Types of Help for Behavioral Addictions

Addictions Content Team Info icon
Calendar icon Last Updated: 04/8/2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Addiction is dangerous, and it affects millions of individuals. Just because a someone avoids the issue of drug abuse does not mean that they will not become addicted in other ways. Behavioral addictions like sex, shopping, gambling, and gaming can all become extremely harmful to a person’s day-to-day life if they go untreated.

Behavioral addictions are considered to be one of the more difficult disorder types to pin down as far as origin and legitimate diagnosis; however, there are many types of help for those struggling with these addictions. You may want to consider trying one of the options below if you are experiencing issues with a compulsive behavior that is beginning to ruin your life.


Growing evidence suggests that behavioral addictions resemble substance addictions in many domains, including natural history, phenomenology, tolerance, comorbidity, overlapping genetic contribution, neurobiological mechanisms, and response to treatment. The still most commonly used treatment for substance abuse disorders is counseling, which can be extremely beneficial to those suffering from behavioral addictions as well.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy 
    • This treatment type is used to help patients look at their addictions in a new way, to weigh the positives against the negatives of the continued behavior, and to be able to see for themselves that they can benefit from changing their ways. CBT was developed as a method to prevent relapse when treating problem drinking,  but can now be used in the treatment of almost any behavioral or substance abuse disorder. It is also especially effective for adolescent individuals.
  • Motivational enhancement
    • “This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process. It is especially meant to help resolve ambivalence about treatment and to allow patients to feel more in control of their recovery while still having the benefit of a therapist’s counsel.
  • Group therapy
    • Many individuals, just like with substance abuse, receive a great deal of help from group therapy sessions. When patients are able to meet other individuals who are struggling with the same issues and fears that they are, it can show them a mirror of their own needs while also allowing patients to help one another.
  • Psychosocial intervention
    • Psychosocial interventions can also be incredibly effective for this type of disorder and “often rely on a relapse prevention model that encourages abstinence by identifying patterns of abuse, avoiding or coping with high-risk situations, and making lifestyle changes that reinforce healthier behaviors.”

If you believe that one of these types of therapy may be beneficial to you, you can often find the treatments listed above in individual therapist’s offices as well as treatment centers for behavioral addiction. Many of these therapy types can often be covered by your insurance policy as well.

Support Groups

Certain support groups actually exist which are beneficial to many individuals in much the same way as substance abuse groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are. These groups actually allow members to draw strength from one another in order to avoid their harmful habits.

Several nationwide organizations for individuals recovering from problems with compulsive sexual behavior exist, as well as those designed for individuals with other behavioral addictions. These may be beneficial to certain individuals, depending on their specific needs, and can be found quite easily by searching for support groups in your area.

Reaching Out to Others

Talking to a parent, a friend, a significant other, or another individual close to you may allow you to feel that you no longer have to harbor the difficult issues you’ve been struggling with. This individual could also assist you in finding professional help for your addiction. In addition, talking to a teacher or your doctor could be beneficial as they are more likely to know other ways in which you can receive professional help.

However, just sharing your feelings with someone else can make a big difference in your recovery from a behavioral addiction. After all, it is often considered that admitting the problem is the first step toward improving your situation.

Self-Help Techniques

While you should still reach out to others, there are ways in which you can help yourself curb the issues of a behavioral addiction, depending on how strong its hold is over you. If you truly want to make a change, you may be able to use some of the techniques listed below in order to help yourself fight the issues of your behavioral addiction.

  • In the case of Internet addiction, people may still need to go online occasionally but struggle with controlling their time on the computer.
  • The use of “external stoppers (real events or activities prompting the patient to log off)” can actually help to deter the issue of losing track of time while online. This can also be used for other activities that have become an addiction such as exercise or gaming.
  • The act of paying for purchases by cash, check, or debit card” can help make changes to someone’s life who has suffered from shopping addiction and, as a result, incurred credit debt.
  • It may also be important, especially during the beginning of your recovery, to avoid going to places alone in which you may be tempted to engage in the addictive behavior. Compulsive shoppers should not go to the mall unless others who understand the condition are there with them, and food addicts should not go out to eat by themselves.
  • Keep a log of your time in which you’ve engaged in certain behaviors. That way you are likely to see when they may be becoming a problem again.

Finding help for behavioral addictions can be as close as your nearest friend or family member, but many individuals need to attend therapy or other kinds of professional treatment. Still, others may choose a support group to help them through this difficult time. The important thing to remember is that there are many ways in which you can find help for behavioral addictions.