There are many types of addiction, and while we tend to think of substance abuse with a component of physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms, but the fact is that behavioral addiction can occur in a number of activities and processes with no physical dependence.
What makes these behavioral patterns addictions instead of a habit? It is the compulsive nature of the behavior. These individuals feel a compulsion to continually engage in a particular activity or behavior despite the knowledge of its negative impact on one’s social, financial or mental wellbeing. These patients feel a psychological “high” when they engage in that activity and go to significant lengths to attain it. They also tend to feel guilt or remorse over pursuing it. In a number of cases, these individuals don’t have insight into the degree of their obsession or addiction and require help to address the problem.
The most common forms of behavioral addictions include gambling, gaming, sex, shopping, exercise addictions. It is true that everyone engages in these activities to a certain degree that is considered to be within normal, healthy range, but it falls in the domain of addiction if the person struggles with mental health or physical health issues as a consequence of the behavior and/or the inability to stop, has difficulties in significant relationships at home or work due to disruptive behavior, experiences other negative consequences that are directly caused by continued, extreme, or chronic engagement in the behavior, or is unable to stop engaging in the behavior despite these consequences.
Generally, people put in a rational into deciding what behavior or activity they are going to perform, and then try to make sure it is done in a reasonable manner within the bounds of what is conventionally acceptable. But addictions goes way beyond that – there is an element of reckless pursuit, excessive indulgence, unshakeable obsession and disregard for consequences (even if there is remorse later).
It is important to identify these behaviors as they creep into the addiction territory, but doing so can be hard. These individuals may lose insight into their problem and in such cases, an intervention is needed. These are not meant to call out or criticize them but to help them understand the gravity of the situation and the impact their addiction is having. It is supposed to be coupled with useful and practical advice regarding the next steps that need to be taken in order to get on the path of recovery. This is the time of emotional turmoil for the individual, and they can use all the support they can get from their loved ones in addition to getting professional help as needed.
Rehab programs are now getting fully adept in the management of several types of process addictions. There is also an increasing level of public awareness on these issues, which allows them to identify these problems early and seek medical attention for themselves or their affected loved ones.