Behavioural addiction commonly referred to as an impulse control disorder is a very complex type of addiction that differs from alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders in a number of ways.

Broadly speaking, behavioural addiction means that an individual’s waking life is dominated by a need to take part in specific behaviours and/or actions over and over again — not deterred by the negative effects this may be having on their life.

Whether you think that you may be suffering from the likes of gambling addiction, sex addiction, internet addiction, or any other form of behavioural addiction then this page will provide you with advice on how to combat your addiction.


What Are Behavioural Addictions?

A behavioural addiction will differ from substance abuse disorders or alcoholism most clearly due to the fact that the person suffering from a behavioural addiction will not have any outside chemicals upon which they are dependent.

Although, it is important to note that behavioural addictions can bring about similar internal chemical and neural changes to the individual. As a result of these physiological changes, behavioural addictions can be as damaging and difficult to overcome as all other addictive disorders.

The idea of behavioural addictions has slowly been becoming more and more accepted by the general public in recent years. Behavioural addictions commonly follow a similar pattern to substance abuse disorders, however, with an activity and/or action in place of the physical substance.

Types Of Behavioural Addictions

At present, not all things with which people can develop unhealthy relationships are officially considered “addictions” by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. In fact, gambling addiction is one of the only behavioural addictions which is commonly accepted as an “addiction” in the eyes of medical professionals.

However, as more research is being done into behavioural addictions, it is important to be aware of the types of behaviours in which people frequently develop unhealthy relationships — to the point where they require medical intervention to break their patterns of behaviour.

Amongst the most common behavioural addictions are:

  • Exercise
  • Food/eating.
  • Gambling.
  • The internet — in particular, more teenagers have been developing seeming addictions to social media websites.
  • Pornography.
  • Sexual intercourse.
  • Shopping.
  • Tattoos and/or body modification.
  • Playing video games.
  • Working.

Causes Of Behavioural Addictions

Behavioural addictions can manifest similarly to how narcotics and/or alcoholic drinks may cause temporary releases of positive chemicals in your brain, thus making you want to keep consuming them. In place of an external chemical producing the positive reaction in your brain, an activity takes that place.

Let us take gambling addiction as our example. A lot of gambling addictions can start when someone wins their first bet. Winning a bet is a positive experience, and the joy you feel from having won money, as a result, can cause a massive release of chemicals such as dopamine.

The human brain is programmed to try and repeat actions that release positive chemicals, and so there will be a drive to keep gambling with the aim of recapturing that sensation.

Of course, for some people, this compulsion can quickly grow out of their control. No matter how much the individual may be damaging their life, and the lives of those around them, the compulsion to experience a positive release of chemicals in the brain will feel too great.

Signs Of Behavioural Addictions

Being aware of how addictions develop is key to breaking yourself free from the cycle of addiction, as well as being able to recognise when you need professional help. Below we will go through some of the primary red flags to be aware of when thinking about your own relationship with behaviour that may become problematic:

  • Do you spend the majority of your time engaging with that behaviour, recovering from the effects of said behaviour, or arranging the next time you can engage with that behaviour?
  • Are you finding that you have become dependent upon that behaviour as a way of coping with your everyday emotions and/or feelings?
  • Have you had trouble in cutting back upon your engagement with the behaviour, or have you failed in promises to yourself that you would stop altogether?
  • Are you continuing to engage with said behaviour despite the physical, financial, or emotional harm it is bringing to you and/or your loved ones?
  • Have you been neglecting work obligations/school work in order to engage with this behaviour?
  • Are you lying to other people about the amount of time you spend engaging with said behaviour?
  • Do you find that you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you do not engage with the behaviour for a period of time? Symptoms may include anxiousness, mood swings, depression, or other forms of mental health illnesses.

Treatment For Behavioural Addictions

Fortunately, there are treatments out there that can help you to overcome your behavioural addiction for the long term. Addiction Advocates have a large roster of private clinics which will be able to provide you with mental health treatments in order to break you free from your addictive disorder.

Addiction Advocates will listen to your story and match you with the residential rehab which will be best equipped to tackle your behavioural addiction. The admissions process is quick, easy, and effective.

During your course of treatment at the best rehabilitation centre available to you, you will undergo all manner of treatments. Without serious psychological intervention, you cannot hope to put a serious addictive disorder behind you.

Treatments such as dual-diagnosis treatment, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), grief and trauma counselling, and much more will all work towards helping you forge a happy, healthy, and addiction-free future.

Furthermore, specialised relapse prevention planning and aftercare programmes will keep you from falling back into negative behavioural patterns once you have completed your treatment.