What are Behavioral Addictions?

Not all Addictions Involve Substances of Abuse

When we think of addiction, we often think of abusing drugs or alcohol. Addictions, though, can come in all different forms, from an addiction to food to an addiction to video games. Not all addictions are to mind-altering substances; oftentimes, they are addictive behaviors.

A behavioral addiction involves an addiction to non-substances but gives the individual a euphoric-like feeling nonetheless. The individual craves this certain addiction and begins to depend on the presence of the behavior in order to release a certain feeling. They start to partake in compulsive and repetitive behaviors. Behavioral addiction differs from substance addiction in that the body does not experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not partake in the action itself. For example, an individual may bite their nails but the absence of the action does not induce withdrawal, rather, it may bring about feelings of anxiousness and nervousness.

Two Types of Addictions, Compared

An addiction to substances of abuse such as Benzo’s and Opioids, do not have the same type of addictive tendencies as behavioral addictions. Certain actions can be addictive to some individuals which may make no apparent sense to another individual, such as hair pulling or nail-biting.

People can be addicted to anything such as:

  • Video games
  • Gambling
  • Food
  • Social media
  • Shopping
  • Plastic surgery

When an individual has a behavioral addiction, they experience an overwhelming urge to do whatever action it is that they are addicted to. While it may not give them a ‘high’, it makes them feel calm and content. Oftentimes, there is an underlying mental health condition such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and anxiety that is at the root cause of behavioral addiction.

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

Many recovery centers offer treatment for those who are struggling with a behavioral addiction. One of the most effective treatment modalities for overcoming this type of struggle is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy works by focusing on the individual’s actions and how to help divert them. By adopting new behaviors that are in a place of the old behaviors, the obsessive behaviors can be mitigated. Cognitive behavioral therapy not only concentrates on behavior but also looks at the thought process and how it relates to obsessive behaviors.

It’s important that those who struggle with a behavioral addiction seek help in order to overcome their habits. While it may not be an addiction to substances of abuse, it can be equally as interfering in the individual’s life. Individualized help is needed in order to overcome these struggles as the individual may turn to substances of abuse in order to replace their behavioral addiciton. This is a common occurrence in those who struggle with compulsive behavioral and who are predisposed to the disease of addiction. They may replace one addiction with another.

Getting the appropriate therapy and treatment is essential when wanting to overcome your behavioral addiction. Therapy will also teach you how to manage triggers when you are confronted with them.




If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.