Behavioral Addictions

behavioral addiction
Category: addiction help

While substance abuse’s widespread effects are well-known and heartbreaking, behavioral addictions can have an equally destructive impact on your health, relationships and responsibilities. For example, compulsive gambling, eating, shopping, video gaming, social media and pornography use stem from an urge to engage in rewarding activities despite adverse consequences.

Common Types of Behavioral Addictions

Most behavioral addictions start as harmless hobbies. They can quickly become problematic because they activate the brain’s reward system much like drugs and alcohol do. The release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine reinforces the behavior and creates a pleasurable sensation. As your tolerance builds, you will need to keep doing the activity more frequently to achieve the same level of satisfaction.

In the absence of healthy coping mechanisms, addictive behaviors can help you relieve stress, anxiety or other emotional issues. They may provide a temporary escape or distraction from negative feelings, creating a cycle of dependence. As a behavioral addiction escalates, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you are not doing the activity, forcing you to continue gambling, eating, shopping, scrolling through social media, playing video games or watching pornography to maintain the desired excitement or relief.

Why Do Behavioral Addictions Occur?

Behavioral addictions, also called process addictions, arise from a complex interplay of psychological, biological, genetic, environmental and social factors. Like with a substance use disorder, your brain’s reward circuit can reinforce the activity until it becomes a habit you feel you must continue to avoid adverse consequences.

Process addictions can have severe impacts on various aspects of your life.

  • Relationships: Compulsive behaviors often lead to secrecy, lying and emotional withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Finances: Process addictions like shopping and gambling can be financially draining, leading to debt and financial instability.
  • Employment: These activities can affect your professional life, resulting in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and potential job loss.
  • Mental health: Chronic engagement in addictive behaviors can increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental health disorders.

The Path to Recovery

Breaking the cycle of process addiction is essential for reclaiming control over your life. A successful treatment regimen typically involves a combination of strategies.

  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you identify triggers, develop healthier coping mechanisms and change harmful thought patterns.
  • Support groups: Behavioral addiction support groups provide valuable structure and accountability. Each member can benefit from others’ advice and wisdom.
  • Medication: While not always necessary, medications can sometimes treat underlying or co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety.
  • Lifestyle changes: Incorporating healthy activities, such as exercise and hobbies, can replace the time spent on addictive behaviors.

Overcoming Process Addiction

Behavioral addictions are potentially severe disorders that require comprehensive strategies to overcome. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we understand the complexities of self-destructive behavior and provide hospital-based treatment to address the disease of addiction and the underlying emotional and psychological issues. Our friendly admissions staff is here to answer all your questions.