What are behavioral addictions?
Compulsive behaviors form when a person repeatedly performs an action that causes a rush of temporary excitement but does long-term damage. Unlike substance abuse disorders, behavioral addictions do not involve an outside chemical. They just rely on the feel-good hormones that flood the brain when a compulsive gambler collects her winnings or a compulsive shopper swipes his credit card.
Behavioral addictions alter how the brain works. Specifically, addicts need higher amounts of stimulation to feel the same euphoric effects, like an alcoholic with a high tolerance for liquor. At the same time, addicts may quickly forget about the negative consequences of their behavior.
Compulsive behaviors can be dangerous, isolating, and financially ruinous. Active addicts often lose perspective and cannot see how extraordinary and risky their behavior has become. For this reason, it is important to enlist loved ones and perhaps an addiction specialist to give the addict the best chance at recovering.
How can therapy help treat behavioral addictions?
One of the most vital tasks in early recovery is identifying triggers. These are the people, places, and situations associated with the addictive behavior that may cause a relapse. A compulsive gamer may need to stay away from his gaming friends, at least for a time. A gambler may need to take a new route home from work that doesn’t pass by his bookie’s house. A sex addict may need to delete the phone numbers of past partners.
Counselors can help addicts notice these triggers and avoid them. Still, compulsions to indulge addictions are strong, and therapy will also include learning about strategies to cope with unexpected urges.
At a deeper level, therapy can address some of the underlying issues behind a behavioral addiction. A compulsive shopper may have gotten a sense of control from making purchases because that feeling was missing in some other aspect of life. A social media addict may have craved attention and validation due to relationship insecurities.
By addressing these root issues, therapy can help behavioral addicts break free from the cycle of addiction. Sometimes these underlying problems involve depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders. An experienced therapist can help an addict address these issues as well or deal with the stress and fallout from past addictive behavior.
Call the MindSol Wellness Center for behavioral addiction counseling in Sarasota, FL
Behavioral addictions are insidious and difficult to treat without help. If you or someone you love is struggling, call the MindSol Wellness Center in Sarasota, FL at (941) 256-3725 to schedule an appointment.