Understanding the ConditionHow is it possible to develop an addiction without consuming an addictive substance? Experts have learned that the brain has similar reactions to behaviors as it does to substances like drugs or alcohol.2 The brain develops powerful reinforcements for these behaviors, making you want to do them again and again, even if you’re experiencing negative consequences from these actions. In many cases, the reinforcement of a behavior is so intense that an addicted person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop the behavior–they may feel agitated, irritable or have trouble sleeping.
Some common behaviors that can develop into an addiction are:
- Internet use
Knowing the Signs of Behavioral AddictionSome of the behaviors listed above are activities that everyone engages in to some degree and may enjoy greatly. However, a behavior pattern isn’t considered an addiction unless it meets the following criteria:
- The person is suffering from physical or mental health issues as a result of the behavior
- The person is having problems at work or in relationships due to the behavior
- The person is experiencing other damaging consequences as a result of their extreme behavior
- The person is unable to stop the behavior in spite of these negative consequences
Getting HelpMany of the same treatment methods that are used to address addiction to drugs and alcohol are also effective in treating behavioral addiction. Talking out various issues in group and individual therapy is an essential component of the healing process. People suffering from behavioral addiction also need to unlearn their patterns of addictive behavior and replace them with healthy new patterns. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective technique that helps participants recognize the situations that will trigger cravings for their addictive behavior and teaches them how to handle these situations. A behavioral addiction can have damaging consequences to your personal and professional life; dealing with this condition can be even more frustrating when people don’t recognize the problem as a true addiction. If you suspect you’re struggling with a behavioral addiction, don’t give up—help and healing are available. With the right treatment, you can learn how to manage the behavior and reclaim your life.