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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.

Utah Senator Declares Porn a Public Health Crisis

Utah Senator Declares Porn as a Public Health Crisis.

Author: Shernide Delva

Utah has officially declared porn a public health crisis. Republican State Senator Todd Weiler has recognized the destructive, addictive nature of pornography and has recently introduced a resolution to the Utah legislature.

However, critics of the new legislature say it is based on exaggeration and morality rather than scientific evidence on the actual effects of pornography. Furthermore, many argue the senator’s resolution relies more on pseudoscience and has no place in governmental action.

Nonetheless, Weiler suggests that pornography exposure causes low-self-esteem in teens and leads to sexual behaviors. The bill he is pushing suggests that pornography represents a public health crisis.

The senator goes on to claim that pornography is responsible for:

  • Damaging teens’ brains
  • Affecting the state of marriage
  • Increasing the rates of rape and sexual violence
  • Causing a host of other social problems.

Weiler is passionate about the porn addiction problem. He has even called on the government of Utah to engage in research and prevention efforts to address this “epidemic.”  Is porn responsible for these setbacks? Are these claims fact or fiction?

Digging a bit deeper, one can find a host of arguments for and against Weiler’s statements. One argument points to a massive study conducted in the United Kingdom which actually reveals that the effects of porn on teens were too insubstantial to actually make any true claims.  In the study, which reviewed over 40,000 research articles, they found that pornography only explained less than 1% of negative behaviors in teens. The study concluded that blaming pornography for risky sexual behavior is more of a distraction than a solution. Rather, there should be a stronger focus on issues of education, poverty, substance use/mental health and family variables that play a more significant role.

Moving on to the next part of the legislation, Weiler states that pornography serves as a child’s first form of sex education and even forms their sexual templates in the long run. Unfortunately, this has been seen to be true in most cases. Often, a young person’s first exposure to sexuality is found to be through pornography.

However, many hope the legislation will push towards focusing on sex education efforts for youth in Utah, rather than the addiction in general. Sex education is a huge issue across the United States. Many states, like Utah, have an emphasis  on abstinence-only sex education rather than exploring other more effective options. This could be a very significant setback.

Next question: Is pornography really a biological addiction?

One article reveals actually has been a wealth of research that correlates porn access to a reduction of sexual violence and sexual crimes. Still, other articles correlate porn with an increase in sexual violence. Science remains unsure if porn addiction is a true addiction.

Furthermore, the final terms of Weiler’s bill is strongly considered a conservative ideology. Weiler seems to believe that it is only men who watch porn and women who are abused by it. Throughout the resolution, it seems that Weiler’s main concern is that pornography reduces the desire for males to marry women and have children. However, studies show that many women view pornography as well.

According to several reports, Utah has the highest rates of pornography in the United States. Weiler believes that pornography is a “gateway” behavior that affects the brains of teenagers. However, in a strange chicken-egg debate, critics argue if whether pornography is the problem, or if underlying issues cause the increase in pornography use.

Whether you believe in porn addiction or not, addiction is a wide spectrum disorder, and it does not always have to be substance abuse. Other addictions are common and real. If you feel like you are struggling to overcome an addiction, the time is now to explore your treatment options. 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.

Burnout in the Digital Age

Burnout in the Digital Age

By Cheryl Steinberg

Everything is new these days. In this digital age – an era filled with inventions that have fundamentally altered the way we live – the long-term effects are yet to be fully understood.

However, one thing is clear, people are getting burned out. Especially on social media. Not everyone might be willing to admit it but, people are addicted to Facebook, Instagram, and what-not. Next time you’re with your group of friends or out to dinner, take a minute to look around. How many people are staring at their phones? Even though they are in the company of living, breathing individuals, they seem to much-prefer the comfort of their phone rather than the comfort of actual, human interaction.

With the advent of social media, nearly everyone in possession of a smart phone and is therefore tied to some sort of information cycle, often comprised of social media feeds as well as a heavy dose of work in the form of e-mails that are constantly bombarding you. Add to this the non-stop highlight reel that so often makes up most of what we see of other people’s lives, leading to FOMO (fear of missing out) and feelings of not measuring up from the pain of the inconsistency between real life and Instagram, and the never-ending ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ by constantly vying for the most “likes.”

Patty Forbes Pedzwater, a practicing psychotherapist in Manhattan, says that, in recent years, she has seen the increase in younger patients needing her services, so much so that she has had to refocus her practice to deal specifically with clients between the ages of 22 and 35.

“I was starting to see a lot of young women around 32-33 that had already crossed into that burnout state,” she says, noting that one of the reasons she went younger was that she was hoping to head these women off before it got too bad. Instead, she’s now hearing patients complain of burnout symptoms as early as their freshman year in college. “That’s new.”

Burnout in the Digital Age

With social media always at their fingertips, work life suffers but so does home life. The problem of burnout becomes about needing permission to go home or otherwise unwind, says Pedzwater. “I hear it all the time,” she notes, somewhat reassuringly. “It’s simply a fantasy of something we perceive to have a beginning, middle, and an end. There’s a timer on it. You work someplace, the whistle blows, and you’re out.”

I know that for me, as well as friends who have echoed the same sentiment, I used to look forward to the days when I would be done with school and enter the workforce because my understanding was that then, at least, there would be a set schedule; a time when I knew I’d be headed home and therefore a definitive end to my doing work, or else having my attention tied up.

However, with the digital age and the advent of social media, we’re always “on” and going, going, going. There really is no end, per se, except for when we decide to go to bed. And even then, many of us have our phone within arm’s reach and that’s enough to inhibit good, restorative sleep. It seems we always have “one eye open” – figuratively speaking – when it comes to social media, smart phones, and other digital era phenomena.

Addiction does not only refer to substance abuse; it also can define behavioral issues such as the obsession with certain activities, such as internet addiction, compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping, and sex addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug addiction or another type of addiction – where it is having a negative impact on their lives, help is available. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available 24/7.

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