For most people, the word addiction is most applicable to the topic of substance abuse. This is understandable when considering the amount of collected facts and information on drug addiction and alcoholism. Research performed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), estimated that about 24 million Americans over the age of 12 suffer from a substance disorder. Yet, many of these addicts also suffer from a form of behavioral addiction.

What is a Behavioral Addiction?

A behavioral addiction is characterized by the compulsion to engage in non-drug or alcohol related behavior, in which to feel a sense of reward. Similar to substance abuse disorders, behavioral addictions are often accompanied by various negative consequences. Although not every behavioral addiction is associated with substance abuse, it is not uncommon for an addict to engage in compulsive behaviors in order to replace their drug habit. By acquiring the ability to recognize the different types of behavioral addictions, you can learn what to avoid and when to seek help.

Commonly Treated Behavioral Addictions

Gambling addictionGambling Addiction

An addiction to gambling is a vicious cycle. It is a constant chase for a temporary, difficult to achieve, high. The symptoms of a gambling addiction are very similar to those of substance abuse. These symptoms may include: craving the activity, gambling when financially unstable, experiencing highs as a result of engagement in the activity, gambling in secret, and having trouble monitoring the habit. Occasional gambling can be enjoyable, but doing it in excess can have serious consequences. If left untreated, a gambling addict can lose everything.

Sex Addiction

Although it is challenging to diagnose, a sex addiction is an obsessive sexual craving that has the ability to effect an addict’s overall quality of life. The symptoms of a sex addiction vary, but they are usually characterized by a loss of control and complete disregard for negative consequences. Hypersexual activity involves engaging in sex, pornography, masturbation, and other sexual behaviors to excess. Sex addiction can have a detrimental impact on an addict’s family, career, and overall well-being.

Internet Addiction

In the present day, it is not uncommon to spend hours online. However, it is possible to be too engaged in the internet. Those suffering from this form of addiction will use the internet as an escape from the outside world. Internet addiction becomes problematic once it starts to effect an addict’s work or relationships. Similar to most addictions, internet addiction is also commonly associated with feelings of guilt or shame.

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Shopping/Spending Addiction

Both men and women can struggle with an addiction to shopping, although it is more common in women. Symptoms of shopping addiction can include: spending outside one’s means, shopping to ease negative emotions, losing control of one’s behavior, experiencing a high while shopping, and feeling a sense of discomfort when abstaining from the behavior. If not treated accordingly, a shopping addiction can have serious financial consequences.

Exercise Addiction

Too much of something good, has the potential to be bad – this is especially true in the case of over exercising. Individuals with an exercise addiction will have a compulsive desire to exercise excessively. Not only does this have the potential to overtake a person’s life, but it can also cause damaging health consequences. Exercise in moderation is recommended, but exercising to excess will almost always do much more harm than good.

Food/Eating Addiction

Food addiction, binge eating, and an overeating disorder are problems that affect roughly 3 percent of adults in the United States. Food addictionAlthough food addiction is more closely related to depression than addiction, some symptoms are similar to those that accompany substance use disorders. Some of the many symptoms of food addiction include: eating to experience a high or temporarily ease emotions, binge eating alone, and feeling guilty after binging. Similar to exercise addiction, this too can cause harmful effects to a person’s health.

Specialized Behavioral Addiction Treatment

Although treatment for behavioral addictions will vary depending on the issue at hand, the overall approach will remain the same. Much like treating drug or alcohol dependence, it is necessary to find the root cause of the addiction in order to develop an individualized treatment regimen. For many, the behavioral ailment may be accompanied by a substance use disorder. Regardless, the solution will involve professional support and rehabilitation.

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