Behavioral addiction is categorized by an individual engaging in a non-drug related behavior repeatedly. Common behavioral addictions include gambling and shopping addiction, hoarding and impulsive stealing. Such addictions can damage an individuals employment, personal relationships and mental health issues. Although not all behavioral addictions are in conjunction with a mental health issue, many individuals do suffer from a mental disorder that can lead to a behavior addiction. When an person needs to be treated for a psychological disorder and an addiction it is known as a dual diagnosis. Common psychological disorders that “co-occur” with a behavioral addiction can include impulse control problems, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder.
While mental disorders can contribute to behavioral addictions, individuals with certain personality traits have been found to exhibit behavioral addictions. Studies have shown that individuals who score high on impulsivity and risk seeking behaviors on personality assessments are more likely to have a behavioral addiction. On a behavioral assessment, people who scored low on harm-avoidance are also more likely to exhibit a behavioral addiction. Such studies have shown as well that people with specific sets of personality traits are likely to have a behavioral addiction. Personality traits of high harm-avoidance, personal conflict, psychoticism, and lack of self-direction showed to be correlated within individuals who suffer from an internet addiction. Individuals who scored high on impulsivity were more likely to have trichotillomania, an addiction of skin-picking or hair-pulling.
When an individual has a behavioral addiction he or she is addicted not to a substance but is addicted to the feeling he or she gets from the behavior. For instance, someone who has a behavioral addiction to gambling has the reward feeling of excitement from winning. That excitement generated by the behavioral action of gambling seeks the same thrill of winning over and over which eventually leads to an impulsivity to gamble to the point that it can have a negative impact on his or her daily life. Although many behavioral addictions are not influenced by drug abuse, studies have found that such factors as drug and alcohol abuse have a significant impact on the behavioral addiction. Studies found that individuals who were addicted to gambling were about 3.8 times more likely to display alcohol abuse. While substance abuse has not been found to influence a behavioral addiction like gambling, hoarding, or trichotillomania, it does increase the risk of developing a behavioral addiction.
Genetics can be a factor that matters to mental health patients as well. Some individuals can be predisposed to a behavioral addiction by having a relative such as a parent or sibling that has a behavioral addiction. Studies have shown that those that have a relative with a behavioral addiction and/or substance addiction are more at risk for developing a behavioral addiction. Genetics has been shown to be responsible for an individual developing a behavioral addiction by up to 20%. Similar research studies about addictions have found that genetics can put a person at risk of developing a behavioral addiction by 64%.
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Alavi, Seyyed S., Ferdosi, Masound, and Setare, Mehrdad. “Behavioral Addiction versus Substance Addiction: Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views.” International Journal of Preventive Medicine.