Behavioral Addiction

The Recovery Team works hand-in-hand with each patient and their loved ones to truly understand their specific needs. Our team of medical professionals will help guide each patient to achieve their recovery goals. We create individualized treatment plans tailored to each specific person, because we understand that no two people are the same. We treat substance abuse addiction, alongside behavioral addiction to help individuals overcome their struggles.

In certain cases, the substance abuse and mental health disorders we treat are occurring at the same time as other types of addictions. These non-chemical dependencies are called process or behavioral addictions.

Unlike substance abuse disorders, these behavioral addictions do not create a physical dependency. However, millions of individuals in The United States today, suffer from these addictions.    

What is a Behavioral Addiction?

Process or behavioral addiction disorder happens when a compulsive behavior repeatedly occurs, causing negative outcomes on an individuals life. Despite the negative consequences these behaviors have, people still feel the need to engage in such behaviors. As a result of these repetitive behaviors, people tend to suffer from mental or physical health issues. 

These behavioral addictions have the ability to create trouble for a person at home, at work, or in their relationships. Most people are aware of the consequences that come as a result. However, they feel like they are unable to just stop. This is why seeking treatment for a behavioral addiction can be very beneficial. 

It is hard to pinpoint one exact definition of behavioral addiction, because there are several different types. For instance, individuals can have addictions to gaming, gambeling and food. In this article you will learn all about behavioral addictions, and the different types. 

Substance Abuse Addiction vs. Behavioral Addiction 

Substance abuse disorder, or addiction to drugs or alcohol occurs when a person is using some form of substance to achieve a wanted outcome. Both illicit and legal forms of drugs and alcohol come into play when dealing with substance abuse addiction. 

Continuous substance use disorder causes individuals to build a tolerance to the desired drug. Over time, substance abuse and addiction alters the way our brain operates. Over usage makes it feel as though our body needs these drugs or alcohol in order to function. Unfortunately, resulting in extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms most of the time.

The largest difference when comparing substance abuse with behavioral addiction is the lack of an actual substance being consumed. In behavioral addiction, there are no physical signs or effects, unlike drug addiction. According to the American Psychological Association, behavioral patterns that are repetitive, extremely hard to stop, and excessively used are considered addictions. 

Individuals tend to develop cravings, and find it extremely difficult to stop engaging in such activity. You are not alone if you feel this way. Millions of Americans across the country also experience behavioral or processed addictions.

Like substance abuse disorders, behavioral addiction causes a chemical change to the brain. Instead of consuming the chemical substance into the body, our brain is releasing dopamine from the external environment. Here you experience reward and pleasure.

Commonalities between behavioral addiction and substance abuse disorder include: 

  • Heightened levels of tolerance that require more amounts of access to the substance or activity in order to gain the same amount of satisfaction 
  • Withdrawal Symptoms may occur
  • Withdrawal Symptoms for behavioral addictions are most likely not physical. For example, you may develop anxiety if you cannot participate in your addiction
  • Focused most of your energy on the addiction 
  • Frequently putting aside other responsibilities because of your addiction 
  • Inability to stop the behavior
  • Inability to focus on other activities or relationships

It is common that substance abuse disorder and behavioral patterns co-occur at the same time. No matter the case, if you are suffering from any of the above effects, treatment may be right for you.

The Most Common Behavioral Addictions

Most behavioral addictions occur on a day-to-day basis. The following are some of the most common types of behavioral addictions: 


A shopping addiction can be defined as the constant need to buy things. Most of the time, there is absolutely no need for this purchase. A shopping addiction is one of the most ‘popular’ types of behavioral addictions.

Even though there is no need for the items purchased, a person with a shopping addiction will be able to explain their needs and reasonings. It is common that individuals who suffer from a shopping addiction usually spend more than their budget can hold. This tends to result in high credit bills and financial trouble. 

A shopping addict is not attached to the new item of purchase, rather, they are in love with the thrill of buying something new. This type of addiction can cause relationship problems and deep financial issues.   


Sex addiction refers to the constant need for engaging in sex. Sex has the ability to become an addiction that is extremely hard to have control over. Individuals who have an addiction to sex may form virtial relationships and even pay for illegal sexual favors.

Others may have relationship issues and cheat on their spouse as an excuse. Sex addiction alters the brain’s chemistry, resulting in odd reckless decision making. 


Gambling is one of the most widely recognized behavioral addictions. Millions across the country struggle with an addiction to gambling daily. This addiction has the capability to begin soon after you place your first bet, or play your first game. While some are able to gamble for the fun of it, others develop serious addictions to gambling. 

Gambling disorder can cause individuals to feel strong emotions when they lose, such as anxiety, aggression, depression or irritation. Gambling has the tendency to be highly addictive because once you win, you do not want to stop.

Individuals with gambling addictions tend to find themselves in severe financial troubles. This type of behavioral addiction commonly affects relationships and self control. 


Gaming addiction is a newer form of behavioral addiction that has affected many throughout the country. As our society has become more intune with technology by the day, gaming addictions have increased as comparison.

Those who suffer from a gaming disorder spend the majority of their day physically gaming or thinking about it all day. These people develop extensive online relationships, but tend to have a hard time with in-person interactions. 

Although this type of process addiction may not seem harmful, it can very well be. This type of addiction can develop intense compulsive behaviors that make it hard to maintain work, school, relationships, mental health and physical health. 


Addiction to food is the constant need to eat. Food addiction oftentime results in extreme overeating and weight problems. People with food addictions not only eat out of boredom, but mostly because they love how food makes them feel.

Like gaming addiction, food addiction results in compulsive behaviors that have negative effects. Individuals tend to consume food that is way over the daily recommended caloric intake amount. This can cause weight gain and obesity.

Although some people with an addiction to food may be overweight, not all individuals are. People with this type of addiction are likely to develop self-esteem issues, eating disorders, or other serious health concerns.


Addiction to exercise is a problem that many individuals suffer from. Even though it may not seem as a problem, exercise addiction can hurt both your mental and physical state. People with this addiction cannot seem to stop working out, and always want to be at the gym.

Exercise addiction causes individuals to become so obsessed with the way they look. This type of addiction commonly results in severe self-esteem issues and body dysmorphia. These people tend to buy gym related products and spend lots of money on anything related to exercise. 

Alongside food addiction, exercise addiction also has the ability to cause eating disorders. Due to the fact people become so obsessed with the way they look, or want to look, they will stop eating as a result. This can have serious long term health effects. 

Is There Treatment for Behavioral Addiction?

Yes, there is treatment for behavioral addictions like these. It is recommended for those suffering from any type of process addiction to partake in therapy and treatment for these behaviors. Behavioral addiction treatment commonly includes the following steps: 

  • Detox: Unlike medical detox for substance use, this just means to detox away from the behavioral addiction. In other words, restrain yourself from the addicted activity by replacing it with positive, healthy activities
  • Receive a full evaluation from a licensed professional and get diagnosed 
  • Speak with a licensed addiction professional to develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to your needs 
  • Attend individual, group and family therapy for support and helpful tools 

At The Recovery Team, we want to see you flourish and live the life you deserve. If you or someone you love are struggling with a behavioral addiction, please call us today! We look forward to hearing from you.    

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