Behavioral Addictions: Not Just an Excuse to Have Fun

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When most people hear the word “addiction”, they typically think of alcohol or drugs, which are the most common and well-known addictions. In fact, there are many who probably believe alcoholism and drug addiction to be the only types of addiction that exist, but there are a number of behavioral addictions that can be just as destructive as a drug problem. Until relatively recently, behavioral addictions were poorly understood because they weren’t considered to be propelled by the same disease as chemical addictions, but we’ve realized that chemical and behavioral addictions work in much the same ways.

Another misconception about behavioral addictions is that they’re not actually addictions; instead, some people believe behavioral addictions to simply be overindulgence and a lack of self-control. This is very much untrue. It’s important for people to understand that food addiction, shopping addiction, and several other common behavioral addictions can have just as catastrophic an effect on one’s life as alcoholism and drug addiction. In other words, the following aren’t merely excuses for an individual to have fun.

Shopping addiction

There aren’t likely to be many people who haven’t heard the term “shopaholic”, which is typically used to refer to anyone who seems to go on shopping sprees more than he or she participates in virtually any other activity. The average person goes will usually only go shopping when he or she needs something in particular. In some instances, such a person might make an afternoon of that shopping trip by browsing other stores after buying the item that was needed. However, for someone with a shopping addiction, perusing the aisles of a store can only ever end with a purchase. Whether an item is actually needed or not, people with a shopping addiction will begin to feel anxiety, depression, anger, and sometimes even panic attacks if they are unable to make frivolous purchases.

A person who suffers from shopping addiction experiences a similar effect from making purchases as an addict experiences when he or she consumes alcohol or drugs. The purchase triggers a release of neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, causing the individual to feel pleasure from the purchase. Wanting to feel more of that pleasure, he or she will continue shopping, but as he or she makes more purchases, the brain begins releases less and less of the neurochemicals that offered the rush of pleasure the individual had been enjoying; therefore, he or she buys more and more things, chasing that rush of pleasure from shopping in much the same way as a heroin addict chases the intense high he or she felt in the early days of his or her heroin use. Shopping addiction is not merely an excuse to have fun, especially with the repercussions that it can have in one’s life. Someone who’s unable to control his or her shopping will eventually experience major financial difficulties, which will likely involve extensive credit card debt and the inability to resist using money needed for bills or rent to make more purchases.

Sex addiction

Of the numerous behavioral addictions that exist, the one that people are the most likely to at least have heard of is sex addiction. Unfortunately, sex addiction is one of the behavioral addictions that tends to be taken the least seriously with sex addicts typically seen as simply overindulging their hyperactive sex drives. To further complicate things, there’s not really one specific set of criteria that are used to diagnose sex addiction since signs of sex addiction can be both physical or psychological. In many cases, it’s more important to identify whether an individual is experiencing any repercussions or debilitating effects from his or her sexual activities rather than to identify any mental or physical indicators.

There are actually very few consistent physical signs that indicate sex addiction. One of the few that are more common than others is the tendency for an individual to feel immobilized or almost paralyzed when experiencing an intense desire for sex, but even this effect isn’t experienced in most sex addicts. More often than not, sex addiction is identified by determining how an individual’s pursuit of and participation in sex acts is affecting other aspects of his or her life, such as the person’s relationships, career or work performance, school performance, family life, and interest in other hobbies. Individuals suffering from sex addiction will frequently feel ambivalent about sexually transmitted diseases, have a decreased capacity for emotion, will often feel anxious or depressed after brief periods without sexual activity, and often displays ritual-like behaviors that seem indicative of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Gambling addiction

Many people enjoy gambling. On a basic level, even somewhat frequent gambling wouldn’t necessarily appear to be problematic behavior since many of those who enjoy gambling will do so somewhat regularly. However, there’s a fine line between enjoying gambling and being addicted to it. According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC), gambling addiction affects between two and five percent of the American population; this may not sound like a lot of people, but five percent of the American population still represents millions of people.

One of the difficulties of identifying or diagnosing gambling addiction is due to the fact that gambling encompasses such diverse activities. Someone who likes to gamble may do so by playing the slots, betting on horses, playing card games like poker and blackjack, or buy lottery tickets and scratch-off cards, which means it’s not always obvious when a person has a gambling addiction. The most pressing concern of gambling addiction is the imminent financial trouble that it brings with most gambling addicts gambling themselves into financial ruin. However, one of the more consistent and reliable indicators of gambling addiction is how desperate an individual gets to obtain large sums of money that can be used to gamble once he or she has already depleted his existing finances. Determined that getting one more lump sum of money will allow them to win back what they’ve lost, it’s not uncommon for gambling addicts to leverage (and lose) expensive jewelry, family heirlooms, cars, and even their homes.

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In addition to shopping addiction, sex addiction, and gambling addiction, other problematic behavioral addictions to food, the internet, and video games have been problematic to countless individuals. Although they’re frequently underestimated, behavioral addictions are dangerous because they’re often difficult to detect, but can result in very catastrophic repercussions. If you or your loved one would like a free consultation with one of our recovery specialists, call Recovery Hub today at 888-220-4352. We’re available anytime, day or night, to help you or someone you love begin the process of overcoming addiction in order to live a happy, healthy life.

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