Behavioral addictions can leave you feeling out of control and helpless. Dr. Daniel Bober in Hollywood, FL, has been providing medical treatment in coordination with therapy over the last decade. Whether you are struggling with compulsive shopping, sex addiction, or another behavior that is negatively impacting your quality of life, Dr. Bober is dedicated to providing compassionate, impactful care. If you are concerned about your own behavior or a loved one, help is available.
Understanding Behavioral Addictions
Many repetitive and unhealthy behaviors surrounding sex, internet use, food, and shopping have not been widely accepted as behavioral addictions. As such, they have yet to be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5®) or the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11®) due to inconclusive data.
Patients often engage in excessive behaviors, such as gambling or shopping, to manage stress, anxiety, or depression.
The primary issue is a lack of proof that compulsive behaviors, also referred to as non-substance addictive behaviors, impact the brain's reward center in the same way substances do1. However, gambling disorder has been included under the category Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders due to similarities in the symptoms, genetic liability, and treatment of these health concerns2. Additionally, internet gaming disorder has been included in the DSM-5 as a condition which requires further study3.
Recognition by Clinicians & Researchers
Despite the fact that many of these behaviors are not yet included in the DSM-5 or ICD-11, there is growing supportive evidence that has garnered the attention of clinicians and researchers. Currently, several behaviors are being evaluated as to whether they meet the qualifications to classify as addictions or disorders including eating, shopping, internet use, smartphone use, social media, and sex3. The American Society of Addiction Medicine characterizes addiction as4:
- The inability to abstain
- Impairment in behavioral control
- Dysfunctional emotional response
- Experiencing cycles of relapse and remission
- Diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behaviors and relationships
Despite the disagreement on how exactly to classify these compulsive behaviors, many patients seek professional help when their lives are negatively impacted and they are unable to regain control on their own.
Harmful Behaviors as a Coping Mechanism
The key to understanding the nature of these behaviors is the underlying problem. Typically, patients engage in excessive behaviors, such as gambling or shopping, to manage stress, anxious feelings, or depression. The behavior is driven by the need to alleviate these feelings. This is accomplished through activities such as eating, shopping, and gaming, which release feel-good chemicals in the brain.
The Role of the Internet
As of 2017, approximately 40 percent of the world population was online5. Increased internet use naturally leads to an increase in certain behaviors such as online shopping and gaming, as well as social media use. It is estimated that two percent of the adult population suffers from internet addiction5. The ease of access to the internet and prevalence of internet addiction is also concerning for those who suffer from compulsive buying disorder, sex addiction, and gambling disorder due to the ability to engage in these activities much more easily.
The Importance of Seeking Treatment
Patients struggling with a behavioral addiction may find that various aspects of their lives are affected including:
- Interpersonal relationships
- Physical health
- Emotional health
- Legal standing
Additionally, these individuals often struggle with substance use disorders such as alcoholism. For example, according to one study, it was found that 21 to 46 percent of patients with compulsive buying disorder also had a substance use disorder6.
Identifying & Treating Your Condition
When diagnosing behavioral addictions, careful clinical assessment of habits, feelings, and associated thinking is essential due to the lack of formal diagnostic criteria7. While there are no medications specifically used to treat behavioral addictions, they may be recommended to address compulsive thoughts or underlying issues such as anxiety. Therapy and support groups may also be effective in helping patients manage compulsive activities by developing skills to abstain from the behavior7. Dr. Bober can help you determine whether medical treatment, therapy, or a combination approach can help you regain control of your life.
Successfully Manage Your Behavior
If you believe that you or a loved one are suffering from a behavioral addiction, do not hesitate to seek treatment. With over 10 years of experience as a board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Bober can provide an accurate diagnosis and guidance to plan the best course of treatment. Schedule a consultation by calling Dr. Bober's office at (954) 967-6776.
- Why behavioral addictions are not included in the DSM-5 - National Institutes of Health
- Categorization of gambling disorder - National Institutes of Health
- Internet gaming disorder - National Institutes of Health
- Definition of addiction - American Society of Addiction Medicine
- 2 percent of adults suffer from internet addiction - Journal of Neuropsychiatry
- 21 to 46 percent of compulsive buyers also have a substance abuse disorder - National Institutes of Health
- Careful clinical assessment is necessary - Journal of Psychopathology