Behavioral Addictions

What are Behavioral Addictions?

Behavioral AddictionsAddiction comes in many forms, and most of the time it’s in the form of physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Behavioral addictions involve the compulsive engagement in non-drug related behaviors. People who suffer from behavioral addictions, much like chemically dependent people, carry out these behaviors despite the negative emotional, mental, or financial consequences that may affect them or others.

An individual who engages in addictive behaviors finds pleasure in carrying out these actions. Much like those who abuse drugs and alcohol, people who live with behavioral addictions cannot stop engaging in these behaviors for an extended period of time without intervention or treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Behavioral Addictions

There are certain signs and symptoms that characterize a behavioral addiction.

If you or someone you love displays one or more of the following, treatment may be necessary:

  • Constant need to engage in the addictive behavior
  • Increasing the amount of times the person engages in the behavior
  • The inability to control the behavior or stop altogether
  • Spending most of the day planning on carrying out the act, engaging in it or recovering from the consequences
  • Neglecting home and work obligations to engage in the behavior
  • Becoming isolated from friends and family members
  • Still partaking in the addictive behavior despite the negative consequences
  • Feeling anxious, hostile, or irritable if the person cannot engage in the behaviors
  • Repeating the behavior more often in order to achieve the same “high”

Common Behavioral Addictions

Food addictionFood Addiction

Individuals who struggle with food addiction cannot control their compulsive eating habits. They typically crave and binge on foods that are unhealthy – high in sugar and fats, and they experience a “high” when eating. Much like drug addicts and alcoholics, people with a food addiction often become tolerant to these foods, and require more and more to reach the same “high”. Those who struggle with this form of addiction may also suffer from obesity, self-esteem issues, and other health related problems.

Other eating disorders like compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder, and bulimia have been linked to drug and alcohol abuse, and require comprehensive treatment interventions. We can provide comprehensive treatment plans that address both disorders simultaneously in order to ensure lasting recovery.

Gambling addictionGambling Addiction

Gambling addiction, also known as gambling disorder or problem gambling, is an addiction that affects a person’s life, job, finances and family life. People who are addicted to gambling do not have control over their actions, and are unable to stop when they want to. Gambling at casinos, online or betting on races or sports games are all normal activities, but once someone becomes addicted, it completely takes over their lives, and takes over their relationships, psychological and emotional well-being.

Signs of a gambling addiction include: 

  • Betting more money than you originally intended
  • Placing bets on a more frequent basis
  • Betting more money than you can actually pay
  • Experiencing feelings of aggression and irritability when you can’t gamble or are losing
  • Spending all your time thinking about gambling or partaking in gambling
  • Neglecting home and work responsibilities to go gamble

Gambling problems can also lead to an unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol. At Get Treatment, we can help you find the recovery program that best suits your individual needs and treats both addictions.

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 Sex and Love Addictions

Sex and love addictions can manifest in a number of ways, ranging from compulsive romantic patterns, risky sexual behaviors and harmful relationships that have negative consequences for the addict and the people they are involved with. Failed relationships, divorce, loss of child custody or job loss, legal issues and STD’s are just some of the harmful consequences that can result from love love addictionaddiction.

Sex and love addicts experience feelings of desperation as well as unreasonable and constant fears. They are scared of rejection and new or different experiences that make them vulnerable. They often don’t have experience in love, and instead wait around, wishing and hoping for it. Other love addicts constantly fail in their relationships because their fears sabotage everything. Others still find themselves in dangerous or unhealthy relationships that they are too afraid to let go of.

Some common characteristics of love addiction include:

  • Destructive relationship patterns
  • Feelings and actions of desperation surrounding relationships
  • Unhealthy or dangerous sexual behaviors
  • The need to be in a relationship in order to feel whole or worthy
  • Spending all their time searching for a relationship
  • Dedicating their entire life to a relationship for fear of losing it

At Get Treatment, we are dedicated to helping you understand and address the root causes of your love addiction and help you to learn the skills needed to change your destructive behaviors. Our dual diagnosis treatment programs are designed to treat co-occurring disorders in order to help you achieve full recovery.

Internet Addiction 

Internet addictionInternet Addiction Disorder (IAD), also known as problematic computer use, is a growing problem across the U.S. and the world. It has been shown to cause neurological problems, psychological issues and social problems. 

According to research, the symptoms that are most commonly seen with Internet addiction include:

  • Changes in mood and/or behavior
  • Becoming preoccupied with the Internet and other digital media
  • Being unable to control how much time is spent on the Internet
  • Needing more time online to achieve their desired mood
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they are not online
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Having problems with family, at work or at school because of the addiction
  • Continuing the behavior regardless of negative consequences

Internet addiction is progressive and it is unlikely to improve without professional intervention. Our addiction specialists can provide the help and guidance you’ll need to address all your addictions through dual diagnosis treatment.

Self Harm/Injury (Cutting) Addiction 

Self harm addiction

Self-harm or self-mutilation addiction typically refers to the act of cutting or burning oneself in order to prevent having to deal with certain feelings, to feel calm or to release certain emotions. Self-harmers or cutters partake in obsessive and compulsive behaviors that cause physical damage. This cutting can become an addiction for many as they crave the release that the act provides them.

Unfortunately, the feelings of calm only last a short amount of time. The person soon begins to feel guilty or ashamed of his or her actions, causing them to want to punish themselves by cutting again, thus leading to a vicious cycle.

Whether you self-harm as a means to cope with emotional trauma or to feel relief over something else you are struggling with, it can quickly become addictive. Through our dual diagnosis treatment programs we can help you address the underlying causes of your addiction and learn new coping mechanisms to deal with your emotions more effectively. 

Shopping Addiction 

Shopping addictionShopping addiction, also known as compulsive shopping is characterized by a number of different characteristics. Shopaholics think about shopping constantly, to the point where it consumes their daily lives. The act of buying things gives them pleasure; it releases endorphins and dopamine, and that feeling becomes very addictive.

Signs that someone is a shopaholic include: 

  • Constantly thinking about shopping
  • Buying new things all the time
  • The entire day is consumed with shopping – the addict plans their day around it
  • Shopping to cope with feelings of anger or depression
  • Shopping to feel less guilty about a previous haul
  • They neglect other responsibilities in favor of shopping
  • Relationships with friends, family, spouse and children suffer as a result of the addiction
  • The shopping becomes unmanageable. The person is unable to stop or limit themselves to only buying certain items.
  • Financial troubles result from compulsive shopping addiction – spending more than they can afford

CNN reported in 2012 that about 6 percent of women and 5.5 percent of men struggle with a shopping addiction. Most of these compulsive shoppers work hard at hiding their behavior from others. They may lie about where they are and what they are doing and even hide the evidence of their latest purchases. All of these behaviors can cause tension with significant others, leading to fights. Shopping addiction and other disorders like alcoholism and eating disorders often co-occur. These conditions must be treatment with a comprehensive and integrated treatment program.

Behavioral Addictions and Substance Abuse

A number of scientific studies have revealed a significant link between behavioral addictions and substance abuse. One specific study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that a large number of students participating in Collegiate Recovery Programs who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions, also reported dealing with or recovering from behavioral addictions such eating disorders and sex and love addiction.

The survey found that 71.6% of participants reported being in recovery from alcoholism, and 72.6% from drug addiction. Behavioral addictions also played a role in their recovery. At least 12% of survey participants reported currently partaking in at least one behavioral addiction.

Survey results showed:

  • 15.6% were struggling with or recovering from eating disorders
  • 9.5% had a sex/love addiction
  • 10.5% partook in self harm or self mutilation
  • 3.1% had a shopping addiction

Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders

When someone has been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, the recommended treatment method consists of both medical and therapeutic approaches. These treatments are designed to addresses both the substance abuse disorder and the behavioral addiction simultaneously. Dual diagnosis treatment will address the underlying causes of addiction, as well as treat the symptoms of both disorders. At our featured rehab centers, clinical experts will create a specialized treatment program that is tailored to fit the specific needs of each patient.


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