What Are Behavioral Addictions?

Behavioral addictions are, in short, addictions to certain behaviors. Instead of alcohol or other substances, it’s a compulsive behavior that a person struggles with. Accordingly, the same “reward” chemicals are released in the brain, but a behavioral addiction doesn’t involve outside substances.

There are other terms to describe behavioral addictions, including:

  • Impulse control disorders
  • Process addictions
  • Impulsive-compulsive behaviors

Moreover, most behavioral addictions aren’t “bad.” For example, someone may be addicted to physical exercise. Although exercise is a good thing, being addicted to exercise can produce bad consequences in a person’s life.

What Are the Effects of Behavioral Addictions?

Behavioral addictions don’t always produce the same physical effects that come with substance abuse. But they have other similarities. First, there are the emotional and mental effects that are common to most addictions. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Lying
  • Denial
  • Depression and/or anxiety

Second, there are also physical, social, and behavioral effects, which could include:

  • Lagging in work, school, or other life events
  • Tension with friends and family
  • Poor quality or lack of sleep
  • Self-neglect or lack of self-care

In the case of sex addictions, a person may suffer from STIs/STDs. Also, those with internet and gaming addictions can develop physical pain as a result of their habits. These could range from pain in the hands, wrists, headaches, or chronic neck and back pain. Because the behavior is compulsive and out of one’s control, these physical and mental effects stay untreated. This is where addiction recovery come in.

What’s the Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Behavioral Addictions?

There are a number of studies that discuss the connection between behavioral addictions and substance use disorders. One recent study concluded that recovery programs and education about addictions can play a positive role in preventing behavioral addictions, including internet addiction.

Just as treatment and educational programs can play a role for behaviors as they do for substances, all addictions are fundamentally similar. By definition, addiction is a lack of control over one’s behavior. Those with behavioral addictions feel the urge or compulsion to do in a certain behavior. And the same goes for substance addictions. They have the compulsion to consume or use harmful substances.   

Furthermore, another similarity between addictions is a person’s willingness to commit illegal acts. They do so to get more of a substance or act on more of a behavior. These tendencies look like:

  • Lying
  • Deceiving family or friends to collaborate with them
  • Burglary
  • Stealing money
  • Prostitution
  • Or other desperate measures

What Are the Most Common Types of Behavioral Addictions?

Some behavioral addictions may be very easy to spot. On the other hand, others can be more difficult. What’s the difference between a behavioral addiction and a hobby you just really love? It’s important to remember dependence and compulsion. These are two indicators of a behavioral disorder or addiction. With a hobby or something you really enjoy, you are not in compulsion to do it. Moreover, you can remain in control of yourself.

Some of the most common non-substance addictions can include:

  • Social media
  • Internet
  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Eating too much or too little food
  • Kleptomania (compulsive stealing)
  • Sex, pornography
  • Video or computer gaming
  • Physical exercise
  • Risk-taking or adrenaline-producing activities

Again, the addictive part of the above behaviors is how compulsive they are. Are they a recurrent pattern of behavior that interferes with a person’s functioning in daily life?

What Are the Risk Factors for Behavioral Addictions and Substance Addictions?

First, addictive behaviors often develop as a result of a combination of risk factors. In other words, risk factors are experiences that make a person more likely to start an addictive cycle. Second, the more of these “risk factors” a person has, the more likely they are to develop substance use or behavioral addictions. Some of the more common risk factors include:

  • Abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Undeveloped social skills
  • Exposure to poverty
  • Premature access to drugs or alcohol
  • Peer pressure or social insecurities
  • Witnessing domestic violence or crime

Third, remember that behavioral addictions and substance abuse disorders are not determined by only one of the above. In most cases, there are a combination of factors that increase a person’s vulnerability.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Behavioral Addiction?

Do you think that you or a loved one is struggling with a behavioral addiction with substance abuse? Pay attention to the following:

  • Inability to cease the activity or behavior despite bad consequences
  • Dependence on the behavior or substance as coping
  • Hyper-focused on the activity or substance
  • Neglects school, work, or family to engage in the behavior or substance use
  • Withdrawals such as depression, irritability, or anxiety occur behavior or substance is stopped
  • Lying or in being in denial about the extent of the problem

Remember that if compulsive behaviors become a priority, it’s easy to fall into addiction in many ways.

How to Treat Behavioral Addictions and Substance Abuse

People who have behavioral addiction or disorders like depression or anxiety are more likely to develop substance addictions. Nevertheless, you can experience healing with the right treatment plan and resources.

At Pinnacle Recovery, behavioral addictions are addressed alongside a substance abuse addiction. Our professional team helps diagnose the psychological and emotional issues. In turn, these conditions could be influencing your addictions, such as substance abuse.

To learn more about how to heal your substance abuse and behavioral addictions, contact one of Pinnacle Recovery’s staff today. There’s no better time than the present to start your recovery journey.