With a title like this you’re probably wondering how drug treatment might be able to assist withnon-drug addictions. Well, technically they can’t. Yet, in many cases, those with alcohol and drug addictions, also have other types of addictions – to sex, work, food, shopping, or gambling. These are known as behavioral or process addictions, and this article will provide a deeper explanation of these lesser known addictions.
As just mentioned, addiction can take on other forms than those with drugs and alcohol. In fact, any behavior can become an addiction, particularly if an individual has lost power over it.
In these cases, the activation of the brain’s reward system is the key to the problems. Although drugs and alcohol can have a physical and psychological addiction, it is possible to develop an addiction to other behaviors and any activity that become the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities.
Exposure to these behaviors, just as exposure to rewarding drugs, facilitates the cycle of addiction. Behavioral addictions, such as shopping and gambling, are also known as process addictions.
For this reason, the American Psychological Association (APA) now recognizes almost any behavior that becomes compulsive and that initiates the cycle of addiction can be diagnosed as an addiction.
Behavioral Addiction Physiological Symptoms
- An inability to abstain from the behavior
- Impairment in behavioral control
- Craving or hunger for the behavior, just as one would crave drugs
- The diminished recognition of severe problems as a result of the repeated behavior
- A dysfunctional emotional response.
Now, it’s true that drug treatment is not going to “treat” an addiction to gambling. However, it can offer education on how addictions develop, new coping mechanisms to replace behavior that perpetuates addiction, and new thinking patterns.
Drug addiction treatment can offer education on compulsions and how to resist those compulsions so that they don’t become a pattern of self-destruction and ill health.
Certainly, compulsions for certain behavior are similar to the compulsions that drive drug use or drinking.
A compulsion begins when there is a loss of control and an individual spends large amounts of time engaging in activity related to behavior, that to the point where he or she is neglecting social, occupational, or family responsibilities.
For instance, one 35-year-old man says that gambling sort of snuck up on him. At a time when he was feeling a lot of shame, the high of gambling was the perfect fix for his broken spirit. Gambling became such an intense experience that all of the sudden he couldn’t stop playing. He began to gamble when he told others he wouldn’t, even waking up in the middle of the night to gamble online.
He was thinking about gambling at work, at home, and with friends. Over time, he even quit his job to make gambling a full time experience. It became a compulsive behavior that easily masked the pain of loneliness, fear, depression, and confusion.
Even though the APA has recognized behavioral addictions in the latest version of their clinical references, these addiction types are slow to be fully recognized as true addictions in the mental health field. However, the acknowledgement of how the addiction cycle plays a role in the development of these behaviors by the APA will facilitate treating these addictions effectively. For instance, treatment methods for a behavioral addiction are similar to treating an alcohol or drug addiction. However, typically, there are rehabilitative centers that focus strictly on behavioral addictions. For instance, sexual addiction is treated by mental health professionals that specialize in that field and at facilities which treat others struggling with the same addiction. No matter the type of addiction, however, treatment begins with a mental health assessment.
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