Behavioural addiction and abuse

When most people think of addiction, substance abuse (alcohol, nicotine, illegal and prescription drugs) is usually the first condition that comes to mind. However, behavioural addiction can cause similar mental, emotional, interpersonal and financial problems.

Behavioural addiction, also known as impulse control disorder, can be identified when somebody engages in a repeated activity to an excessive degree without considering the potential consequences on themselves, their friends, or their family. The addictive behaviour induces a chemical effect upon the brain’s reward system, causing intense feelings of pleasure and happiness. However, these feelings are often short-lived. The fact that behavioural addictions are less commonly known can make it hard to know how or when to embark on addiction recovery.

There is a range of treatments available for behavioural addiction, including rehab centres. At Sanctuary Lodge, the behavioural addictions we treat are gambling addiction, sex and love addictions (including porn addiction and sex addiction) and eating disorders. Read on to learn how we can address your concerns and find the correct treatment for you.

Signs and symptoms of behavioural addiction

Behavioural addiction includes a wide range of addictions that can produce many different effects upon an individual’s lifestyle. For example, somebody who is addicted to gambling might find themselves in a lot of debt and experience a financial crisis. Somebody who is addicted to porn might experience a ‘numbness’ when watching an excessive amount of porn, only able to glean some enjoyment from extreme pornography. People who are addicted to sex could become injured due to excessive physical activity and be at greater risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

However, there are unifying signs and symptoms which apply to all behavioural addictions. These include, but are not limited to:
Participating in the behaviour (gambling, porn, sex) to an excessive degree, and spending most of your time thinking about the behaviour. When you are not doing this, you are planning the next time that you can partake in the addictive behaviour.
Depending on the pleasurable feelings that the addictive behaviour gives you as a coping mechanism to feel happiness.
Finding it very difficult to cut back on your engagement with the behaviour, even if you want to stop.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back on the behaviour (high levels of irritability and depression)
  • Continuing despite the harm caused by the behaviour to yourself or others
  • Neglecting your school, work, relationship, financial or familial responsibilities so that you can increase your time spent engaging in the addictive behaviour
  • Going to significant lengths to cover, hide, or lie about engaging in the behaviour to your friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Risk factors of behavioural addiction

The risk factors for behavioural addiction can vary depending on the individual. However, people who have an addictive personality are usually very restless and experience variety, feeling an intense need to be constantly stimulated and excited. This personality trait can lead to a lack of impulse control. When rash choices and unplanned decisions develop into obsessive thoughts, habits can form, which result in compulsions and behavioural addiction. This illness can have devastating consequences upon many different aspects of your life:

Work life

Whether you are in school, studying in university or college, or following a career in the world of work, behavioural addiction can seriously impact your productivity. When your mental energy becomes increasingly focused on your behavioural addiction, you might start to feel as if you are losing interest in your work, which could put your education or career in jeopardy.

Financial wellbeing

Funding a behavioural addiction can be just as damaging to your finances as alcohol or substance addiction. It is very easy to suddenly lose any money you have placed on a bet or a game, and if you are gambling to excess, then you might find yourself taking out big loans and gathering a lot of debt and loans. Likewise, paying an excessive amount of money for pornographic content online, or having sex with people to satisfy your compulsion, can seriously harm your financial wellbeing.

Social life

Unfortunately, maintaining a behavioural addiction often involves hiding your activity from those closest to you, making excuses or minimising the severity of your issue, or even lying about it. These are common actions of people who suffer from all types of addiction, and we understand that this can be very damaging to your self-esteem. The more time you spend engaging in the activity to which you are addicted, the more isolated you become from your friends and family.

Psychological addiction

Although there is no chemical substance upon which the addict is dependent (nicotine, heroin etc.), these repeat and addictive behaviour can cause a psychological dependence where the sufferer obsesses over the additive behaviour and feels as if they must engage in the addictive activity to feel ‘normal’ and happy. It is important to remember that it is possible to become psychologically addicted to any activity, including but not limited to gambling, porn, sex, love, gaming and shopping.

Genetic factors

Like the genetic factor behind substance addiction, research has found that there is a connection between genetics and having an addictive personality. If somebody’s parent has an addictive personality, they are more likely to develop an addictive personality, which could result in behavioural addiction. It is also important to know that parents who suffer from mental health issues (depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), etc.) can give birth to children who have a higher chance of developing an addictive personality. If your parent suffers from a behavioural addiction or a mental health issue, it is not guaranteed that you will develop a similar issue, but it is important to bear these factors in mind when reflecting upon your own patterns of behaviour.

Environmental factors

Your home life and local area can also be contributing factors to behavioural addiction. For example, growing up with parents, siblings or friends who participate in or encourage gambling, watching porn or self-destructive promiscuity can cause repeated exposure to the behaviour which might influence your own personal boundaries and behaviour. When actions evolve into daily habits which you must fulfil to be satisfied, it is likely that you are becomingly progressively addicted to carrying out the action. Likewise, if you live in a community where gambling, porn and self-destructive promiscuity are commonplace, it is easier to find ways to excuse these habits despite them causing a great deal of strain on yourself and those closest to you.

Impact on friends and loved ones

To witness a friend or family member suffer from behavioural addiction can be very difficult. As these addictions are not discussed to the same extent as alcohol addiction and drug addiction, it can be hard for a loved one to understand how or why a behavioural addiction develops. Addiction is a progressive condition, and watching a loved one become increasingly consumed by the activity that they are addicted to can cause a great deal of damage to relationships and friendships. It is also important to consider that friends and family could, without realising, enable somebody’s behavioural condition by providing financial aid, words of encouragement or dismissing the seriousness of the issue.

Nonetheless, it is vital for anybody suffering from a behavioural addiction to understand that the concerns of a loved one come from a place of love and support. Starting our family support programme before you consider a course of detox treatment at the rehab clinic can be a great first step towards repairing your relationships with friends and family, allowing them to understand your addiction and how they can best support you. It can also be useful to join a local addiction support group or contact your local GP or our number at the top of the page to discuss the full range of your addiction recovery options with an objective, unbiased source of information.

Getting help for behavioural addiction

Sanctuary Lodge is a rehabilitation centre that is committed to offering you a comfortable, stress-free and safe space in which to undergo your treatment programme for gambling addiction, sex and love addiction, and porn addiction. Implementing cutting-edge rehabilitation and therapy, we provide 24-hour care by highly qualified medical staff. You will be offered a wide range of treatment options, from group therapy to art therapy, as well as a tailored workshop to attend with your rehab group.
We understand that reaching out for help with your addiction can be daunting. However, taking that small first step of calling to discuss your options can make a huge difference to your current work life, financial habits, personal relationships and your self-esteem. We want to help you to identify the root cause of your addiction, find methods that allow you to manage your compulsions in an effective manner and start your journey to addiction recovery.

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