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Much is known about drug and alcohol addictions, which are far more prevalent and understood than other types of addiction, but lesser-known behavioral addictions can be equally harmful in terms of social, health, and financial consequences and may require professional help to overcome.

Elements of a Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral addictions, like sex or gambling, have long been studied, and research has shown that these types of addictions can be devastating to the person with the addiction. Dr. Steven Sussman, an expert on behavioral addictions, identified five elements of addiction to help better diagnose them. According to Sussman, a behavioral addiction:

  • Satisfies an instinctive physical desire.
  • Only temporarily satiates the person with the addiction.
  • Is characterized by an obsession with that behavior.
  • Is marked by a loss of control over the behavior.
  • Results in negative consequences.

Overcoming a Behavioral Addiction

Some behavioral addictions aren’t as well-known as others, but if you suffer from one, you know the feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred that can prevail when you can’t seem to stop engaging in the destructive behavior, even though it’s causing negative consequences and even though you may have tried to stop. But as with any addiction, it usually takes more than willpower alone to stop engaging in the behavior. Professional addiction treatment is often the only hope for ending these four lesser-known types of addictions.

1. Work Addiction

According to Sussman and other addiction experts, a work addiction is characterized by working to the point of no longer enjoying it and suffering negative consequences to your relationships and your health due to your inability to stop working. Health problems commonly found in those who have a work addiction include headaches, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, and the effects of stress.

2. Internet Addiction

According to a study published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reviews, up to 8.2% of people in the U.S. and Europe are addicted to the Internet. Signs of Internet addiction include making unsuccessful attempts to cut back on use, staying online longer than you intend, and experiencing moodiness, depression, or restlessness when not online. Common consequences of Internet addiction include job loss or the loss of a significant relationship, lying to others about the extent of your Internet use, and using the Internet as a way to escape from problems or to improve your mood.

3. Sugar Addiction

Consuming sugar is known to release dopamine and opioids in the brain, and according to a study published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, sugar addiction has four components that are similar to other chemical addictions: binging, withdrawal, craving, and cross-sensitization. Withdrawal from a sugar addiction elicits chemical changes that are similar to those found in people withdrawing from morphine, nicotine, and alcohol.

4. Exercise Addiction

A recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health makes a clear distinction between exercise addiction and exercise as a healthy habit. Signs of an exercise addiction, which often accompanies an eating disorder, include increasing the amount of time you exercise in order to feel the effects you desire, the onset of anxiety; restlessness, insomnia, and other negative effects when you don’t exercise; and continuing to exercise obsessively even though it’s causing health or relationship problems.

If you suffer from any of these addictions or similar ones, such as an addiction to gaming, TV, skin picking, or negativity, cognitive behavioral therapy in an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment setting can help you identify the underlying cause of the addiction and learn to replace the self-destructive behaviors with those that are healthier. Getting professional help for any type of addiction will improve your health, your relationships, and your overall quality of life.

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4 Behavioral Addictions You Didn’t Know
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