Behavioral addictions are gambling and addictions to social media, cell phones and gaming.

Posted By on April 29, 2015

Traditionally, the term addiction has been used to describe dependence on substances such as alcohol and drugs. More recently, the word has been applied to a range of behaviors. Behavioral addictions are patterns of behavior which follow a pattern similar to substance dependence. Some common behavioral addictions are gambling and addictions to social media, cell phones and gaming.

The addiction begins with a person associating pleasure with a particular behavior and continuing to repeat the behavior. In the case of gambling, there is also always the possibility of financial reward which a person with a behavioral addiction perceives as a dangling carrot. For some people, behavioral addictions are a means of releasing stress, but eventually they become a significant part of life. When a person is addicted, they experience urges or cravings to engage in the behavior which intensifies until the person carries out the behavior. Even if negative consequences occur; the addicted person continues the behavior.

Examples of addictive behavior include:

  • Problem gambling
  • Sexual activities
  • Food and eating
  • Exercise
  • Computer games
  • Shopping
  • Work

These addictions are real, in that they follow the same pattern as substance-based addictions and result in many problems in the life of the person who is addicted. Relationships are often neglected in favor of the addictive behavior, undermining trust and putting pressure on family members to cover up and make excuses to other people. There is increasing evidence that addiction to these behaviors involves similar brain mechanisms to substance based addiction.

The problem with behavioral addictions is that they take center stage and cause the addicted person to neglect the important things in their lives such as childcare, work, school, relationships and daily housekeeping tasks such as cleaning and grocery shopping. Those who gamble excessively or feel compelled to buy the latest computer games can run into serious financial difficulty. Sometimes this becomes so serious that people have been known to borrow or steal money to finance the habit.

Fortunately, for those dealing with behavioral addictions, treatments that have been developed to treat substance abuse have been successfully used to treat behavioral addictions. Addiction professionals are developing methods to treat a range of addictions, and facilities exist which specialize in treating behavioral addictions.

Causes of behavioral addiction

In behavioral addiction, it is the process that becomes addictive. Certain behaviors create a euphoric feeling due to serotonin released by the brain in response to a pleasurable experience. The brain then attempts to recreate the feeling despite any negative consequences related to it. Behavioral disorder treatments focus on the resulting need to repeatedly have the experience and the compulsion that accompanies it.

Signs and symptoms

  • Increasing the frequency in which you engage in the behavior or engaging for a longer period than intended
  • Constant need to engage in the behavior
  • One or more failed efforts to stop, reduce or control the behavior
  • The majority of your time is spent engaging in the behavior, planning to do so or recovering from the effects
  • Preoccupation with the behavior itself or with the actions required to prepare for it
  • Neglecting other obligations such as work, school or family so that you can engage in the behavior more often
  • Isolating yourself so that it is easier to engage in the behavior without friends or family knowing about it
  • Continuing to engage in the behavior despite negative consequences
  • Increasing the intensity or frequency of the behavior to achieve the same effect Restlessness, irritability, hostility or anxiety if you are unable to engage in the behavior


Behavioral addiction treatment and rehabilitation presents a challenge in many cases due to the fact that unlike drugs or alcohol, sometimes abstaining from the addictive behavior is impossible. For example, a person who is addicted to overeating cannot cut food out of his or her life. For this reason, some types of behavioral addiction treatment programs focus primarily on rehabilitation and recovery rather than detox or abstinence.

Behavioral addiction treatment programs address the psychological issues faced by the patient. A behavioral addiction rehabilitation program that is carried out in an inpatient rehab facility is often highly effective in treating the addiction. Typically these treatment programs focus on helping the patient to develop healthier ways of dealing with life and the pressures that accompany it.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Successful rehabilitation includes behavioral therapy which focuses on eliminating unhealthy or negative behaviors by replacing them with positive, healthier ones. Essentially it teaches patients to redirect thoughts to achieve a more positive outcome. The focus is on the motivations behind the behavior rather than the physical actions.

Sovereign Health of Florida

Sovereign Health provides a residential rehab center in Fort Myers, Florida for treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions.

Each treatment center located throughout the nation works to emphasize our basic philosophy. This is known as The Sovereign Way, which acknowledges each patient’s individual needs by providing them with a treatment plan that is intended for their specific recovery. Like many other treatment providers, we allow for holistic programming for brain functioning rehabilitation. Yet we also work to educate our patients about numerous life skills, helping them to lead more prolific lives, while resisting relapse following their recovery.

A key component of the Sovereign Health of Fort Myers, Florida’s treatment program is the brain wellness component, underlying our primary philosophy that emphasizes the cognitive connection to addiction and mental health. Without addressing this aspect of a person’s life, it is impossible to expect a successful long-term outcome. Sovereign applies both technology and counseling to identify the patient’s neurological state, as well as lifestyle issues that could be hampering their pathway to a full recovery and/or emotional wellness.

This unique program, which focuses on the five components of brain wellness, includes:

  • Cognitive exercises in our state-of-the-art cognitive lab
  • Private and group consultations
  • Insightful training into how your physical, emotional and mental activities affect your short and long term brain wellness
  • Rehabilitation program based on comprehensive baseline assessment test results
  • Quantifiable goals and continuing monitoring of your progress

We offer a number of different therapeutic activities in our brain wellness program, including yoga, equine therapy, meditation, art therapy and more. Included in treatment is a cognitive assessment. Detection of cognitive impairment determines whether a person needs further evaluation. Cognitive testing measures a person’s intelligence and mental ability. Some of the specific areas measured by cognitive ability include problem-solving, verbal ability, numerical ability, reasoning, memory and general intelligence.

Resident accommodations are very comfortable and as home-like as possible. When you are ready to return home, continuing care provides ongoing support and encouragement.

Sovereign Health accepts most major health insurance plans, making treatment affordable. If you would like further information, please call 855-735-4839 to speak with a member of our team. They will be happy to assist you.

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