Getting Help for a Behavioral Addiction

Similar to a drug or alcohol addiction, behavioral addiction is a repeated activity that continues despite negative consequences. A person who struggles with a behavioral addiction engages in an activity, such as compulsive gambling, shopping, sex, work, or eating, and cannot stop. Behavioral addiction is a psychological dependence on an activity and is associated with poor impulse control. According to Ruth C. Engs, RN, EdD, School of Public Health, Indiana University, “Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person’s life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially is considered an addictive behavior.”

The Consequences of a Shopping Addiction

A person who struggles with a shopping addiction continues to buy more than what is needed, despite the negative consequences. Compulsive shopping interferes with significant relationships and drains savings. It can obstruct work, school, and home responsibilities. For a habitual shopper, the convenience of the Internet can also lead to unnecessary spending.

Some people who struggle with compulsive shopping can suffer from a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. They experience gratification when shopping or feel relief from symptoms of a psychological illness when they shop. Some individuals are attempting to quell Instead of buying what is needed, a person with a shopping addiction cannot resist the urge to buy more, or believes they will feel “better” after making a purchase.

Defining Exercise Addiction

Exercise is an activity that improves physical and mental health. It helps reduce the risk of severe and sometimes life-threatening physical health complications, such as heart disease, cardiovascular complications, and type 2 diabetes. Exercise is a healthy activity that improves mood, boosts confidence, and reduces stress and anxiety. Despite the benefits of exercise, an individual can become addicted to it.

When a person develops an exercise addiction, they cannot stop working out, even if they begin to experience physical or mental health complications. Exercise becomes a problem when relationships are affected, work is disrupted, and physical and mental health is compromised.

Eating disorders often accompany an exercise addiction. According to the US National Library of Medicine (NIH), “Eating disorders are the most common disorder to co-occur with exercise addiction. Approximately 39–48% of people suffering from eating disorders also suffer from exercise addiction.”

Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gambling is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. When a person gambles, it means that they are willing to risk something valuable in the hope of getting something of even greater value. A person who compulsively gambles cannot stop gambling, despite negative consequences. Gambling addiction is harmful to relationships because of its priority over responsibilities. It can lead to the loss of a house, job, money, and bankruptcy. Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system, similar to that of drugs or alcohol, which can lead to substance use disorder (SUD). Compulsive gambling is problematic and can destroy lives. Some common signs of compulsive gambling include:

  • Being obsessed with gambling
  • Needing more money to gamble
  • Trying to stop gambling without success
  • Feeling irritable when not gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems
  • Trying to get back lost money by gambling more
  • Lying to hide the extent of gambling
  • Losing relationships, jobs, or work opportunities because of gambling

People who gamble compulsively may also have a co-occurring mental health disorder, substance abuse problems, personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. A gambling disorder may also be associated with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Hypersexual Disorder

The NIH states that sex addiction, also known as hypersexual disorder, is a term generally used to describe someone involved in various sexual behaviors that occur excessively and significantly impact everyday life. Hypersexual behavior can destroy relationships, create financial hardships, and interfere with paying bills on time. The urge for sexual gratification can take priority over daily responsibilities, special events and can affect job performance.

A person who struggles with a hypersexual disorder might pursue gratification at any cost through pornography, online forums, prostitution, or sex hotlines. Hypersexual behavior lacks an intimate element and fulfills a psychological need to relieve depression, anxiety, or tension.

Hypersexual activities can be detrimental to physical and mental health. A person with sex addiction can be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Although some diseases can be treated, there is a risk of long-term effects, physical health complications, or even death.

A person’s hypersexual behavior can cause shame, guilt, and remorse and lead to drug or alcohol use to relieve unpleasant feelings. This can increase the risk of developing SUD. Dangerous, compulsive behavior from a hypersexual disorder stimulates the need for more sexual encounters and sexual outlets.

Treatment For Behavioral Addiction

Treatment is needed when any behavior compromises relationships or leads to severe financial problems. A person who suffers from a behavioral addiction may have an underlying co-occurring mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. At Achieve Concierge, treatment is available for impulse control. Our clinicians can use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help identify what triggers impulsive behavior and replace it with healthy alternatives. If you or a loved one struggles with a behavioral addiction, it may be best to seek professional help.

Behavioral addiction significantly impacts every aspect of a person’s life and can make it challenging to engage in everyday activities and fulfill responsibilities. Often, those who suffer from a behavioral addiction can also have an underlying co-occurring mental health disorder. Both conditions should be treated simultaneously as a dual diagnosis for the best outcome in therapy. At Achieve Concierge, we offer individualized support to cope with the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Our clinicians will use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify the thoughts and emotions that trigger addictive behaviors and replace compulsive responses with healthy alternatives. We believe in treating the person as a whole with a holistic approach that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit. We offer same-day appointments as well as telemedicine appointments. If you are struggling with a behavioral addiction, it may be best to seek professional help. For more information about our services, call (619) 393-5871.

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