Typically when a person hears the word “addiction”, they think of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. So, what are behavioral addictions?
Also referred to as process addictions, behavioral addictions are non-drug addictions that share similar attributes, when it comes to certain behaviors. The individual becomes “addicted” to the feeling they achieve when engaging in non-drug related activities. Looking further into the question of what are behavioral addictions, we look at several activities involved.
The individual continues to seek the rewarding feeling, despite any and all negative consequences, again, much like drug addiction. Some of the more common behavioral addictions are gambling, video gaming and internet, shopping, eating, exercising, and sexual activity. Much like drug addiction, behavioral addiction creates symptoms such as craving, impaired control over said behavior, tolerance, withdrawal, and high rates of relapse.
According to an article written by Christopher M. Olsen, PhD., “There is a high degree of overlap between brain regions involved in processing natural rewards and drugs of abuse.” This has lead researchers to believe that the same regions of the brain are affected by substance addiction and non-substance addiction.
How, then, are behavioral addictions treated?
Fortunately, there are treatment programs that focus on behavioral addiction recovery. Typically, a combination of individual and group therapy is used. In addition, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be an outstanding treatment tool, and is implemented in most, if not all, programs. Behavioral therapy teaches people techniques they can use when they are experiencing a compulsion. The 12 Step program has also been adapted to help persons struggling with addiction. If you or someone you know are combating a non-drug addiction, please consider seeking professional help. There are treatment options available to help you find freedom.
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Olsen, C. M. (2011). Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions. Neuropharmacology, 61(7), 1109–1122.