What is behavioral addiction?
How is it different from addiction of abused substances?
How does it happen?
Behavioral addiction is very similar to substance addiction but at the same time, its concept is a wholly different entity. Let us distinguish between the two.
To understand this concept, first of all we must understand what addiction is.
We all have habits, good habits, bad habits, habits that we like, and habits that we don't; but when a habit transforms into obligation, when it's withdrawal starts to have major effects on us and our health alike, then it becomes an addiction. In words of experts, all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive.
The common definition of Behavioral addiction is 'It is a form of addiction that involves a compulsion to engage in a rewarding non-drug related behavior – sometimes called a natural reward – despite any negative consequences to the person's physical, mental, social or financial well-being.' In simpler words, unlike addiction of abusive substances, behavioral addiction does not associate with any kind of physical substance i.e. it exists in the absence of psychotropic drugs. In behavioral addiction, the person is not addicted to a substance, but he/she is addicted to the behavior or feeling experienced by acting out the behavior. Some behavioral addictions are: Gambling, video game playing, internet addiction, gym, eating disorders, pathological working, sex addiction, media use.
However, recent claims are being made that behavioral addiction might have the same consequences as the substances addiction to some extent, minus the physical consequences. Some of which are social anxiety, depression, discomfort, substance dependence, craving, excessive behavior, psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms, loss of control, development of tolerance and inducing and perceiving expected psychotropic effects.
Through biochemical processes, behavioral addiction can induce specific reward effects, similar to those of substance addiction.
What are some commonly known behavioral addictions?
- Gambling addiction: Gambling offers the closest resemblance to drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, its treatment is said to involve the same therapies as in the case of drug and alcohol addiction.
- Internet/online addiction: Internet addiction is the most common addiction to be found in today's times, be it teenagers or grown-ups. Almost everyone uses internet in their daily life, some more so than the others. It can become a problem for some people when it involves loss of control. People having internet addiction are also found to be depressed, shy, lonely, bashful and socially anxious. Other effects are academic, social and interpersonal problems, limited physical activity, and little sleep. Abrupt withdrawal may lead to occurrence of unpleasant emotions.
- Shopping addiction: Shopping habits when spun out of control become an impulse control disorder. People shop to calm feelings of sadness, depression and anxiety. The downside of shopping addiction is the guilty feeling that follows. It also leads to financial problems.
- Sex addiction: Sex addiction or hypersexual behavior disorder. The sex addicts crave physical intimacy without a care for the risks or consequences. The addicts start to form imaginary scenarios in their head where they obsess over their favorite sexual activities they wish to practice. Even with the passing time and increase in number of bed partners, they never seem to tire of engaging in such endeavors.
- Food addiction: Or binge eating disorder. People often eat to calm their emotions, to fight their loneliness and sometimes they overdo it. Addicts focus on certain type of foods that stimulate their emotions. However they too feel guilty afterwards.
Some steps that can be taken to avoid behavioral addiction:
- Parents should choose to inform their children about the negative consequences and the moral deviations that emerge from succumbing to such luxuries.
- Parents should also encourage their children to indulge in social activities, making friends or whatever they deem appropriate in order to fend off loneliness or social anxiety.
- Stress, depression and anxiety are the major factors that trigger behavioral addictions, therefore for prevention, we must treat these risk factors. This could be achieved through various prevention programs.
Researches to prove to the adolescents that such educational and informational programs actually contribute to the prevention of be.