The term behavioral addiction refers to mental health disorders where a person does a particular behavior over and over again, even when the behavior harms them. It’s as if they just can’t resist engaging in the behavior. There are several common behavioral addictions (also known as process addictions) including gambling addictions, hoarding, shopping addictions, alcoholism and other types of substance abuse and kleptomania (impulsive stealing). While the compulsive, unruly behaviors that are often associated with process addictions may seem uncontrollable there are effective addiction treatment options out there for those who suffer from them.
What are the Characteristics of a Behavioral Addiction?
The most recent version of the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) actually lists only one behavioral addiction – gambling – three behavioral compulsions – hoarding disorder, trichotillomania and excoriation – and one impulse control disorder – kleptomania. But all behavioral addictions have common traits and those who have been around substance abuse will find the following factors familiar:
- Obsession; preoccupation with the behavior
- Little or no ability to control the behavior
- A tolerance to the behavior develops so the behavior is needed more often or in greater intensity to get the desired effect
- Withdrawals if the behavior is not done
- Adverse psychological consequences occur from doing the behavior such as symptoms of depression or anxiety when the behavior is not done
Both mental health professionals and addiction experts debate the existence and diagnostic criteria for other behavioral addictions such as sex, videogame, Internet, and porn addictions but evidence has grown substantially to support those behaviors as diagnosable addictions.
What Causes Behavioral Addictions?
There are quite a few possible factors that could contribute to the development of behavioral addictions. These include an individual’s personality, any substance abuse and even genetics. You may have heard the term “addictive personality” when someone is talking about addiction, especially with drugs and alcohol, treatment and recovery. There is no clinical criteria that defines an “addictive personality,” but research has shown that people who suffer from substance abuse or behavioral addictions tend to share common personality traits. People who score high on personality and behavioral assessments for impulsivity and thrill seeking are much more likely to suffer from a process addiction. Also, people who score low on tests evaluating their desire and ability to avoid harm are more likely to suffer from a behavioral addiction.
Another strong possible factor that may contribute to a developing a behavioral addiction is substance abuse. Researchers have studied the relationship between substance abuse and gambling disorders in depth. Their findings have shown that addictive gamblers are approximately 3.8 times more likely to develop alcoholism or at the very least, problem drinking. But it’s unclear whether a gambling addiction makes someone more likely to engage in substance abuse or if substance abuse increases the risk of developing a gambling addiction or if the two conditions are caused by some other, unknown factor. There is definitely still work to be done in this arena.
Treatment for Behavioral Addictions
The type of behavioral addiction treatment program an addict would need depends on the specific addiction. A gambling addiction requires abstinence as part of the addiction recovery program, while an addiction to overeating requires relearning behaviors so that the person can change negative patterns and eat in a healthy way. The staff at the facility you choose should carefully assess the individual’s situation and addiction and then determine the most effective behavioral addiction treatment under the unique circumstances.
We make it our business at Restore LA to understand every aspect of addictions and addiction recovery. Community support, luxury accommodations, outdoor activities, holistic treatments and volunteering, all supported by diverse forms of therapy and licensed professionals, is what you will find here with us.