Apr 3, 2015

Addiction beyond Substance Abuse?

There is considerable debate about the use of the term "addiction" when describing behaviors rather than the generally associated physical dependance on substances. However, in a study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, the authors found that:

"Patients suffering from behavioral addiction describe addiction-specific phenomena and diagnostic criteria such as craving, excessive behavior, psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms, loss of control, development of tolerance (increased behavior range) and inducing and perceiving expected psychotropic effects (e.g., pathological gamblers use several slot machines at the same time). In addition, the high comorbidity of behavioral addiction and substance-related addiction suggests comparable etiological mechanisms for their development."

They concluded:

"Excessively conducted behavioral addictions (e.g., excessive shopping/sport, pathological gambling/computer game-playing, internet browsing), which induce specific reward effects through biochemical processes in the body, do have an addictive potential as well."

All in all, it seems appropriate to categorize excessively conducted behaviors which lead to suffering, as behavioral addictions.

Proper treatment of behavioral compulsion, such as sexual compulsions, can greatly reduce suffering and help patients recognize how they may be engaging in compulsive behaviors to retreat from real life. Behavioral modification therapy and educational programs have proven effective in increasing awareness and prevention and/or reduction of compulsivity. 

Int J Prev Med. 2012 Apr; 3(4): 290–294.