What You Need to Know About Behavioral Addictions

behavioral addictionAlso known as process addiction, behavioral addictions – including gambling, shopping, exercise and sex addiction — are common among people struggling with substance use disorders. In fact, more than 70% of those with gambling disorder have an alcohol problem, and nearly 40% have a drug abuse problem.

When you think of addiction, you likely think of drugs and alcohol. However, if you just substitute the word “behavior” for “substance,” you’ll see that the definition extends to all types of dependencies. Whether it’s sex, shopping or exercise, these activities can become problematic for individuals who engage in them repeatedly to experience a “high” – and despite any negative consequences. Typically, in behavioral addictions, the person finds the behavior rewarding psychologically while engaged in the activity but may later feel guilt or remorse from the consequences. And like substance addictions, people living with behavioral addictions are often unable to stop without proper treatment and intervention.

Types of Behavioral Addictions

While not all of these behavioral additions are recognized as true addictions, they are among the most common.

  • Gambling addiction: People who are addicted to gambling share many of the same characteristics of alcoholics and substance abusers, both in terms of their behavior and their brains. In fact, studies show that gambling addictions light up the same areas of the brain as drug addictions.
  • Sex addiction: Also known as sexual compulsivity, hypersexuality and hypersexual disorder, sex addiction is a preoccupation with sexual fantasy and activity. Similar to traditional addiction, people addicted to sex experience loss of control and disregard for risks and consequences.
  • Technology addiction: Sometimes called Internet addiction, Internet use disorder (IUD) or Internet addiction disorder (IAD), technology addiction involves the inability to control the use of various types of technology, including the Internet, smartphones, tablets and social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
  • Shopping addiction: This disorder goes by numerous names, including compulsive buying disorder (CBD), excessive shopping, pathological buying, oniomania and “shopaholism.” In general, compulsive shopping impacts more women than men, and can result in both financial and personal problems.
  • Exercise addiction: Also known as exercise dependence, compulsive exercise, obligatory exercise and anorexia athletica, exercise addiction is often seen in people with eating disorders. Exercise addiction may be hard to spot, especially since physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Are You At Risk of a Cross Addiction?

A cross addiction or substitute addiction is basically when you trade in one addiction for another. For example, someone can go from drinking to gambling addiction or cocaine to exercise addiction. While cross addictions most commonly occur in those newly recovered, they can happen to anyone and at any point of recovery. Here are some warning signs:

  • Tolerance: more and more to get the same “buzz”.
  • Withdrawal: symptoms include anxiety, irritability, restlessness and insomnia.
  • Continuance: continuing the behavior in spite of negative consequences.
  • Lack of control: numerous failed attempts to stop or cut back.
  • Reduction in other activities: engaging in behavior rather than participating in favorite hobbies and/or time with family and friends.
  • Time: excessive amount of time thinking about, planning for and recovering from behavior.

Supporting Your Recovery
Segue Recovery Support offers recovery services to keep clients engaged after primary treatment, and our Recovery Support Specialists can connect you with counseling services that can help you avoid any cross addictions and continue on a healthy road to recovery. For information, contact us at 866-905-4550.