Psychological addictions might seem like little more than tabloid filler or some fodder for late-night comedy routines. Doctors and addiction counselors, however, increasingly understand that compulsive gambling, sex, eating particular kinds of food, playing video games, or constantly updating your status on a social network are genuine addictions that can respond to professional treatment. Research into psychological addictions is not conclusive but diagnoses and treatments for psychological addictions are being developed.


If you’re worried that you have a psychological addiction problem, you should look for common early signs of addictions, such as loss of sleep or irritability if you stop the activity that you feel is the source of your addiction. You are probably experiencing a psychological addiction if you are drawn back to an activity even though you know it’s causing some harm (for example, you miss work to play videogames, or you gamble away money that you’ve budgeted for food). If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one is addicted, look to see if they’re hiding something or becoming defensive or withdrawn. Keep in mind that habits are different than addictions. One possible sign of a psychological addiction is that you or the person close to you starts to treat a habit as if it’s an obligation.


Treating Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral specialists might ask if your actions lead to functionally impairment in social settings before they diagnose you with a psychological addiction. This might include determining whether you become irritable or depressed and you’re unable to interact with other people if you are away from the activity for too long. They will examine whether your psychological addiction provides some reinforcement that encourages you to continue participating in the activity. For example, reinforcements might include winning money if you’re a gambler, experiencing the pleasure of an orgasm if you’re addicted to sexual activity, or possessing new things if you’re a compulsive shopper.


Researchers are also looking at whether certain personality types are more prone to psychological addictions. If you’re naturally shy, or you’re depressed or tired, the lift you get from certain behaviors may be a precursor to an addiction to that behavior. People who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are frequently diagnosed with other psychological problems, such as depression or anxiety disorder.  Likewise, if you show signs of depression, you may be more likely to experience a simultaneous psychological addiction.


As your psychological addiction grows, you’re likely to experience near-physical symptoms such as cravings for more of the activity, a loss of control over your participation in the activity and a desire for greater amounts of it. If you’re a compulsive gambler, you may, for example, play several slot machines at once. At that level, physicians and therapists will recommend behavioral therapy that helps you to quit the activity and, more importantly, to stay away from the activity.  

Psychological addictions aren’t as well understood as physical substance addictions, but they can create dependencies that lead to chronic adverse behaviors. If you feel that you’re losing control over an action, contact a rehabilitation professional at         Treatment Now for diagnosis and treatment options.

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