Behavioural and Process Addictions
A behavioural addiction, also known as a process addiction, refers to the continuous engagement with specific behaviours which the individual is unable to manage without external sources of support.
When engaging in these behaviours, the individual will receive strong positive feelings, making them more likely to continuously seek out this activity.
This can quickly lead to an addiction, as the individual recognises the positive feelings they receive from this behaviour and begin to engage more and more with these behaviours, sometimes unaware of the negative consequences it can have on their physical and mental health.
This is known as a cycle of behaviour – something that is incredibly difficult to stop without the proper help and support available.
In the past, addiction has only referred to those addicted to substances such as alcohol and other drugs, but now more and more research is being conducted into the similarities and differences between the two types of addiction.
In general, it is known that behavioural addictions differ from substance addictions in that those with a behavioural addiction are addicted to the feelings brought on by engaging in these specific activities.
What Different Types Of Behavioural Addiction Are There?
There are countless different types of behavioural addiction, as it can be argued that most behaviours engaged in can cause an addiction.
However, there are some behavioural addictions that are more common than others due to their prevalence in modern society or due to the nature of the activity itself.
Below are some of the most common addictions:
- Gambling addiction
- Shopping addiction
- Sex/love addiction
- Porn addiction
- Internet addiction
- Social media addiction
- Work addiction
- Food addiction
- Exercise addiction
- Video game addiction
Some of these on the list, such as gambling addictions, are classified officially on the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but others are yet to be added officially and assist in further research in the future.
Depending on the addiction that an individual develops will depend on how much it will affect their everyday life.
For example, someone with an exercise addiction may spend a large majority of their day working out and not engaging in social activities or falling behind in work/school.
Someone with a work addiction, however, may do increasingly well at work but neglect other areas of their life such as hygiene and mental wellbeing.
From this list, it may be evident to see that almost every behaviour could be something that an individual becomes addicted to, though it’s important to understand the difference between a behavioural addiction and simply engaging in these behaviours often or frequently.
How Do I Know If I Have A Behavioural Addiction?
Most people in their lives will have unengaged in some of the activities listed above, but this does not mean that they are addicted.
In fact, almost everyone has engaged in these behaviours, but only a small percentage may develop an addiction.
Engaging in these behaviours is only considered as an addiction or serious problem if it starts to have effects on other areas of the individual’s life.
Here are some of the ways engaging in behaviour may classify it as an addiction:
- Physical/mental health effects – This may occur if the individual is unable to focus on other aspects of their life or if they are unable to stop this behaviour alone.
- Relationship issues – These may develop if the individual’s behavioural addiction begins to affect other areas of their life e.g., arguing with a partner about their over/undereating (in the case of an eating addiction).
- Serious life effects – An addiction such as gambling can have serious consequences e.g., if an individual begins to bet bigger and bigger amounts such as their car or house.
- Inability to stop alone – This is one of the clearest signs of an addiction. If the individual recognises their addiction and cannot overcome it alone, then they may need to seek further external help and support.
Why Might Someone Develop A Behavioural Addiction?
There are many reasons why someone may develop a behavioural addiction, and this is one of the key areas of focus during rehabilitation – the origin of the addiction.
Overall, there is no single cause for the development of addictions; often it is a combination of many factors over a long period of time.
For example, there is currently a lot of research into the genetics of addiction and whether some individuals are predisposed to these conditions.
Currently, this research is in the very early stages, and although some links have been made, there is too little evidence to be conclusive at the time.
Some cultures, however, encourage specific behaviours or allow for them where they may be frowned upon in some other cultures.
For example, countries such as the UK and US have an extreme focus on the media and the internet, meaning that internet and social media addictions are far more common than in countries where this may not be as widespread.
Often, individuals turn to a consistent behaviour as a coping mechanism, meaning that this may develop into an addiction where it is not moderated or supported.
In addition, some traumas can cause brain damage, meaning that the areas of the brain associated with specific behaviours may alter, making them likely to engage in these behaviours more frequently.
Types Of Therapy Suitable For Behavioural Addictions
As there is such a wide range of different behavioural addictions, there is no one type of treatment that is the most effective or efficient in treating each one.
Instead, individuals are generally recommended to meet with a medical professional to discuss a course of treatment.
This will differ from individual to individual, depending on their type of addiction, personal history and preferences, and their willingness and motivation to recover.
However, there are some treatments and stages to rehabilitation that individuals are more likely to come across during their time in recovery.
These are the most effective and efficient treatments that are tested with behavioural addictions and are outlined below:
1. Withdrawal And Detoxification
This is generally the first stage of rehabilitation, where the individual stops engaging in their addictive behaviour in a safe and supported environment.
Unlike substance addictions, individuals are unlikely to experience any physical symptoms, but this period of time can be extremely stressful and unpleasant nonetheless.
This stage is essential as it allows the individual to focus on the future of their recovery, perhaps beginning the think of future treatments and therapies that may be suitable for them moving forward.
Without this stage, an individual will never stop engaging in their specific behaviour and will be unable to make efficient progress.
Even though the thought of stopping this specific behaviour may be a negative one to most, withdrawal and detoxification is one of the most essential stages of the entire rehabilitation process.
2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
As the most well-known form of therapy, it should be no surprise that it is also one of the most effective.
During CBT, individuals will take part in one-to-one counselling where they will speak with a therapist about their addiction – the causes, triggers, cravings and potential coping mechanisms.
With the help of this therapist, individuals will then be coached through creating coping mechanisms of their own, altering the negative thought patterns associated with their addiction in the process.
CBT is especially effective as it can be tailored towards any individual or addiction, helping the individual recover in a way that is effective and beneficial for them.
3. Group Therapy
This is similar to CBT but is a type of therapy conducted in a group rather than on a one-to-one basis.
Although this can seem daunting for some, it is very effective in helping individuals to learn from their experiences as they share them with others.
Sometimes, just speaking about the issue can help to lessen the struggle of addiction and having support from others is just as effective.
Additionally, individuals will be able to listen and learn from the experiences of others, helping them to develop their own coping mechanisms, change their perspective on addiction and make connections with like-minded individuals.
Working within an addiction support network such as Narcotics Anonymous is often a recommended option for those looking to continue rehabilitation after leaving a dedicated rehab establishment or local addiction treatment programme.
4. Pharmacological Interventions
Although the use of drugs is not as common as it is in the field of substance addictions, there are some cases in which pharmacological interventions may be effective.
For example, individuals struggling with co-occurring mental health disorders alongside their addiction may require additional medication in order to cope with the negative effects of both.
This is common in the case of those who may struggle with disorders such as anxiety and depression who need additional medication to focus and be motivated through addiction treatment programmes.
5. Family Support
As well as the individual themselves, it is important to consider and provide support to those around the individual.
Close friends and family, especially from behavioural addictions, may find it hard to cope with the negative effects of seeing someone they are close to struggle with addiction.
In these cases, it is possible to gain help for these individuals, either as part of the individual’s addiction treatment programme but also as part of a separate recovery process.
These issues can also be addressed through interventions.
Providing Support To Someone You Know With A Behavioural Addiction
Talking to someone close to you about an issue such as addiction can be challenging, but it’s important to start the conversation in order to support the individual through seeking further help.
In some cases, you may be met with denial or hostility but it’s important to remain open-minded.
In all cases, those who aim to provide support should make themselves known to the individual as a reliable source of support.
The individual may not act on this support straight away, but sometimes just knowing that the support is available is enough to encourage them to take advantage of this fact.
Getting Help Today
For more advice or any other questions relating to addiction, please do not hesitate to contact Rehab Recovery on 0800 088 66 86 today.
No matter whether you’re calling on behalf of yourself, for someone you know, are at the beginning of your rehab journey or require additional support later in the rehab process, Rehab Recovery is available to provide free and confidential advice on any issue relating to addiction.
Contact us today to start your rehabilitation journey.