Telehealth sessions in Maryland and DC

What Are Behavioral Addictions?

When it comes to addictions, most people are aware of things like substance abuse or alcoholism. However, fewer people understand the ins and outs of behavioral addictions, or what they truly are. 

Simply put, behavioral addictions are based on a set of behaviors that a person comes to depend on. Some examples include addictions to gambling or sexual addictions, like the consumption of pornography. 

There’s plenty of debate surrounding behavioral addictions, which can sometimes make them hard to recognize or even treat. However, more mental health professionals are starting to accept these addictions as real and extremely serious. So, it’s important to understand what they look like, how they can impact your life, and what you can/should do if you’re worried you (or someone you love) are struggling. 

What Are the Most Common Behavioral Addictions? 

You might hear behavioral addictions referred to as “addictive behaviors.” That can sometimes be an easier concept to grasp because it refers to actions that some people find to be addictive. Obviously, the sky’s the limit when it comes to those actions. However, some of the most common include:

  • Food
  • Sex
  • Plastic surgery
  • Shopping
  • Social media
  • Gambling
  • The Internet

Behavioral addictions occur when someone experiences the symptoms of addiction to something that isn’t a substance. That might include difficulty controlling their behaviors, changes in routine, mood changes, or even withdrawals when they aren’t able to partake in those behaviors. 

Risks of Behavioral Addictions

photo of a man sitting at a desk typing on laptop computerAre behavioral addictions really as damaging and dangerous as substance addictions? In many ways, yes. While you might not be harming your mind and body with various substances, any addiction can alter your mental state and cause you to take risks that you wouldn’t otherwise take. 

For example, an addiction to plastic surgery, shopping, or gambling could lead to financial issues. An addiction to food could lead to eating habits that affect your physical health. An addiction to sex could harm your relationship or put you at a greater risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. 

Most importantly, these addictions can take over your thoughts, and eventually your entire life, if you let them. 

Behavioral addictions can start slowly. Like substance addictions, you’ll build up a tolerance for them over time. Eventually, that tolerance will force you to “crave” more of the behavior. When you give in to those cravings, it becomes easier to lose control and let the addiction drive your desires and behaviors. 

What Can You Do? 

Thankfully, there are more therapists, counselors, and recovery centers available for behavioral addictions than ever. As mental health professionals start to recognize these addictions as reality, it’s easier to find help. 

The first step, as with any addiction, is admitting there’s a problem. You have to recognize what you’re struggling with and accept that it’s starting to control your life. When you acknowledge and accept your behavioral addiction, you’ll be more willing to get help for it. 

Therapy can help you identify the root cause of your addiction. Understanding where it stems from can make it easier to treat those underlying issues, so you can start to work through your triggers and any unresolved problems that led you down this path to begin with. 

You’ll also learn the skills necessary to manage those triggers, as well as your symptoms. Having a support group is important, especially when it comes to accountability. However, friends and family may not always be able to help you work through the addiction the way a professional can. 

If the issues here sound familiar and you think you’re struggling with a behavioral addiction or substance abuse, don’t hesitate to contact us as soon as possible. You can beat this addiction and take control of your life again, and I’m happy to help you along the way.