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Addictions and Behavioral Compulsions

Falls-church-addictions-treatment Addiction can occur in many forms. Often, it is assumed that physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms is required in order for someone to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder. However, the fact is that behavioral addiction can occur with all the negative consequences in a person’s life even if it not the caused by drugs or alcohol. It is the compulsive nature of the behavior that is often indicative of a problem. It is the compulsion to continually engage in an activity or behavior despite the negative impact on the person’s ability to remain mentally and/or physically healthy and functional that requires attention. The person finds the behavior rewarding psychologically or gets a “high” while engaged in the activity but may later feel guilt, remorse, or even overwhelmed by the consequences of that continued choice. Unfortunately, as is common for all who struggle with addiction, people living with behavioral addictions are unable to stop engaging in the behavior for any length of time without treatment and intervention.

Some common behavioral addictions include:

  • Gaming addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Exercise addiction
  • Sex and love addictions
  • Shopping addiction
  • Gambling Addiction

Though almost everyone engages in all of the activities listed above – shopping, gambling, and certainly eating and exercise – to a certain degree and may even enjoy the behavior very much, it is not termed an addiction until the following is true:

  • The person struggles with mental health or physical health issues as a consequence of the behavior and/or the inability to stop.
  • The person has difficulties in significant relationships at home and, in some cases, at work because the behavior is so disruptive.
  • The person experiences other negative consequences that are directly caused by continued, extreme, or chronic engagement in the behavior. For example, a person with a gambling addiction may gamble away the house, lose a job, and be forced into bankruptcy due to the extreme nature of the gambling.
  • The person is unable to stop engaging in the behavior despite these consequences.
  • The person might not experience tangible consequences but he/she is consumed with the thoughts and the compulsion takes away from daily life and affects their mental state. Depression and anxiety are the main co-occurrent diagnosis.

At DC VA Counseling Psychotherapy, LLC we believe the addiction/behavior is a symptom of deeper underlying issues and we take and double approach: using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques we help the client to address the immediate symptoms to gain some relieve in the short term. At the same time we start addressing the underlying psychological cause in order to achieve long term recovery. It is important to understand that addictions are a coping mechanism and therefore our approach is very compassionate and open minded to help clients deal with the shame, powerlessness and anxiety that any type of addictive behavior creates.