The Behavioral Addictions—Gambling, Internet and Sex

Gambling addicts frequently find themselves in financial ruin, internet addicts isolate themselves from family and friends and often experience financial instability due to employment problems and sex addicts regularly expose themselves to the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

In addition, behavioral addicts may also have an alcohol or drug problem that borders on addiction, such as binge drinking or heavy, recreational marijuana use.

When someone becomes “addicted” to a behavior, the same pleasure/reward centers activated in the brain of a drug addict or alcoholic are also stimulated, resulting in dysregulation of neurotransmitters and development of tolerance to the behavior. In other words, the gambling addict who once gambled twice a week no longer experiences enough of a “thrill” limiting himself to visiting the casino or dog track two times a week and begins going every day.

Likewise, the internet addict who once spent only her evening hours chatting and surfing the internet now now spends every waking moment on her computer. Sex addicts will develop a high tolerance to the excitement of constantly finding a willing partner. What started as cruising bars on the weekends for casual partners will eventually escalate into the compulsion to seek new sex partners every night of the week.

Behavioral addictions need mental health rehab when the behavior causes serious consequences for the person indulging in them. Although many of us spend hours on the internet each day, we still have full-time jobs, interact with our families and have a social life, to a certain extent.

However, people who feel anxious and panic-stricken at the thought of leaving their computer for even an hour or two are considered to have a addiction to the internet.

Most patients entering Serenity Malibu Rehab with a behavioral addiction are also diagnosed with a mental disorder. Depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and personality disorders are the most common types of issues we find in patients who cannot stop gambling, having sex with strangers or remaining hooked into cyber world.

By initially addressing co-occurring mental disorder with various psychotherapies and individual/group counseling sessions, patients suffering from behavioral disorders often find that their compulsions diminish in intensity as the root cause of the addiction is discovered and addressed.