Behavioral addictions (or process addictions) can be defined as an addiction to a particular activity or behavior and not an addictive chemical such as opioids or alcohol. In a report authored by Reef Karim and Priya Chaudhry, the authors look at behavior addictions as a way of self-medicating. “The use of repetitive actions initiated by an impulse that can’t be stopped, causing an individual to escape, numb, soothe, release tension, lessen anxiety or feel euphoric, may redefine the term addiction to include experience and not just substance.”
The report (highlights of the report below) discusses Binge Eating, Disordered Gambling, Hypersexual Disorder, Compulsive Buying Disorder, Internet Addiction Disorder, and Video Game Addiction. These are all conditions that we can either identify with or know of a family member, friend or coworker that may demonstrate these characteristics.
Treatment options for Compulsive Eating Disorder include pharmacological and behavioral interventions. Randomized controlled trials using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and brief psychoeducation have led to improved outcomes with binge eating symptoms (Carter et al. 2003). Given the known risks associated with compulsive overeating, such as obesity, increased morbidity, and mortality, further investigation is warranted to better understand treatment options and factors that have contributed to this epidemic.
The access and availability of gambling opportunities is the highest it has ever been worldwide. Online gaming environments, casinos, destination resorts, sports betting, spread betting, bingo, slot machines, private betting, horse races, card games, and lottery tickets are collectively receiving increased attention from the general public throughout the world. The desire and willingness to wager money or other items of value on randomly established outcomes seems universal. Although most individuals participate in gambling as an enjoyable social activity, a small group of people can become seriously involved in terms of time invested and money wagered. As time goes on they continue to gamble despite substantial negative personal, social, family, and financial effects. (Hodgins, Stea & Grant 2011)
Sex addiction could be described as a debilitating problem which may include impairment in physical health function, cognition, impulse control, attachment, intimacy, and mood.
Compulsive sexual behavior has been estimated to have a prevalence of between 3% and 6% in the United States (Black 2000). Most individuals with hypersexuality are male but studies investigating hypersexual disorder in both sexes have found anywhere from 8% to 40% of sufferers are female (Kaplan & Krueger 2010).
Sexuality is dependent on many factors, including individual and relationship variables, societal values, cultural mores, and ethnic and religious beliefs. In discussing hypersexuality, these contexts need to be considered (Kaplan & Krueger 2010).
Coleman, Raymond, and McBean (2003) defined compulsive sexual disorders as compulsive cruising, engaging with multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive autoeroticism, compulsive use of erotica, compulsive use of the Internet, compulsive multiple love relationships, and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.
Compulsive Buying Disorder
Although there is variability in the definition of pathological spending, experts define compulsive buying disorder (CBD) as a disorder associated with compulsive thoughts or impulses to purchase unnecessary or large amounts of items despite its negative consequences.
Similar to drug abuse, shopping addiction is highly ritualized and follows an addictive course where the individual is consumed by thinking and planning the next shopping trip. The act of buying itself or returning purchases leads to pleasure and relief of negative feelings. The frequency of pathological shopping episodes can range from once a month to once a day, depending on available funds. Similar to substance abuse, after the act of compulsive shopping, the individual may experience exhaustion or a letdown. Once the purchase is complete, it often leads to feelings of guilt, disappointment, and shame.
Internet Addiction Disorder
The true prevalence of Internet addiction in the U.S. is unknown; however, Young (1998) estimated the figure to be between 5% and 10% of all online users, which is approximately two and five million Internet addicts. Other estimates vary greatly, from as low as 3% reported by Mitchell (2000) and Whang, Lee, and Chang (2003), to as high as 80% in Young’s original study (1998).
Using World Health Organization criteria, a gaming addiction rate of 12% was found by researchers in the United Kingdom who polled 7,000 gamers (Grusser et al. 2007). Research in the United States has estimated that anywhere from a small minority to as much as 10% to 15% of players may be affected (Chak & Leung 2004).
Psychosocial effects of video games are varied. Some studies have found that exposure to video game violence may promote increased aggressive behaviors and decreased prosocial behaviors in social interactions. (Sheese& Graziano 2005; Vastag 2004) Although overuse can be associated with any type of video game, it is most commonly seen among those using massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), who represent approximately 9% of gamers (ESA 2005).
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