Behavioural Addictions

For some people a behavioral addiction starts as a casual activity such as gambling or shopping. For others it starts as a way to feel better, relieve stress, escape worries, or distract themselves. These seemingly normal activities evolve into a persistent behavior. Individuals continue the behavior despite knowledge of adverse consequences. Some of the more recognized behavioral addictions are:

  • Shopping/Spending
  • Gambling
  • Food
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Internet
  • Video games
  • Exercise

Behavioral addictions occur when someone participates in an activity to the point where it negatively affects their lives, and they are unable to stop it. The compulsion or desire to do the activity can get in the way of the addict’s ability to take care of their typical responsibilities. Many times it impacts sleep, work, taking care of themselves, or maintaining personal relationships. In order to participate in the addictive behavior, risks are taken without regard for the consequences. Please see the Addictions page for a comprehensive list of signs of possible addiction.

Most of my behavioral therapy clients struggle with a variety of compulsive behaviors, some of which can be obsessive. Struggles with impulse control and learning to regulate, rather than act on impulses or desires, is part of recovery. There is a condition called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that is not necessarily a behavioral addiction, however, a person can have both a behavioral addiction and an obsessive compulsive disorder.