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Addiction to a Behavior as a Sign of Substance Abuse

Addiction to a Behavior as a Sign of Substance Abuse

People addicted to gambling may turn to substance abuse instead of professional help

Addiction comes in many forms. A person can become addicted to a substance such as alcohol or to a behavior such as eating, gambling or sex. The concept of addiction is hard to define and until recently behavioral addictions were not listed as an official mental disorder. It has become obvious, though, that anything that causes stimulation can lead to an addiction. Behavioral addictions may be difficult to spot at first but like drug abuse, eventually things start to spiral out of control. While behavioral addiction can exist on its own, it may cause you to be at risk for substance abuse and addiction.

How Can You Be Addicted to a Behavior?

When most people think of addiction they think of drugs or alcohol, substances that have addictive chemicals. A behavior does not require you to ingest anything but it can have just as strong a hold on a person as a substance. Your brain produces its own addictive chemical called dopamine that is released when you experience something pleasurable. If an activity is associated with pleasure or excitement your brain releases dopamine to encourage you to repeat your behavior. This is okay in most cases but for some people the feeling brought on by the chemical reaction can cause the behavior to become chronic.

Addiction to a behavior may develop over time or begin abruptly, everyone is different. People become addicted to a behavior when the activity begins to interfere with other areas of your life but you cannot make yourself stop the behavior. Addiction to a behavior may cause you to avoid family obligations, skip work, or do other things that hold you back. Depending on the behavior it can also lead to physical danger or legal problems. Once you are addicted it is no longer a choice; you feel obligated to engage in the behavior as much as possible. Trying to quit alone is frustrating and you will find yourself coming back even when you do not want to. If you are hooked on a behavior and cannot stop you need to get professional help to start making progress.

How Behavioral Addiction Leads to Substance Abuse

Having a behavioral addiction does not mean you will automatically abuse drugs or alcohol but it can put you at a higher risk. First of all, behavioral addiction causes a lot of stress, which is often what drives people to abuse drugs. If you are constantly stressed because of the consequences of addiction and do not have a healthy way to relieve stress, drugs or alcohol may seem like the easiest way out. At first substance abuse may feel comforting or may distract you from your stress but it does nothing to solve your problems and will add to what you are already up against.

Some people attempt to self-medicate their behavioral addiction by using drugs because it helps them avoid the behavior and feel calmer. Once you are sober the behavioral urges come back though, and if you stay high all the time substance abuse can quickly spiral into addiction. There may be medication that can help you with some causes of behavioral addiction but unless it comes from a doctor it will not help. If you become addicted to drugs or alcohol it will be harder to treat your behavioral addiction and you will have to deal with recovering from two addictions at once. Suffering from simultaneous mental disorders is more difficult to treat because each plays off the other and this makes symptoms worse. If you suffer from two addictions or addiction and a mental disorder you may be a candidate for Dual Diagnosis treatment, a method where the disorders are treated at the same time in order to address how they are related to one another.

Getting Help: Put Addiction Behind You

Realizing that your behavior is out of control and you need help is the first step to correcting the problem and getting your life back in order. Addiction treatment and therapy will help you learn more about what you are experiencing and to identify the underlying causes. After that you will learn how to change your behavior and replace it with healthier activities. Call our toll-free helpline to speak with an addiction expert about what type of treatment is available. We want to answer your questions and direct you to an effective treatment facility where you can start rehab. Your health insurance may help pay for addiction treatment so have your policy information handy when you phone in. We are standing by 24 hours a day to get you the help you need so pick up the phone and call now.