in parting with physical possessions no matter what its value is, the space one has, the living environment, money, and other resources are. It also associated with shopping addiction although there are no official diagnoses for this type of addiction.  Shopping Addiction Shopping may sound like a normal thing to do, but it can become an addictive behavior when it spins out of control. Shopping addiction is considered to be an Impulsive Control Disorder rather than an addiction. This usually happens when you purchase items in order to avoid feelings of stress but then feel guilty afterward. Having a closet full of clothes with price tags on them could be a sign that you are a shopaholic. This behavior is usually seen in women than men and can result in both personal and financial problems. Treatment for this condition usually involves counseling as well as behavioral therapy. Video Game Addiction The need to escape reality and indulge in fantasy is provided by video games. With newer versions of video games coming out, taking on the role of a character, living a virtual life, and the ability to communicate with other players, it is not surprising that many people are addicted to video games these days. In comparison to substance addiction, video game addiction may seem harmless but compulsively playing with video games can disrupt a person’s ability to connect with reality as well as having healthy relationships, keep up with their academics, responsibilities at work and making healthy choices to support their physical and mental health. If this behavior is not treated immediately, there is a big possibility that players can isolate themselves from the real world, lose their ability to function normally, and keep relationships with families and friends.  Food Addiction Eating is part of our lives; in fact, we need to eat in order to function and provide our bodies with the nutrients it needs. Though eating is a need, there are individuals who are prone to overeating or they eat simply because they are bored or for their enjoyment. People with food addiction cannot control their need to eat. They usually crave foods that are high in sugar, fats, or salt and usually feel happy while they are engaging in such activity. Over time, these individuals can develop a tolerance for food, the same characteristic of those who are addicted to substances. Because of this tolerance, they seek to eat more of their favorite dish or meal in order to experience that same “high”. Those who struggle with food addiction are usually obese. This type of addiction can also ruin relationships and usually leads to other physical and mental health problems.  Treatment Often time these behavioral addictions take a toll on people’s lives. Fortunately, treatments have been developed to treat these conditions and have been proven to be successful. If you suffer from any of these behavioral addictions, consulting a psychiatrist or psychologist who is skilled in this area can make a huge difference. Treatments for behavioral addiction may include:

  • Medications
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Individual counseling or couples counseling
  • Self-help groups

Behavioral addictions can be treated if you watch out for the signs early on. With proper treatment methods and a lot of hard work, you can overcome these addictions. Just make sure to get the help you need immediately. 

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