Society today is suffering from both substance and behavioral addictions. These addictions drastically change the lives of the people by pulling them towards pain and self-destruction. But how is behavioral addiction different from substance addiction? A better understanding of a behavioral disorder will help the patient gain a fast recovery.
What is Behavioral Addiction?
Behavioral addiction is different from substance addiction, although both imply the presence of an uncontrolled craving towards something. The main concept present between the two is the loss of control.
Substance addiction involves the use or ingestion of a substance or drug which later develops tolerance and dependence. In contrast, behavioral addiction involves the repetition of a certain habit or action due to its strong reward feeling.
A person who has a behavioral addiction experiences difficulty in resisting the impulse or drive to perform strong reinforcing habits which has a detrimental impact in the long run. There are several kinds of behavioral addictions and each has a specific impact on the person. The repetitive action of these behaviors intensifies the disturbance of one's cognitive and emotional balance.
What are the different kinds of Behavioral Addictions?
There are several types of behavioral addictions but four serious addictions affecting society today are gambling, porn, sex, and sugar addiction. These conditions affect a person to various degrees and induce pleasure in distinct ways.
This is also called compulsive gambling or pathological gambling. It is an addiction involving the uncontrolled craving to gamble due to several reasons such as financial need, thrill, excitement, and relieving stress.
Porn addiction is less intense compared to sex addiction. This disorder involves the compulsive and habitual behavior of viewing pornographic content and getting much satisfaction from it. A person having this addiction tends to discreetly store and download sex videos, nude magazines, and photos.
This behavioral addiction is an intense and compulsive drive for sexual activities. People suffering from this have a difficulty in controlling one's thought and urge for sex. It is also known by the following names: nymphomania, sexual dependence, hypersexuality, and compulsive sexual behavior.
This condition happens when a person uncontrollably craves for something sweet. People suffering from this disorder eat more food than the regular diet. Sugar poses similar addictive potential as cocaine. What makes it more dangerous is its availability and non-regulation as it is not considered an illicit substance.
What are the signs and symptoms of Behavioral Addictions?
In order to determine if a person has a behavioral addiction, one must be acquainted with the common signs and symptoms. Being able to notice early signs of this condition can help the person undergo early treatment before things get worse.
Common signs and symptoms:
- Relentless thinking of the behavior
- Building up dependence when behavior is repetitively done
- Ignoring the adverse health consequences of such habits and actions
- Several times of failing to quit from the unhealthy behavior
- Doing the behavior or action discreetly so as not to let others know about it
- Feeling shame or guilt for doing the behavior
What are some Strategies to Resist these Behavioral Addictions?
There is no single cause for behavioral addictions because of the several internal and external factors contributing to its progression in an individual. In order to help those under the influence of this condition, here are some strategies to adopt and modify in order to suit one's needs.
Seek Professional Advice
Similar to substance addiction, people suffering from these conditions need to seek professional advice from people who are well-versed in this field. Self-medication is never recommended for any patient as it induces bias and no solid bases for having such treatment.
Most patients with behavioral addictions undergo cognitive and behavioral therapies depending on the person's current situation. These therapies can be one-on-one or a group session type.
The goal of any therapy for a patient includes the following:
- Increase self-awareness about one's behavior and thinking
- Better understand the problem and formulate solutions
- Determining symptoms of behavioral addictions manifested in the person
- Find ways of minimizing these symptoms
- Getting back in control of one's behavior
- Restoring the patient's quality of life
Know Your Trigger
Every person has a distinct weak spot for developing an addiction. Knowing one's trigger that leads to unhealthy behaviors is important in order to formulate positive ways of alleviating it.
Common triggers for addiction:
- Physical pain
- Mental pain
- Peer pressure
After identifying one's trigger points, formulating a healthy coping mechanism is the next task. Here are some healthy coping mechanisms to adapt and modify.
- Listening to piano instrumentals
- Spending time with your pet
- Talking to a friend or family
- Going to a spa or parlor
Setting A Guideline and Following Them
Most people with behavioral addictions tend to make impulsive decisions. In order to avoid this, one must set clear guidelines to follow and list them in a diary or journal. The act of writing down one's guidelines or rules enhances cognitive retention and the chance of abiding with it. Likewise, this strategy also increases one's awareness of weakness and triggers.
For instance, people with gambling addictions cannot readily stop gambling but one can do a gradual reduction of the amount gambled every day or on a weekly basis.
Find a Trusted Person to Talk to
Talking and sharing one's thoughts and problems gives therapeutic and alleviating effects on a person. People with these conditions must ensure that they have friends or family to share their thoughts within times of despair.
Look For Healthy Alternative Source of Happiness
One major problem when a person cuts back from addiction is the negative emotion felt from stopping that behavior or action. A person needs to look for a healthy recreation substitute that will give the same reinforcing effect in order to avoid depression and irritability. If one is experiencing difficulty in finding a replacement, it is recommended to consult a psychiatrist or guidance counselor to seek professional advice.