Behavioral addictions share many similarities with drug addictions, but they are often harder for people to understand. Substance addictions have a physical component. Drugs and alcohol are known to be physically addicting, and they can also cause psychological dependence. Behavioral addictions are psychological addictions. An individual can become addicted to certain behaviors and resulting feelings.
What Are Behavioral Addictions?
A behavioral addiction can be defined as repeatedly engaging in a behavior despite negative consequences. There’s an inability to stop or regulate the behavior, even when it starts to have negative effects on your life. It’s also common to use the behavior as a coping mechanism. When you feel down or stressed, you engage in the behavior to feel better.
The most common behavioral addictions are:
- The internet or video games
- Food or binge eating
It’s important to know that any activity that you find pleasurable can become a behavioral addiction. You can also become addicted to risky behaviors. This may include risky sex, gambling, skydiving, or racing. If you are addicted to risky behaviors, it’s not the behavior itself you become addicted to. It’s the excitement and thrill-seeking aspect.
Comparing Substance and Behavioral Addictions
In substance addiction, the high the substance gives causes psychological dependence. A similar high occurs with behavioral addictions. These addictions are generally behaviors that are pleasurable. These behaviors release serotonin and dopamine in the brain similar to substance use. This gives the person a sense of euphoria or well being. They feel happy, excited, and like their problems have temporarily gone away.
Cravings are another similarity. When something is pleasurable, the brain encourages you to repeat the behavior. In substance addiction, you crave the substance and the high associated with it. With behavioral addictions, you crave the behavior and the positive feelings it gives you. You may find yourself thinking about the behavior obsessively or feeling like you have to do it.
It’s common for someone with a substance addiction to also have a behavioral addiction. Those who are addicted to stimulants like cocaine, for example, might be more likely to also struggle with a sex addiction.
One reason people develop multiple addictions is that they begin to use one addiction to cope with another one. They may start out with a substance addiction, and use a behavioral addiction to cope with sadness or anxiety when the effects of the drug wear off or they are unable to obtain their drug of choice. Alternatively, they may begin with a behavioral addiction, and use substances to cope with guilt and negative consequences of the addiction.
The Moderation Treatment Model
With many behavioral addictions, abstinence is not a reasonable goal. An initial period of abstinence can be part of addiction treatment, but long-term abstinence may not be reasonable. These addictions are often things we regularly engage in during our normal lives. This means the process and goals of treatment must be different from those of substance abuse.
In behavioral addiction treatment, the focus is on moderating or controlling the behavior. For example, instead of never shopping again, you may create a budget and learn how to manage your shopping to prevent negative life consequences.
One of the key aspects of a behavioral rehab program is addressing the underlying causes of the behavior. Do you engage in the behavior when you feel low self-esteem? Sadness? Boredom? Therapy is crucial for treating behavioral addictions. Learning alternative ways to deal with your feelings and improving your sense of self can help you manage your behavior. Learning to control your behavior is a process of trial, error, and practice. With treatment and persistence, you’ll learn how to moderate your behavior over time.
Behavioral Addiction Treatment at Serenity Light Recovery
If you are struggling with a behavioral addiction, contact Serenity Light Recovery today. At our treatment center in Angleton, Texas, you’ll find many rehab program options, so you can get the best treatment for your addiction. Our wide range of therapy services will help you make the progress you need to get your life back on track. Contact us today at 855.658.6109 to learn more.