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Five Common Behavioral Addictions You Should Know

Five Common Behavioral Addictions You Should Know

Author: Shernide Delva

When most people think of the word “addict,” they usually think of drugs or alcohol. However, addiction does not just limit itself to substances. In fact, more people than ever suffer from some form of behavioral addiction. Also, many who recover from substance abuse find themselves replacing their drug addiction with addictive compulsive behaviors.

That’s why it is important to recognize the signs of a behavioral addiction. Since most behavioral addictions are activities healthy people engage in, it can be hard to admit that this behavior is becoming a problem. However, if you find a behavior hinders you from going further in your life, you may have a behavioral addiction to address.

Here are five common behavioral addictions:  

  1. Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is an addiction that closely resembles drug and alcohol addiction in the brain. Studies show that gambling addictions light up the same areas of the brain as drug addictions. There are many treatment facilities for gambling disorders that utilize the same therapy used for drug and alcohol abuse. While occasional gambling can be fun, in excess, gambling can result in some serious consequences.

So what causes a gambling addiction? It depends. Some people begin gambling out of desperation for money. In the past, they may have won a large sum of money and find themselves seeking that big win over and over again to achieve the same financial gain.  Unfortunately, when it comes to gambling, losing is going to happen eventually. Therefore, they find themselves losing more money than they ever imagined and causing damage to their family and themselves.

Others gamble to achieve a high. Gambling has a major social reputation and the lifestyle Is all about the thrills and the high. It can be difficult for some not to get addicted to the entertaining luring atmosphere of the mainstream gambling scene. However, once addicted, breaking this cycle of gambling becomes a struggle. By the time a gambler wins, they have already lost so much money that it is not enough to cover their losses. Therefore, the cycle just keeps on going.

Signs of Gambling include:

  • Gambling when financially unstable
  • Family and friends concerned about gambling
  • Needing to be secretive to gamble
  • Trouble monitoring and controlling your gambling

If this sounds like you, you may have a gambling addiction to address.

  1. Sex Addiction

In the media, we hear about celebrities going to rehab for sex addiction. Is this addiction really real? Sex addiction is one of the most controversial ones out there. The symptoms of sex addiction vary and include loss of control and disregard for risk and consequences. Hypersexual activity is not limited to just having sex.  The diagnosis of sexual addiction can apply to individuals who use excessive masturbation, pornography or sexual behaviors to escape emotional distress. Shame and embarrassment about their behaviors is another sign of sexual addiction.

For many sex addiction is a real thing and does impact their life in a negative way.  While sex addiction is not formally classified as an addiction by the American Psychological Association (APA), there are treatments for it.  Programs like Sex Addicts Anonymous and therapy can help addicts understand and overcome their problem.

  1. Internet Addiction

The society we live in now is based around the internet. However, it is possible to be too plugged in. Some people escape reality through the excessive use of the online world. It can be a problem for people when it affects their work and home life. Those who spend the majority of their day online even show small changes in their brain from their excessive internet use.  Studies suggest that compulsive Internet use affects 6 to 14 percent of Internet users.

Those who struggle with internet addiction have emotional symptoms like guilt, anxiety and depression. They may find it impossible to keep up with scheduled obligations and eventually find themselves in isolation than out with others.  There are also physical symptoms from using the internet all day such as backaches, weight gain/loss or carpal tunnel syndrome. Internet addiction affects people in a variety of ways, and a combination of treatment including therapy may be helpful.

  1. Exercise Addiction

Too much exercise can be a bad thing. I know most of us do not get enough of it, but some people do take exercise to the next level. People with exercise addiction find they have a compulsive disorder that compels them to exercise excessively. Simply loving to work out is not enough to be an exercise addict.

A person with exercise addiction finds that exercise takes over their life. This disorder is also called anorexia athletica or obligatory exercise. The person feels they must exercise a certain amount of times per day and feels guilty when they are unable to fulfill their commitments.

Often, addicts will turn to exercise as a healthy way of recovering. Exercise releases endorphins which are happy chemicals that help boost the mood. That is where the term “runner’s high” originates. Exercise in moderation can be very healthy but in excess can do more harm than good.

  1. Spending Addiction

Everyone loves to buy nice things occasionally. However, those who struggle with spending addiction can not help themselves. Shopping addiction is more common among women than men. However, men are known to struggle with spending addiction too, usually in different ways. Overspending and overshopping is now being considered for inclusion as a real addiction in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Symptoms of Spending Addiction are:

  • Spending more than you can afford
  • Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry or depressed
  • Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
  • Losing control of the shopping behavior
  • Going out excessively and overspending to gain approval and self-worth
  • Periods of mood alteration such as feeling “high” while engaging in this behavior
  • Continuing behavior despite negative consequences
  • Feeling discomfort when abstaining from behavior followed by binges of the same behavior.

If left untreated, overspending can result in serious financial and emotional consequences. Relationships can be tarnished, and debt will increase. There are support groups that teach better spending habits, and behavioral therapies have shown to be useful in helping people overcome this addiction.

Overall, not all addictions meet the classically known definition of addiction, but they all share similar psychological and social consequences. Therefore, these addictions do respond well to most traditional forms of addiction treatment. If your addiction falls outside the box, do not fear seeking help. We can help you overcome whatever is holding you back.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

In Maryland, Gambling Addiction is Rampant; Treatment Options Lacking

In Maryland, Gambling Addiction is Rampant; Treatment Options Lacking

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Gambling can stimulate the brain’s rewards system much like drugs and alcohol can. Gambling addiction is a serious condition that can destroy lives. When gambling becomes addictive, it means you are willing to risk something in order to get something of even greater value. Sometimes this can mean straining relationships you have with your family and friends in order to satisfy the urge to gamble.

There is a state having a huge issue with gambling addiction and this time, it isn’t Nevada.  The tiny state of Maryland is home to one of the largest concentrated casino markets in the country. As gambling addiction continues to rise, few treatment centers options are available for resident causing their addiction to get worse.

In 2009, a state survey revealed that an estimated 150,000 residents suffer from moderate to severe gambling addiction. The state’s toll-free hotline for problem gambling has taken 619 calls in the past year from people struggling with compulsive gambling up. This number is up from 431 two years prior. Police were called on four different occasions on account of children and seniors being left unattended in cars while their parents or caregivers were inside gambling.

Clearly, the issue is increasing in severity every day. Over 893 problem gamblers, desperate to free themselves of their addiction, legally banned themselves from entering a casino through the state’s Voluntary Exclusion program. Casinos reported 37 people who were unable to follow through with the ban.

Unfortunately, there are no treatment options in Maryland to address gambling addiction. To make matters worse, most of these problem gamblers do not have health insurance or access to funds to cover private addiction treatment. The funds they could have used were gambled all away.

“When gamblers reach out to us, they’re in crisis … it’s out of control, they don’t have any money,” said Deborah Haskins, president of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling. “When the person doesn’t have treatment as an option, it’s like you’re putting a brick wall in front of them. You’re commending them for taking the first steps, but then you have nothing else to provide them. It’s very frustrating.”

Each year, casinos in Maryland are required to contribute to the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that addresses problem gambling. The casino’s pay $425 per slot machine and $500 per table game each year. The funds only came to only $4 million last fiscal year. Most of the money ended up going to the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling. The program focuses on increasing the amount of gambling addiction counselors and running the addiction hotline, among other services, but it’s not used for actual treatment

Vegas Came To Maryland

So I’m writing this wondering how a state like Maryland ended up so massive on the casino bandwagon. Five years ago, Maryland had just opened its first casino. Since then, four more have debuted and a giant $1.3 billion resort casino, MGM National Harbor, is set to open next year.

From a financial standpoint, Maryland is cashing in big time. The state took in $1 billion in the last fiscal year. Out of that money, the state’s cut was $487 million and $388 was used for Maryland’s Education Trust Funds.

It’s clear the state made a worthwhile financial investment but the consequences for addiction are all too real.  Gambling is one of the most deceptive of all human vices. It presents the illusion of easy money but can quickly lead into financial ruin. The odds are never in your favor when the purpose of the system is to make a profit.

As a result of the financial stress gambling addiction results in, often gamblers turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictive behavior to alleviate the anxiety brought on by the gambling lifestyle. They may struggle with drug and alcohol addiction for the rest of their life after years of self-medicating to deal with the stress. The stress of it call can result in strained relationships and isolation.

Maryland’s economy continues to thrive from the casino industry however compulsive gamblers have to deal with the consequences of their actions. These consequences include everything from home foreclosure and bankruptcies to domestic abuse, robberies and embezzlement.

Gambling in America costs the United States between $32.4 billion to $53.8 billion per year. The long term costs outweigh the economic benefits by a greater than 3:1 ration. Maryland has a choice to progress toward providing treatment and solutions to the gambling addiction crisis before it gets out of control. The consequences could overpower the risks.

If you feel you are starting to develop an addiction to gambling, seek help before the addiction takes control of your life. Luckily, there is help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


Pornography Addiction: XXX Edition

Pornography Addiction: XXX Edition

By Cheryl Steinberg

Pornography Addiction: Is it real?

Currently, porn addiction is not a diagnosis listed in DSM-5. “Viewing online pornography” is mentioned in the diagnostic manual but, it is not considered a mental disorder either.

The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now includes a section for behavioral addictions; however, includes only one such disorder: pathological gambling, or gambling addiction (also compulsive gambling). Also as it stands right now, there is only one other behavioral addiction proposed for further study in the DSM-5, and that is internet gaming disorder. Due to a lack of research, porn addiction is not currently being considered an addition to this ‘behavioral addiction’ section of the manual.

Pornography Addiction: XXX Edition

Although not recognized as a real disorder at the time of this writing, there are many people out there who would argue that viewing porn can – and does – become an addiction for some.

Let’s break down what we understand about porn addiction.

Identifying an porn addict

Again, although not recognized in the DSM-5, therapists are beginning to take the condition seriously when it comes to their practices. Further, it can be argued that porn addiction is as real as any other in that the same criteria used for determining whether someone is addicted to porn are much the same as the ones used to identify other addictions. These criteria mainly revolve around the dependence on the behavior or substance (in this case, pornography) at the expense of other aspects of life.

For instance, if your viewing, reading, or thinking about pornography is negatively impacting your life, interfering with your work, your personal relationships, your family life, and/or your social interactions, it has become a problem.

Some porn addicts can’t perform sexually without the stimulation of pornography and often build a up a tolerance, similarly to that which occurs with drug addiction. Porn addiction may be a part of a more extensive sex addiction.

Five Stages of Porn Addiction

  1. Early exposure

Most people who become addicted to porn have been exposed to it at an early age. They see the stuff when they are very young, making an impression. This can be the beginning of certain obsessions and fetishes.

  1. Escalation

After a while, you start to look for more and more graphic porn. You start using porn that would have disgusted you when you started. Now, it’s something that excites you.

  1. Desensitization

Eventually, you become numb. Even the most graphic, degrading porn doesn’t excite you anymore. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again but can’t find it. Again, this is similar to drug addiction in that you are chasing that ‘high’ you used to get earlier on in your porn use.

  1. Acting out sexually

At this point, you might make the dangerous leap to start acting out sexually on your specific fantasies. Basically, at this point, your sexual obsessions have moved from porn magazines and porn web sites out into the real world.

5. Addiction

This is basically been developing all along. But now, you’re experiencing full-blown porn addiction.  You keep going back to porn; it’s the only thing that gets you off. Porn becomes a regular part of your life. You’re hooked. You don’t feel like you can quit.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction or a behavioral addiction, help is available. Many times, people with a history of addiction replace their previous addictions with other obsessions. This is common. But help is available in the form of specialized treatment designed to address the underlying issues of an addiction, or multiple addictions. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

12 Signs You’re a Sex Addict

12 Signs You’re a Sex Addict

By Cheryl Steinberg

Sex on the brain? Is it more often than what’s “normal?” Is your libido out of control? Sexual addiction is a real thing just like drug addiction, and, in fact, the tell-tale signs are very similar between the two. Below is a list of 12 signs you’re a sex addict.

#1. You live a double life

Maybe you cheat all the time, and lie about where you are, and how you spend your money. These are early indications of a possible problem. But, if you have sexual secrets that you refuse to share with anyone and keep these to yourself at the expense of your real relationships, this is definitely a problem.

#2. You exploit others for sex

When it comes to sex, you couldn’t care less about people. They are just objects to use. You don’t care what happens to them when you are done with them, and you will do anything to get them to do what you want.

#3. Your life is constantly in crisis

Because sex is your number one priority, everything else is always totally messed up. Everything from school, to work, to money, is secondary to feeding your addiction.

#4. You’re preoccupied with sex

You find that you’re having obsessive thoughts about sex, which distract you more than the occasional daydream fantasizing.

#5. You have sex without regard to potential consequences

If you are doing things that are going to screw you over in the future, and you KNOW they are going to screw you over in the future, then your sex life has crossed the line and is now officially a problem.

#6. Your kink needs to be fed more and more

Most people have their “kinks,” but, if the kink you have becomes your whole world, and you need to continuously push the sexual envelope in order to get off, you might be a sex addict. What starts off as fun can wind up being severely destructive down the road.

#7. You risk your health and safety

Similar to drug addiction, the sex addict will engage in increasingly risky behaviors in order to fulfill their need for a fix. Risky behaviors related to sexual addiction include having multiple partners, having unprotected sex, or sex with strangers as well as hooking up with anonymous people met online or at bars. This increases the risk of encountering physical danger as well as contracting a sexually transmitted disease and, because of the secretive nature of sex addiction, you can go on to infect your spouse or partner as well.

#8. You masturbate all the time

If you have an active sex life and still find that you need to masturbate several times a day and even after just having sex, there might be some kind of problem. If this describes you as well as some of the other 12 signs you’re a sex addict that are on this list, you just might be a sex addict.

#9. Your relationships are always messed up

You gradually and eventually replace time spent with friends and family with a continual pursuit of activities for your sexual gratification. Time with friends and family loses its appeal, because the sex addict can no longer get pleasure from the simple things in life. Eventually most sex addicts will even give up sex with committed partners to pursue the types of sexual gratification that feed their addiction.

#10. You experience financial problems due to your obsession

A sex addict can become so entrenched in their sexual addiction that their taking too much time away from work or they might be spending large amounts of money to support their sex addiction, which can result in destroying family finances, just like a drug addiction.

Sexual addiction can manifest as internet porn, being a collector of pornographic materials, spending a lot of time and money at strip clubs, or on prostitutes. A sexual addiction can be costly to maintain and frequently sexual addicts eventually come to the point where they cannot feed their addiction and keep a job at the same time.

#11. You feel powerless

Just like the drug addict can’t stop using drugs, even though they want to, you can’t stop acting out. Even when you see how negatively it’s affecting your life and the lives of your loved ones. You try to stop – or wish you could – but simply cannot.

#12. You hate yourself

As a sex addict, you become aware that you’re going through life hurting other people and destroying yourself, which will likely cause you to hate yourself. Just like with drug addicts, there is so much shame and guilt involved in the addiction that the addict internalizes all that negative stigma attached to their condition.

Addiction comes in many forms and affects people across age, gender, ethnic, cultural, and social lines. Often times, people who struggle with one type of addiction also struggle with one or more other types of addiction. Or else, if they initially figure out how to cope with their sex addiction, for example, they might start acting out in other ways – indicative of other addictions, such as gambling addiction, shopping addiction, or internet addiction. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today to find out what you can do to turn your life around and get back on track.

Top 10 Gambling Losers of History

Top 10 Gambling Losers of History

Author: Justin Mckibben

Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder, because there is a complete lack of control over the urge to gamble once it takes hold. Those who struggle with gambling addiction are in the grips of a behavioral health disorder that can destroy various aspects of their lives.

There are some infamous addicted gamblers out there, and some are fortunate to have the money to pay for it, but still looking at their recorded losses, it is enough to take heed how gambling can hurt anyone’s pockets. Here are the top 10 gambling losers of history, and how much they lost rolling the dice.

1. $2.25 Million- Robert Maxwell

In less than three minutes, the former media tycoon blew through more than $2 million by playing three different roulette wheels at Les Ambassadeurs casino in London. To make matters worse, there was no income to repay his debt as his successful publishing company went out of business several years later. He reportedly owed several million dollars, due to pension fraud, at the time of his death.

2. $3.15 Million- Jimmy White

Mr. White admitted to losing more than $3 million gambling, mainly on horse racing and blackjack, in addition to spending over $300,000 on drugs. Mr. White also admitted to having a severe alcohol abuse problem during the time he battled with drugs and gambling.. After losing the World Championship Finals in 1994, he admitted to spending his nearly $200,000 runner-up prize on drugs, horses, cards and drinking in only a 24 hour time frame.

3. $10 Million- Akio Kashiwagi

Akio Kashiwage was the sole principal of a real estate and investment business who reportedly made an estimated $100 million per year, the only problem was he gambled money away as quickly as he could earn it.

Reportedly during one particular gambling session in 1990 at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City he made a deal to bet $12 million. But after blowing through $10 million, he reportedly left the casino claiming that they hadn’t held to their end of the deal.

He still owed casinos millions of dollars at the time of his death in 1992 when he was found murdered in his home.

4. $13 Million- Maureen O’connor

Maureen O’connor is a former mayor of San Diego who was once the wife of the Jack in the Box fast-food chain founder. O’Connor reportedly gambled $1 billion on video poker games throughout the 2000’s.

She eventually was in debt by $13 million through her gambling, which drove her to steal $2 million from the charity set up by her late husband in 2008-2009 to cover her losses, which resulted in the collapse of the foundation.

5. $20.5 Million- Harry Kakavas

Harry Kakavas was an Australian real estate salesman who blew through an estimated $1.5 billion at Melbourne Crown Casino between June 2005 and August 2006, primarily on games of baccarat.

In May 2006 he reportedly spent $164 million in less than six hours, and stole $286,000 to keep up his habit, which landed him a quick jail sentence at one point.

6.$40 Million- Archie Karas

This infamous poker player actually holds the longest-documented winning streak in gambling history. Karas started with $50 and miraculously wound up with about $40 million in 1992.

Any gambler would say to quit while you’re ahead, but Karas must not have got the memo, because he wound up burning through all the money by 1995 gambling.

7. $42.6 Billion- Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer was known as Australia’s richest man, and while he may be widely held as one of the top card players in the world of high-roller gambling, he is not above losing.

Packer gambled away $42 million between September 1999 and August 2000, including losing more than $21 million during a three-day baccarat-filled weekend in Las Vegas.

Packers losing streak didn’t end there, as he earned the largest gambling loss in British history after blowing through $17 million during a three-week gambling binge on blackjack in a London casino.

8. $65 Million- Omar Siddiqui

This unlucky gambler was a successful vice president of merchandising and operations for an electronics company, who eventually lost far more to his gambling.

Siddiqui lost around $65 million on blackjack, betting as much as $150,000 per hand, as if to throw the money away. He ended up spending $162 million in total over three years at the MGM Grand Casino and Sands Casino in Las Vegas.

9. $125 Million- Zhenli Ye Gon

Zhenli Ye Gon was raking in around $350 million over the course of three years as the CEO of United Pharm Chem. But gambling stepped in as a big part of his downfall, and between 2004 and 2007 Gon burned through around $85 million at The Venetian in Las Vegas and $40 million at several other nearby casinos.

Gon was also found guilty in august of 2014 of charges including organized crime, synthetic drug production and activities involving the use of illegal funds. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison as the leader of the operation after funneling a portion of his methamphetamine imports to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Mexican drug agents and American DEA officials raided his Mexico City home in 2007, where they made the largest drug-cash seizure of all time when they discovered $207 million sitting on the floor in U.S. hundred dollar bills.

10. $204 Million- Terry Wantanabe

The biggest loser on the list is Nebraska-born businessman Terry Wantanabe, whose father founded Oriental Trading Company. Mr. Wantanabe reportedly burned through 9… count it, 9 figures in just a single year!

It was originally claimed he had lost $127 million in 2007, but in 2010 a close review of casino records determined that he had actually lost $204 million! Apparently his gambling was so prolific he was his own tourist attraction.

Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. reported that 5.6% of its gambling revenue came directly from Watanabe himself for that entire year, and he was later caught up in a court case surrounding his gambling and debts in so much controversy he was at risk of spending 28 years in prison at one point!

Fortunately for him, the casino had indeed broken a few laws themselves, and a confidential deal was made between both parties, ending in his criminal charges being dropped.

Those are some seriously steep price-tags for throwing away money. The reality is, most people who suffer from gambling addiction end up spending far beyond their own means, and in the end the luck runs out. This kind of compulsive behavior can bring the world down on our heads, but it is not impossible to escape. Start betting on yourself and your future in the right way and get the help you need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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