In order to understand whether behavioral addictions exist, it is important to define the term addiction. The term is derived from a Latin word addicere which means to “enslaved by’ or ‘bound to’ (Potenza, 2006). Addiction has been defined differently in different circles. The hallmark of these definitions though is the loss of or impaired control over a behavior associated with adverse consequences. The original use of this term was not related to substance use. However, it was later used to denote loss of control over drug use behaviors.
Behavioral addictions and substance use addictions share some core elements. This include a compulsive engagement that is, a craving state before behavioral engagement, impaired control over engagement in the behavior or use of the substance, and continued behavioral engagement in spite of adverse consequences to self or to others (Potenza, 2006). Other similarities include the addicted person experiences characteristic withdrawal symptoms, engagement in the behavior or taking of the substance with the intention of relieving withdrawal symptoms, progressive neglect of alternative sources of pleasure in favor of the behavior or use of the substance, and the person engages in the behavior or uses the substance longer than intended.
There are some differences between the two types of addictions. In behavioral addictions, a person has inadequate control over a detrimental behavior like gambling whilst in substance use addictions, the person has impaired control over the use of drug substance. Additionally, in drug use addictions, the addict exhibits physical dependence on the substance used whilst in behavioral addictions, the dependence is not physical per se. Based on the preceding discussion; it is evident that behavioral addictions exist.
I would recommend the same types of treatments used in substance abuse for behavioral addicts. This is because based on current empirical evidence, the methods used to treat drug addicts have similar efficacy in treating behavioral addicts. These methods incorporate pharmacological interventions such as naltrexone and behavioral treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and therapist-driven motivational enhancement (Potenza, 2006).
In conclusion, compelling evidence suggests that behavioral addictions exist. Behavioral addicts display or report the same symptoms as substance use addicts. However, some key differences exist between the two types of addictions. On account of the similarity of their clinical profiles and current evidence, I would recommend similar treatments for the two forms of addictions.
Potenza, M. N. (2006). Should addictive disorders include non-substance-related conditions? Addiction, 101(1), 142-151.