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Updated: August 13, 2022

Understanding Behavioral Addiction

When people talk about the disease of addiction, they tend to focus on drinking and using other substances. Addiction to substances involves an obsession and compulsion that triggers people to drink or use drugs. People with substance use disorders usually continue using their drug of choice, despite harmful consequences. Sometimes, when those people get sober, they find that there are behaviors that they are addicted to, as well. Behavioral addiction is quite common among people with substance use disorder, but the good news is that they are treatable.

What Behaviors Can Be Compulsive/Addictive?

For many people, they do certain behaviors compulsively or repetitively as a daily part of their life. However, people with substance use disorder often have other obsessive behaviors. Sometimes people even discover new addictive behaviors after they get sober.

Addictive behavior is ultimately harmful and interferes with other parts of your life. If you have trouble controlling behavior that once gave you pleasure, you may be addicted. Some behaviors that can be addictive include:

  • Shopping: Some people spend money they don’t have or create large amounts of credit card debt to buy items they want. Eventually, this financially catches up with them.
  • Sex And Pornography: Some people will use sex to cope with uncomfortable feelings or spend hours watching pornography. They may use credit cards to spend large amounts on websites or sexual services.
  • Gaming: While gaming can be social, losing sleep or spending large amounts on subscriptions can cause problems. This can cause a person to become isolated.
  • Adrenaline: People who like to take risks like speeding, or do extreme sports like hang gliding, are often addicted to adrenaline. Taking risks is always dangerous and may not be worth the costs. Risk-takers like this usually end up injured or even killed by their stunts.
  • Shoplifting: Some people steal from stores and can’t stop even when they get sober. They risk arrest and jail time even though they have the money to pay for an item.
  • Social Media: Social media has a reward system built right in. Your brain creates feel-good hormones in reaction when people click the “like” button. Social media can be full of negativity. Many people spend their late nights “doom scrolling” on Facebook or Twitter only to feel more pessimistic and lonely.

Why Is Behavior Addictive?

Many people with substance use disorders have compulsive, addictive behavior. When a behavior activates the pleasure center of your brain, your body and mind feel rewarded and happy. For many people, this feeling is intoxicating, and they want to do it again. When the thing they're doing can be harmful, this behavior may begin to interfere with their lifestyle.

Addictive behavior is closely related to addiction. It can cause self-esteem, relationships, finances, or career problems. Dangerous behaviors need to be dealt with, or you’ll end up unhappy, angry, or ashamed. These feelings can put you into relapse mode.

Not everyone becomes addicted to social media or sex. Most therapists work on helping you find healthier things to do that give you pleasure. For example, going for a run can help boost endorphins. Meditating or listening to pleasurable music can also help you boost your moods. Rather than spending time on social media, maybe you can spend time at a local recovery group with your peers.

In recovery, you’ll learn new healthy behaviors. Too much of anything can be unhealthy, however. This is why you will spend time getting to know yourself and focusing on healthy, realistic goals in recovery. If you need to shed unhealthy behavior patterns, therapy or treatment is an excellent place to start working on that. You don’t have to spend your life obsessed with social media or playing games alone.

Help is available.

Getting Help for Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or addictive behavior, we’re here to help. Recovery is possible! We can help you take the first steps to reclaim your life and find serenity.

Many families feel most comfortable when they schedule an intervention for their loved one. Give us a call at 619-363-4767 to learn more about our programs.


If you or a loved one is looking for an effective drug rehab in San Diego, call 619-363-4767. One of our caring members is ready to answer all of your questions.

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