Behavioral addictions are often referred to as process addictions or non-substance addictions. This type of addiction can result in many of the same adverse effects as drug and alcohol addictions. Behavioral addictions are associated with impulse control. Impulses cause an individual to engage in behaviors compulsively. As a result, this can lead to negative personal consequences that will severely affect a person’s life. Understanding behavioral addictions are vital to providing effective treatment.
Most behavioral addictions are activities in which people participate on a regular and sometimes infrequent basis. For the most part, these behaviors cause extreme unmanageability.
When most individuals engage in the behaviors mentioned above, there may be a “rush” or “high” associated with it. However, this does not result in compulsive and uncontrollable repetition of the behavior. There are several signs of behavioral addiction, many of which are parallel to the symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction.
The signs of behavioral and substance addictions are very similar in nature. By definition, an addiction is the state of enslavement to a habit or practice of something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming. In behavioral addiction, contrary to some substance dependence, it is the psychological dependence that creates the addiction and related compulsive behaviors.
- Obsession, or constant thoughts of the behavior.
- Continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences, risky situations, and poor performance of responsibilities.
- Compulsive engagement of the behavior or inability to stop despite a desire to quit.
- Cessation of the behavior causes irritability, cravings to resume the behavior, restlessness, and depression.
- Denial of addiction and issues resulting from the behavior.
- Concealment of the behavior from family and others close to the addict.
- Amnesia regarding the behavior.
- Depression, even when engaging in the behaviors.
Most of these signs are indicative of addiction, regardless of the subject (i.e.) substances or behaviors.
How Can Behaviors Become Addictive?
When people engage in pleasurable or risky behaviors, they experience an immediate response of either a euphoric or adrenaline rush. When people feel a rush of euphoria surrounding any particular activity, the repetition of that activity is reinforced. This is through the stimulation of survival instincts like eating and having sex. Necessary for sustenance and procreation, eating and sex are a vital part of human survival. However, the stimulus and immediate reward resulting from engaging in these activities are addictive for some.
The release of dopamine in the brain produces the euphoric effects one feels when doing things like eating and having sex. As with drug addiction, when dopamine is released at higher than normal levels, the reinforcement to repeat the behavior is more significant. Natural behaviors like eating and having sex produce lower levels of euphoria than those associated with drug addiction. However, the behavior is intoxicatingly addictive for many people who suffer from behavioral addictions.
Understanding Behavioral Addictions is Vital to Effective Treatment
Other behaviors like gambling, gaming, cutting, and shopping carry with them a risk that produces adrenaline (epinephrine) rush, which also stimulates dopamine release. Responsible for the “fight or flight” mode associated with stressful or exciting activities, an adrenaline rush may cause one to experience things like rapid heart rate, sweating, increased heart rate, and dilation of pupils. Some of these effects are mildly similar to those produced by stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. An adrenaline rush acts as the body’s natural stimulant to prepare itself for action. Often, this feeling can be addictive for many people, even those who are not considered to be addicts. For example, “adrenaline junkies,” are individuals who seek out risky thrills like skydiving.
Everyone wants to do things that produce pleasure, as it is a part of human nature. Also, it’s a part of the brain’s natural reward process to encourage life-sustaining habits. This process is usually not problematic. However, those who are at risk for addiction and compulsive behavior often quickly develop addictions to seemingly normal behaviors.
Who is at Risk for Behavioral Addictions?
Over the course of an individual’s lifetime, he or she will likely engage in many activities that are common subjects of addiction, like shopping, having sex, using the internet, gambling, and eating. The process of classifying those who are more at risk for developing behavioral addictions is similar to that of analyzing why some people who drink alcohol or use drugs become addicted, and others do not.
Behavioral Addiction Can Be Treated
When an individual suffers from addiction, there is typically an underlying cause. Like with drugs and alcohol, the most effective means of overcoming addiction is to get to the cause.
At A Forever Recovery, we understand that addiction is most often a symptom of underlying issues. These issues may drive a person to engage in destructive behaviors compulsively. This is why it is imperative to treat the individual and heal the mind, body, and spirit, facilitating the necessary empowerment and awareness to reclaim a happy and healthy life.
Any behavior can be addictive and dangerous when a person loses control of his or her impulses. Understanding this gives significant insight into the importance of healing the individual.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a behavioral addiction, please call us now at our toll-free number to speak with one of our trained counselors. We understand how hopeless addiction feels. Call now to learn more about understanding behavioral addictions.