Drug and alcohol abuse problems are widely known as common addictions, but many may not know that behavioral addictions exist as well. In fact, they can be just as troubling as other addictions.


Behavioral addictions are defined as “several behaviors, besides psychoactive substance ingestion, [which] produce short-term reward that may engender persistent behavior despite knowledge of adverse consequences, i.e., diminished control over the behavior.”


Gambling, internet, pornography, sex, work, exercise, shopping, compulsive hoarding, and video game addictions are some of the more prevalent behavioral addictions. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia fall under this category as well.


It could be easy to dismiss certain behavioral addictions as non-threatening if unfamiliar with their true consequences. For example, someone may view a shopping addiction as less dangerous than a drug addiction, simply based on the fact that drugs come with the possibility of overdose and death. While it makes sense that no one can physically overdose and die directly from shopping, the addiction can come with the same negative consequences outside of the physical issues.


When someone with a behavioral addiction engages in the compulsive activity they enjoy, they find the behavior rewarding, and often experience a “high.” Despite the high experienced, the person may later have feelings of guilt and remorse, and sometimes will even end up feeling overwhelmed by the consequences of their continued behavior.


So many of these behavioral addictions are activities that many people enjoy without developing a compulsive need. What determines whether their behavior is an addiction? Here are some general rules to consider:


  • the person experiences problems in relationships and home, and sometimes work due to the disruptive behavior
  • the person struggles with mental and/or physical health issues due to their behavior
  • the person experiences any other negative consequences as a direct result of the compulsive behavior, including legal or monetary issues
  • the person is unable to stop engaging in said behavior despite these negative consequences


Researchers are finding more and more that drug and alcohol addictions are incredibly similar to behavioral addictions. The “high” experienced by those engaging in compulsive behavior can be similar to that of substance users. It is recommended to treat behavioral addictions with proper treatment and rehabilitation, the earlier the better, much like substance addictions.

Dealing with any type of addiction is difficult. Treatment Now is happy to help answer any questions about addiction.

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