Behavioral addictions can be defined as a compulsion to continually engage in an activity or behavior despite the negative impact on the individual’s ability to remain mentally and/or physically healthy and functional in the workplace, school, or home. Even though a substance is not being ingested, the individual may experience a “high” after engaging in the behavior, followed by remorse or a guilty feeling. Similar to substance use disorder, individuals struggling with behavioral addictions find it difficult to stop the behavior despite the negative consequences.
Some common behavioral addictions include: gambling, gaming, food, exercise, shopping, and sex and love addictions. Gambling disorder has been included in the DSM-V with the likelihood of more behavioral addictions being added in the future since more research being done to understand the reward system as it relates to these behaviors. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 5 million people meet criteria for gambling disorder and only 8% of those people are receiving treatment as result.
How do you Treat a Behavioral Addiction?
Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior and there are many treatment principles that should be considered. First, no single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Matching the treatment setting, interventions, and services to the individual’s specific problem and need is critical to the success of the treatment. Because of the complexities of addiction, treatment must address the multiple needs of the individual not just the drug use for example also to address any co-occurring mental health condition in tandem to substance abuse treatment.
Similar to substance use disorders, treatment for behavioral addictions can be addressed utilizing Behavioral Therapies--including individual, family, and group therapy. Behavioral therapies vary in their focus and may involve addressing a patient’s motivation to change, providing incentives for abstinence, building skills to resist drug use, replacing drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding activities, improving problem-solving skills, and facilitating better interpersonal relationships. Also, participation in group therapy and other peer support programs during and following treatment can help maintain abstinence.
OakHeart offers specialized behavioral therapies for behavioral addictions. For questions, please call 630-570-0050.