What are Behavioral Addictions?

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Behavioral addictions are similar to other addictions in that they cause someone to compulsively do something that causes them harm. According to the National Library of Medicine, these behaviors produce a short term reward much like drugs do but have long term harmful consequences. Many behavioral issues are now officially recognized as addictions.

What Causes a Behavioral Addiction?

The causes of behavioral addictions are the same as any other addiction. Most often these addictions are a result of some sort of mental illness such as:

Behavioral Addictions

Social anxiety and isolation can lead to a behavioral addiction.

  • social anxiety
  • generalized anxiety
  • depression
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • body dysmorphic disorder
  • anorexia
  • bulimia
  • social isolation

The specific addiction often matches the disorder.

Types of Behavioral Addictions

Just like there are many types of drug addictions, there are many types of behavioral addictions. Some of these behavioral addictions are:

  • Food addiction – addiction to a specific food, usually sugars or carbohydrates
  • Exercise addiction – over exercising to the point of exhaustion, harm, and extreme weight loss
  • Sex addiction – having high risk harmful sex usually with multiple or unknown partners
  • Pornography addiction – an addiction to viewing pornography
  • Shopping addiction – spending money that one does not have on objects or services that they do not need
  • Pain addiction – this is a cross between addiction to the actual pain and addiction to the endorphins that the pain causes
  • Video game addiction – this is a form of social isolation and an escape from reality, this escape often turns into an escape to the detriment of a person’s real life
  • Internet addiction – addiction to being on the internet and socializing over the internet
  • Social media addiction – this addiction is relatively new and most people who suffer from it post their entire lives online. They often use it to fulfill a need for attention that they would not otherwise get

These are only a few of the behavioral or compulsive addictions. Alone many of these behaviors are not addictive and can only be considered an addiction when they start to harm a person.

Signs of a Behavioral Addiction

Some of the signs of behavioral addiction are similar to those of other addictions. These signs are:

  • increases in the behavior to achieve the same reward
  • engaging in the behavior despite negative consequences such as job loss
  • the compulsive need to engage in the behavior
  • isolation from others in order to engage in the behaviors
  • spending time engaging in the behavior, planning to engage in the behavior, or finding a way to engage in the behavior

Most behavioral addictions lead to social isolation and loss of friends and family. Most people who engage in a behavioral addiction have an underlying anxiety or illness. It is important to discover the underlying issue before the addiction can be treated.