Behavioral addictions are addictions that do not rely upon the usual addictive substances such as alcohol or drugs. Examples of some behavioral addictions are gambling addiction, sex addiction, co-dependency, food addiction, and cutting behaviors. Some of these, like sex and food are a perfectly normal part of everyone’s life however when they become a behavioral addiction they can impact one’s life with severe repercussions on social and work relationships. Behavioral addictions follow a similar cycle of effects as substance addiction. Both addictions can cause serious cravings, lack of sleep, anger, depression or anxiety when not ‘using’. Relief, euphoria and elation may be felt when ‘using’ again. As with substance addiction there is also often an underlying mental issue be it anxiety, depression or trauma amongst others.
Treatment for behavioral addiction is possible with a variety of different individual or a mixture of methods:
Speech Therapy involves one on one counseling with a therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist. This ensures that the treatment is tailored to the specific issues underlying and addiction based. The therapist will most likely employ a variety of different therapeutic techniques best suited to the individual being treated.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves two main characteristics: functional analysis and skills training. Functional analysis with a therapist will help with identification of thoughts, feelings and circumstances of using and triggers to use. This insight is then used to un-train old bad habits and help with practices of contrary action and breaking thoughts patterns which lead to relapse on the behavioral addiction. CBT helps the user learn better, healthier, coping strategies for any underlying issues or for the addiction itself.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is therapy involving discussion of the addiction with a group of others with similar issues. Interpersonal therapy is useful for helping the addict open up their feelings and emotions in order to relate to others suffering from the same problem. Addicts in an IPT discussion group can give advice to others based on what has either helped or harmed them in their road to recovery and can help give insight to each other.
Support Groups for behavioral addictions are prominent such as Gamblers Anonymous, Co-Dependency Anonymous, Sex and Love Anonymous and others. These support groups allow the addict to relate to others with similar issues and build up a support network of like-minded people to help them with their recovery.
Couples Therapy is possible for those with behavioral addictions such as codependency. Couples therapy shows the addict how their unhealthy behaviors affect their relationship and teaches the addict how they need to change in order to be able to sustain a healthy relationship with others both in a romantic and non-romantic setting.
Family Therapy for behavioral addictions gives the addict insight into how their addiction affects friends, family and those around them. The realization of how the addict actively hurts others, usually unintentionally, will help the addict to have extra incentive to change. Family therapy also teaches the family members and friends how they can help the addict to change their behavior patterns by methods such as rewarding positive healthy behavior changes and punishment or not acknowledging attempts of the addict to use unhealthy, negative behavior patterns.
Other forms of treatment do exist and can be pursued in order to help the addict. The three main ways of seeking out treatment are either through seeing a counselor with individual sessions, attending out-patient therapy programs or checking in as an in-patient at an addiction treatment center.