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What Are the Basics of Behavioral Addiction?

What Are the Basics of Behavioral Addiction?

Almost everyone thinks they understand addiction when it comes to substances like alcohol, nicotine, or drugs. Fewer people are aware that healthy, life-affirming behaviors can also become compulsions. Things like eating, having sex, and other types of behavioral addictions are part of being human but they can also kick up pleasure-related neurotransmitters that create pathways for addiction to take hold. Learn more about behavioral addiction and how to get support.

Pleasure Principle

Pleasurable behaviors cause the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and others, into the brain area known as the pleasure center. The pleasure center then communicates with other parts of the brain including mood, memory, and decision-making.  The brain’s pleasure center can be come hijacked when substances are ingested. Addictive substances flood the brain with two to ten times more dopamine than normal pleasure-inducting behaviors (including eating a healthy meal, spending time with a loved one, helping a friend, etc.). Many people can drink but not become alcoholics, eat as much as they like without worrying about addiction and become sexually active without addiction taking hold but it happens to people and can have devastating consequences for their lives.

Why Addiction Happens

Addiction arises when people begin to use these behaviors compulsively and in excess as a way of coping with life’s stressors and the pain of underlying psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma, etc. people learn to abuse the behaviors to escape life rather than enjoy it, which can lead to addiction. The unconscious goal of people with addiction is to gain a sense of control over what feels challenging emotionally. This becomes the default response to anything in life. When repetitive patterns of pleasurable behavior is engaged in for this purpose (self-soothing), it takes over a person’s life and they develop a process addiction.

Overcoming Addiction

Many in our culture still view behavioral addiction as moral failings rather than chronic, progressive, and treatable. People with food addiction are labeled ‘fat and lazy,’ sex addicts as people with perversions, and others with addiction as lazy bums who cannot control their urges. Primarily, this occurs because our culture has limited understanding of behavioral addictions and view them as less serious than real addictions. Behavioral addictions are very real and very devastating. The good news is there are many rehab, treatment, and detox facilities that can accommodate people’s ability to recover from drugs and alcohol if they are ready to get well.

If you are finally ready to admit the need for help and want to detox and recover, we are here to help. Give us a call to find out more about resources and programs that we can offer to help you navigate recovery. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401