Behavioral Addiction vs Substance Addiction

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When people hear the word addiction they almost always think of substance addiction first, but behavioral addictions are just as common and destructive. There are many types of behavioral addictions: gambling, shopping, hypersexuality, kleptomania, and even some eating disorders. There is a common misconception that due to the chemical nature of substance addiction, it is more serious or real than behavioral addiction, which leads to the perception of people dealing with behavioral addiction merely lacking in self-control. In reality, behavioral addictions can be just as dangerous and just as hard to shake.

The Brain’s Reward Center

Behavioral addictions have the same effect on the reward seeking behaviors in the brain as any chemical drug and will be sought out even despite obvious negative outcomes. Satisfying the behavioral compulsion releases endorphins and dopamine, which reinforces the message to the brain that this set of circumstances is a positive one. While drugs hijack or misappropriate the the neurotransmitters in the body to create euphoria, the “high” experienced by those dealing with a behavioral addiction is a product of their subjective experience.

Addictive Behavior

Because these behaviors are often unregulated and legal, it can be harder to discern when there’s a problem. And technology has made it easier to access many of these addictive behaviors as well, whether through online shopping, gambling apps, or websites devoted to finding commitment free hookups. It is often easy to explain away or ignore these behaviors until they become crippling problems and the individual involved has created deeply ingrained behaviors.

Therapy & Counseling

The good news is that since behavioral and substance addictions do share so many similar traits, many of the same therapies can be used to treat them. Counseling and rehabilitation are possible for those suffering from a behavioral addiction, but the first step is to recognize the problem and the need for treatment.

For more information about behavioral or substance addiction, call us today at (855) 441-2449.

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