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All About Behavioural Addictions

What are the common types of Behavioral Addictions, also known as Process addictions? These can vary, and can affect someone who suffers from addiction in addition to a substance addiction. In some cases, they can be the primary addiction. Either way, your skills as an addiction counsellor can greatly help reduce the affects of behavioural addictions for someone who suffers from them. In the following ACCSA Blog, we'll list some of the common behavioural addictions.

Types of Behavioural Addictions

  • Gambling Addiction

  • Sex Addiction

  • Internet Addiction

  • Shopping Addiction

  • Video Game Addiction

  • Plastic Surgery Addiction

  • Food Addiction or Eating Disorders

  • Risky Behaviour Addiction

  • Work Addiction

  • Exercise Addiction or Body Obsession

In all of these listed process addictions, common themes emerge, such as compulsion, craving, loss of control, and consequences that arise as a result of indulging in them. Of all behavioural addictions, an addiction to gambling is the one that most closely resembles drug and alcohol addiction. Thanks to big names such as Tiger Woods and Anthony Weiner, the topic of sex addiction is frequently in the news. Symptoms of sex addiction — including loss of control and disregard for risks and consequences — are very similar to those of traditional addictions.

We're living in a wired world — but is it possible to be too plugged in? Psychologists don't generally consider Internet addiction a true addiction, but it can be a true problem for some people. Some studies suggest that compulsive Internet use affects 6 to 14 percent of Internet users - a significant number given there are over 4 billion Internet users in the world. Can't stop gaming? Research shows that video game addiction is most common in boys and men — and one study even found that as many as 1 in 10 video players between the ages of 8 and 18 are "out-of-control gamers".

Shopping: It's yet another behaviour that, when it spins out of control, is considered to be an impulse control disorder. If someone purchases items to avoid feeling sad but then feels guilty, they may be suffering from this disorder.

Some disorders are all about the body: Exercise addiction is an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise. It is often a result of body image disorders and eating disorders. Exercise addicts display traits similar to those of other addicts. Body Dysmorphic Disorder sufferers, to improve the way they look, may go under the surgeon's knife again and again and are preoccupied with their appearance and are hell-bent on the idea that they are ugly or deformed. Some people overeat or under eat, using food to cope with feelings - The cause of eating disorders is not known, but it is probably linked more to depression than addiction.

Thrill seekers share many of the same symptoms as drug addicts; they get a rush from skydiving or rock climbing, but after a while, they seek out even more dangerous adventures to feel that same level of excitement. And studies show that these “thrills” release the same flood of brain chemicals released by addictive drugs. While the idea of work addiction (or workaholism) may seem like a novel way to describe a driven person, work addiction is a real mental health condition. Like any other addiction, work addiction is the inability to stop the behaviour.

What's the bottom line? Not all behavioural addictions meet the classic definition of physical addiction, but they do share many of the psychological and social hallmarks — and they will respond well to traditional types of addiction treatment. Like with drugs and alcohol, many sufferers of process or behavioural addictions can respond to 12-Step Programs, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous. But many will also respond very well to addiction counselling - and that's where you come in.


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