Are Behaviors Addicting?

Addictions Can Be To Things Other Than Drugs

The word addiction generally conjures up ideas of substance abuse: Alcoholism, drug addiction, and the like, that is marked by a physical dependence on the substance of choice. However, behaviors can be highly addicting as well. Common behavioral addictions, also known as process addictions, include gambling, sex, shopping, and eating disorders, among many others. In each of these cases, the behavior acts as a drug for the addicted person.

Addiction is a disease of the brain that is marked by abnormal chemical responses to certain pleasurable behaviors. The brain’s reward-seeking ventral tegmental area releases a chemical called dopamine in response to pleasure. Dopamine travels to the nucleus accumbens, the region of the brain responsible for our emotions and motivation. It is here that dopamine produces a surge of euphoria, causing us to repeat the pleasurable behavior. Thus, the chemical pathway of addiction is established.

What, though, is the difference between eating too much at Thanksgiving dinner and developing an eating disorder such as binging? The answer is, compulsion. When we’re addicted to a particular behavior, we’re obsessed with it: We’re completely dominated by thoughts of when, how, and how much we can satisfy our craving. We lie about how much we engage in our addictive behavior, or how much we spend on it. We also scheme about how to hide our behavior from others.

Behaviors Can Be Addicting

Addiction leads us to take extreme risks. If we have a gambling addiction, for instance we might continue placing bets well past the point of reason. We may gamble away our possessions, even our home; we simply cannot stop gambling. The same might apply to a shopping addiction, in which we spend so much on merchandise that we ruin our credit and can’t pay our bills.

We become angry and irritable when we can’t engage in our addictive behavior. If we have an addiction to gaming, social media, or the Internet, we may stay up long hours at night, or spend our days glued to our phone or computer, at the expense of our other obligations.

In theory, nearly any behavior can become an addiction. Many people are addicted to exercising, tanning, or cleaning, for example. A great many people are cross-addicted to other behaviors or substances as well, and have co-occurring mental disorders, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.

Treatment For Behavioral Addictions

Many forms of treatment are available for behavioral addictions. Cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step groups, and inpatient treatment programs are all particularly helpful in these types of addictions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You are not alone, and with treatment, you can recover.

The Lakehouse Treatment Center understands the worlds of active addiction and active recovery. Years of comprehensive experience have helped us build a unique program focused on changing lives and rebuilding families. From detox to sober living, The Lakehouse program focuses on learning how to live and have fun again- a treatment experience like no other. Call us anytime: 877.762.3707


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