Treatment for behavioral addictions can come in many different forms. Some behavioral addictions can be controlled by medication or therapy. Since behavioral addictions often come packaged with mental illness such as depression and compulsive disorders, it is often a combination of medication and therapy that is most effective. The most common form of therapy associated with behavioral addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
CBT can help a person manage their problem by changing the way they think and behave. It is based on the concept that thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap someone in a vicious cycle. The difference with CBT and other talking treatments is that CBT deals with issues in real time; the therapy doesn’t often delve into the past. During therapy, the patient and therapist reduce problems into separate parts, such as the individual thoughts and feelings associated with patient addiction. These parts get analyzed to determine the effect they have, and the patient works on changing the parts. CBT can be very helpful when dealing with behavioral addictions, because its sole focus is on changing current behavior for the better.
CBT is based on several core principals, including:
- Problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
- People suffering psychological problems can learn better ways of coping.
CBT places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapist.
According to Amee Briney, Clinical Director of Holy Cross Services in Flint, CBT has proven effective for many types of addiction.
Another therapy form shown to be successful in treating behavioral addiction and addiction in general is contingency management. Contingency management is, basically, a positive reinforcement vehicle. In it, a person is rewarded for sobriety or avoiding the addictive subject.
“The success rate for treating behavioral addiction varies depending on research, however success rates are more based upon what stage of change the person is at, when receiving treatment,” says Briney. “It depends upon what their motivating factors are – internal or external – and what values they possess. Recovery can also depend on co-occurring disorders, medication compliance and trauma background,” she adds.
The first step to treatment is to ask for help. If you feel like you are drowning alone with only your addiction; you are not. Many helpful groups are equipped to treat people just like you. Get in touch with somebody. It will make a difference.
“Any licensed therapist will recommend CBT as the number one therapy out there,” Briney explains. “Substance abuse treatment should be given by someone with a MCBAP development plan or full CAADC/CADC certification. Gambling addiction is specialized and licensed counselors have specialized training for treatment. Only about 40 people in the state are certified to handle it, but the need for more gambling addiction counselors is growing.” Briney informs that sex addiction is usually best handled by a sex therapist and if shopping addiction is the person’s only addiction, it can usually be treated by a standard, licensed therapist.
Video Game Addiction
This is a relatively new disorder that mental health and behavioral health experts are just beginning to understand. As a result, there are very few proven treatment methods available and limited inpatient treatment programs specifically for video game addicts. Current treatments include:
- Techniques used to treat other behavioral addictions such a CBT and counseling
- Family Counseling
- Medications (used to treat associated conditions such as depression)
- Therapeutic boarding schools and wilderness therapy programs
Now that gambling is recognized as being able to change the brain’s chemistry much like substance addiction, treatment options have broadened. It often includes both medicinal and behavioral approaches. Current treatments include:
- Medication-assisted Therapy (Naltrexone, commonly used to treat opioid use, has been very successful in treating gambling addictions.)
- Peer therapy groups such as gamblers anonymous
Many different types of therapies can be utilized to help patients exercise control of sexual urges. Therapies usually include a combination of both therapy and medication(s). Current treatments include:
- CBT (as part of therapy, the patient will learn how to avoid possible situations and triggers that could increase sexual urges. In addition, they will learn how to regulate those urges.)
- Counseling (both individual and group therapy sessions can be utilized.)
- Family Counseling (if affairs have been a problem in the past)
- Psychotherapy (to help with possible past trauma)
- Peer therapy groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous
- Medications (used for treating associated conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder)
Treatment for this addiction typically employs the same strategies that have been shown to be effective with other forms of behavioral addiction, like gambling, sex and video game addictions, among others. The goal in treating exercise addiction is not avoiding exercise altogether, but learning to develop and maintain healthy, non-compulsive workouts that serve to improve (not harm) physical and mental well-being. This can be accomplished by either moderating the exercise routine or introducing a new form of exercise; the avid runner dials it down by swimming. Current treatments include:
- Contingency Management
- Antidepressants (to treat underlying depression or anxiety)
- Yoga and meditation (used to help people pull back on strenuous workouts)
There are no formal 12-step or social support groups for those addicted to exercise. Since there’s such a strong link between compulsive exercise and eating disorders, many ED treatment centers offer counseling for exercise addicts.
This can be difficult to manage, as making purchases is a normal part of everyday life. Current treatments include:
- CBT and individual counseling
- Medication (for depression or anxiety)
- Psychotherapy (to help heal past trauma)
- Peer therapy groups such as Shopaholics Anonymous
Depending on the severity of the shopping addiction, the compulsive buyer may need to be “cut off” from cash flow. Someone else may need to be in charge of their finances. In rare cases, a person with shopping addiction may need to check in to an inpatient addiction program.
Since behavioral addictions often come packaged with mental illness such as depression and compulsive disorders, it is often a combination of medication and therapy that is most effective.
Where to get help for Behavioral Addictions
- American Addiction Centers 866.840.8224
Compulsive Gambling Programs in Flint
- Auburn Counseling Service 810.744.3300
- Catholic Charities 810.232.9950
- Insight Recovery Center 810.744.3600 or 810.733.0900
- Kairos Healthcare, Inc. 810.720.4357
- New Passages 810.235.6812
- Oakland Psychological Services 810.732.0560
- Holy Cross Services 810.249.9924
- Gamblers Anonymous 855.222.5542
- Sexaholics Anonymous 866.424.8777 or visit sa.org
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous visit slaafws.org
- Sexual Addiction Anonymous 800.477.8191 or visit or visit recovery.org
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous 800.977.HEAL or visit sca-recovery.org
- Sexual Recovery Anonymous visit sexualrecovery.org
- Debtors Anonymous 800.421.2383 or visit debtorsanonymous.org
- Shopaholics Anonymous 248-358-8508
Video Game Addiction
- UM Psychological clinic 734.469.3391
- Great Lakes Psychology Group 866.957.7126
- Ann Arbor Counseling Associates 734.732.4063
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