Treatment for behavioral addiction is very similar to treatment for drug addiction. It is important to find a treatment that is effective to avoid relapse in either case. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, scientists developed a guideline for effective treatment in the 1970s after studying addiction. These principles were developed to give treatment programs guidelines to follow when treating addiction disorders. Each of these principles can be applied to behavioral addictions as well as drug addictions.
Addiction is a Treatable Disease
People are dependent on their behavioral addiction just like drug addicts are dependent on the drugs. Behavioral addictions are a mental disease much like drug addiction can be both a physical and mental disease. Both of them are treatable.
Not Every Treatment Fits Every Person
Just as addictions vary greatly, people vary greatly. No single treatment is going to work for every person. There is no cookie cutter treatment template that will work for every person or every behavior addiction.
Treatment needs to Address the Entire Patient not Just the Addiction
There is a reason why people develop behavioral addictions. Those reasons need to be discovered and treated before the addiction is addressed. If the patient has other medical or mental disorders, they need to be treated along with the addiction or relapse will generally occur.
Treatment Should be Complete before the Patient Leaves the Program
There is no time limit on treatment. The patient needs to stay in treatment for as long as they are still addicted to the behavior. If they leave treatment too early, they risk relapse.
Treatment needs to be Accessible when a Patient is Ready for it
When a patient volunteers for treatment the treatment needs to be available. Fast access to treatment allows patients to start before they change their mind and continue with their behavior.
Counseling is an Effective Treatment
Counseling works for behavioral addiction as well as drug addiction. Although drug addiction is more likely to have a medical component as well as a behavioral one, they both contain behavioral elements.
Medications Can Help Treat Addiction
Medications for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are often used to treat behavioral addiction. This goes for drug addiction as well as behavioral addictions. It is not unusual for mood disorders and addiction to go hand in hand.
Treatment Needs to Keep up with the Patient’s Needs
When a treatment for either drug or behavioral addiction is not working, it needs to be modified to help the addict. The treatment plan should change to meet the patient’s treatment needs. If it does not treatment will not work.
Involuntary Treatment is an Option
Coercion and other forms of involuntary commitment work as well on behavioral addictions as they do drug addictions. Even if treatment is involuntary it has the same chances of working as voluntary treatment.
Behavior should be Monitored
Just like drug use should be monitored the negative behaviors need to be monitored. Although this is more difficult with behavioral addiction than it is with drug addiction, the principle still applies.
Patients need to be Treated for and Educated About High Risk Behaviors
Although drug addiction has a different set of high risk behaviors, behavioral addiction still involves risk taking that can result in medical issues. Being aware of how the addictive behavior can result in a medical illness or treating a current illness can help to prevent both the behavior and a reoccurrence of the illness.