The other day I was rushing the clock getting together my last few credits to complete my CEU requirements to maintain my clinician license and stumbled upon a course offering 13 more hours than I needed, but I was so pulled in I took the plunge.

The course was Behavioral Addictions—an area I’ve written articles, books and spent countless hours with patients in my private practice—not to mention my own personal practices, abstaining from certain foods and exercise reform.

So, as I perused through the course I asked myself the age old question: Are all addictions the same? On many levels they are nearly identical but the differences do exist.

Behavioral addiction, according to Project Know, refers to several mental health conditions in which a person engages in a particular behavior repeatedly; even if the behavior causes them harm—it may seem as if they cannot resist engaging in an activity that’s counterproductive rather than productive.

The primary goal in my  practice is guiding patients in their journey to release their obsessions with addictive behavior—no easy task for sure. Addictions have wide tentacles; they aren’t necessarily a substance that’s ingested such as certain foods, alcohol, and drugs.

On the rise, at rapid pace, is gaming.

Behavioral Addictions

According to Medical News Today, in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified gaming disorder in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD-11 is a list of diseases and medical conditions that health professionals use to make diagnosis and treatment  plans.

Behavioral addictions are getting attention especially in areas of gaming addiction, shopping addiction, eating addiction, love addiction, exercise addiction, along with a host of other behavioral obsessions.

Over the past few years,  the concept of non-substance behavioral addiction has grown in public awareness and clinical acceptance. Although food addiction was flagged over twenty years ago in many therapy sessions, it has been replaced as an eating addiction and in some circles lumped in with binge eating disorder in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM-5).  It’s included in the Substance use-disorders (SUDS), a behavioral addiction as is gaming disorder.

Gaming was considered harmless at one time and now young and older gaming obsessed patients are strolling in my office more frequently than not.

Psychology Today, posted an interesting article entitled, Why Can’t I Stop  revealing an inside peek at how someone gets addicted to something without putting an addictive substance into the body. It is recognized that certain behaviors produce a strong reinforcement in the brain that makes us want to do them over and over again, even if they interfere with our lives.

What’s amazing, for some, the compulsion is so strong that they go through withdrawal when they stop the behavior like seen in drug and alcohol addiction—and food addiction as well.

Some of the signs are agitation, difficulty concentrating, personality change, irritable as well as trouble sleeping.

Goals of Recovery

The goal in my practice is to lead the patient to recovery from food and exercise addiction, gaming or shopping by providing cognitive and behavioral treatment (covered at great length in Release Your Obsession with Diet Chatter: Heal from the Inside Out) to guide in the release of diet chatter as well as other intrusive behaviors from food, gaming, alcohol, drugs, etc. This obsession, or you could say addiction, is prevalent among many throughout the world, particularly the United States which I am most familiar with.

What’s fascinating and telling are functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other brain imaging methods can identify these core pathological features and their similarity to those of substance addiction.

At first, I thought I was not equipped to work with the gaming population, given I am trained in food addiction, eating disorders, mood disorders, and alcohol and drugs. But,  as time goes on, I see threads of familiarity with all the addictions.

How could gaming have anything in common with food addiction? All the same ingredients are there: obsessing, lack of sleep, agitation, lack of concentration, loss of time and pervasive thoughts about the addiction at hand are in tack. And most important denial is right up there front and center.

Addictions come in all sizes, colors, and intensity. Ones struggles does not minimize another’s. When I expressed my addiction to sugar,such as Twinkies, the alcoholic trying not to have another whiskey would flinch at such absurdity of comparing a Twinkie to whiskey – a he-man addiction.

But truly there is no difference. The Jonesing for the substance or activity such as gaming, gambling, shoplifting and shopping all carry highs and lows, denial and secrecy.

What is the  Answer?

What to do? Face it head on. Admit there is a problem and find a 12 step program, a good therapist, and maybe even a Facebook group that touches on the subject that you struggle with and you will begin to build a village of support—a community.

You are not alone. Addictions are growing by leaps and bounds from gambling to pornography to the Twinkie.

You are not alone.

Are all addictions the same? For sure there are differences yet similarities. Obsessions, impulsive behavior, lying, steeling, denial, regardless of the consequences and destroying relationships seems prevalent in nearly all if not all. It’s not unusual to dive into the behavior as a coping—a familiar, comfortable escape from stress or “real world” issues. Immersion can facilitate a dissociation-like state in which the user loses track of time, feels like someone else, maybe even blacks out, or experiences a trance-like state—which turns into a reinforcing effect for the behavioral addict.

We are all looking for answers to a lifelong problem. I’m glad to be here and offer everything I know to help you beat this thing called food addiction. As well as the long list of “other” addictions.

Next time we meet,  who knows where my wandering thoughts will take me, but I assure you it will be a topic you wonder about too.

What’s on your mind? What steps do you take to release your obsessions? What are you reading? I’m curious about you.

Hugs—I care!
Dr. Lisa

Be sure to check out my latest book: Release Your Obsession with Diet Chatter: Heal from the Inside Out.   

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