Some of us in recovery from a substance use disorder may engage in compulsive behaviors. When it gets to the point that we feel unable to control the habit, it may be considered a behavioral addiction.
There are many similarities between behavioral and substance addictions and some differences. People tend to use either the substance or behavior to try to self-soothe or regulate intense emotion. In both cases, there is an experience of craving, use, and temporary relief, followed by negative feelings. In both cases, difficult consequences tend to accrue as a result.
Also in both, the substance or behavior becomes less pleasurable over time. It becomes a cycle of using to mitigate the negative impact of using. People often feel stuck.
The two may work similarly in the brain, impacting the reward system. However, because behavioral addictions don’t rely on a substance that directly impacts brain chemistry, people who quit an addictive behavior don’t go through medically serious withdrawal.
The factors that lead to addiction are complex and different for everyone. It may be the presence of co-occurring mental health disorders, a history of trauma, a genetic predisposition, an experience of grief or loss, or many other factors. Within a single person, there are often multiple causes.
The good news is that whichever type of addiction you have—or if you have both types—recovery is always possible. If you are sober from drugs and alcohol but feel like you’re using other behaviors addictively, it can be discouraging. But remember that you already have the tools, knowledge, and experience to understand recovery. You already know you are strong and capable.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you get and stay sober. Some of our facilities offer help for certain behavioral addictions and eating disorders. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.