What are Behavioral Addictions?

Addictions Are Not Limited to Just Drugs

Addiction is not limited solely to drugs and alcohol. It is possible for an individual to develop an addiction to an activity such as sex, gambling, or eating. When an individual is recovering from addiction to substances, there is a danger of transferring the addictive behavior to another activity or behavior. These addictions can become just as powerful and damaging as alcohol or drug abuse.

Certain behaviors and actions can provide a sense of pleasure or gratification that can become addicting. These behaviors can become compulsive and continue despite the negative consequences they cause in an individual’s life. According to the National Institute of Health, “Each behavioral addiction is characterized by a recurrent pattern of behavior that has this essential feature within a specific domain.

The Repetitve Nature Helps Create This

The repetitive engagement in these behaviors ultimately interferes with functioning in other domains. In this respect, the behavioral addictions resemble substance use disorders.” Just like substance addictions or alcoholism, behavioral addictions “may exhibit chronic, relapsing patterns,” and can cause and individual’s life to become unmanageable.

The NIH explains, “Behavioral addictions and substance use disorders may have common cognitive features. Both pathological gamblers and individuals with substance use disorders typically discount rewards rapidly and perform disadvantageously on decision-making tasks.”

The Brain Can React to Behavior as much as it Does For Drugs

Certain behaviors can provide short-term rewards in the same manner as drugs and alcohol. An individual in recovery may feel as though engaging in a behavior, such as gambling or sex, is not harmful because it does not involve substances. However, the brain reacts to rewarding behaviors in much the same manner as drugs and alcohol, and may even cause withdrawal symptoms when the behavior is stopped. Dr. Jon Grant, in a 2016 Psychology Today article entitled What is a Behavioral Addiction? explains, “We now know that the brain can react to behaviors much as it does to drugs or alcohol.

Certain behaviors produce a strong reinforcement in the brain that makes us want to do them over and over again, even if they interfere with our lives. The reinforcement of the behaviors can be so strong that some people go through withdrawal when they stop the behavior, just as in drug and alcohol addiction. They may become agitated, have trouble sleeping, undergo personality changes, and be irritable.”

Rewarding behaviors such as exercising are wonderful ways to improve health in early recovery, but any behavior can become detrimental when an individual begins exhibiting addictive tendencies. In sobriety, we must find a sense of balance in our lives, rather than allowing our addiction to transfer to a gratifying activity or behavior.

Your life can become one of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help now and begin the rewarding journey of recovery from addiction and alcoholism. The Lakehouse Recovery Center, located on beautiful Lake Sherwood in Southern California, offers a wide variety of amenities, including yoga, rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking. For more information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 762-3707


Messages sent through this form are confidential. Required fields are marked with (*).

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.