The top behavioral addictions facing Americans today
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Regardless of how one may feel about the term “behavioral addiction,” there are problems that drastically affect all kinds of people. Although not all are officially classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), these types of addictive actions still inflict legitimate restrictions on a person’s daily life. Some particular addictions have become so prevalent and reported that continuing to include them among clinical resources has become a controversial topic of discussion.

In the United States, one of the most commonly experienced addictions is related to food. According to the latest statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a staggering 69 percent of adults are categorized as overweight. In addition to its widespread acknowledgement, specific conditions such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders have been deemed serious enough to be included in the DSM-5. However, the overall concept of obesity is not included. Some studies have found that a deficiency of dopamine in the brain can also affect the desire or compulsion to eat. The behavior is wired into the brain and its production of dopamine. Due to this, the diagnosis may be deemed more appropriate for the medical field rather than the mental field.

Another one of the most highlighted dependencies is gambling. For a long and established history, the practice of gambling has been associated with adverse consequences. In fact, with all of the substantial data recorded on this type of activity, gambling disorder is the only non-substance-related disorder in the DSM at this time. Most addictions have some sort of immediate, guaranteed reward that incentivizes future behavior. For gambling, this payoff comes at a chance every time. However, the odds and reality of winning are usually brushed aside in favor of the overall thrill. This conscious ignorance of the possible downsides is a prominent sign of an addictive behavior. As people grow more desperate for wins, they will only concern themselves over the next game. Along a similar vein, the concept of Internet gaming addiction is also being considered for inclusion due to a growing record of research in Asian countries.

Another behavior gaining fast and furious coverage is the addiction to pornography. While sexual addictions have been contested for validity in the last few decades, the process of becoming dependent on pornography specifically took off with the invention of the Internet, where online users could stream videos with a simple click. Neither the addiction to sex nor pornography are included in the DSM, yet various support groups including Alcoholics Anonymous have taken hold in various communities to help quell unsettling urges. In addition, research from a neuropsychological perspective claims that due to the easy accessibility of pornography, people may begin to associate the Internet with an anticipation of arousal and gratification. As this behavior is continuously reinforced, an addiction may develop.

Closely related to a sexual dependency is the over-exaggerated need for love. Rather than relying on the thrill and satisfaction that comes with sexual relations, individuals addicted to love have an immense obsession with the feeling of falling for a person and the initial sparks of affection and devotion. While the behavior sounds like it may focus on developing deep and committed relationships, most people who fit this classification find love with emotionally unavailable or avoidant partners who feed on the love addicted individual’s need to hang on to others and symptomatic self-esteem issues. Without regard for his or her own needs, the addicted person will attempt to oblige his or her partner at any cost. This means that he or she may tolerate abusive behaviors while refusing to let go of the bond.

Very little research has been accumulated regarding addictions to shopping, but cases of compulsive spending have made news headlines time and time again. Some populations even cite shopping as a form of relief or therapy. However, new academic observations and analyses have delved deeper into the subject, discovering that those who do shop without apparent control are prone to be highly concerned with materialistic gains and have poor management over their credit statements and payments. These researchers propose that due to the ambiguity of one’s transactions while using a card, individuals are more likely to remain ignorant of how much is too much in terms of purchasing.

As more research is amassed for each of these behavioral dysfunctions, assessing one’s level of control is a good first step in seeking support. At Sovereign Health of California, comprehensive treatment centers are available all over the state to address these developing, new addictions. If you or someone you love is suffering from a debilitating obsession of any kind, please contact a representative online or call (866) 819-0427 for help.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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