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Often, it is assumed that for a person to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder a physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms is required, but the fact is that behavioral addiction can occur with all the negative consequences in a person’s life minus the physical issues faced by people who are compulsively engaged in drug and alcohol abuse. Behavioral addiction is often indicated by the compulsive nature of the behavior whereas in case of or process addiction it is an individual. The compulsion to continually engage in an activity or behavior despite the negative impact on the person’s ability to remain mentally and/or physically healthy and functional in the home and community defines behavioral addiction. Unfortunately like all those who struggle with addiction, people living with behavioral addictions are unable to stop engaging in the behavior for any length of time without treatment and intervention.

Though almost everyone engages in activities like – gambling, eating, sex & internet– to a certain degree and may even enjoy the behavior very much, it is not termed an addiction until the following is true:

  • The person struggles with mental health or physical health issues as a consequence of the behavior and/or the inability to stop.
  • The person has difficulties in significant relationships at home and, in some cases, at work because the behavior is so disruptive.
  • The person experiences other negative consequences that are directly caused by continued, extreme, or chronic engagement in the behavior. For example, a person with a gambling addiction may gamble away the house, lose a job, and be forced into bankruptcy due to the extreme nature of the gambling.
  • The person is unable to stop engaging in the behavior despite these consequences. Throughout the day most people engage in hundreds of different behaviors, each one with its own set of consequences. However, for someone with a food addiction, they may choose to eat even when not hungry and may binge eat unhealthy foods in large amounts and when the behavior becomes impulsive in nature and begins to contribute to the development of a range of physical and mental health problems making the person unable to stop, it is termed as an addiction.


A gambling addiction is also called problem gambling or gambling disorder and refers to any and all types of gambling or choices related to gambling that endanger or compromise a person’s life, job, or family. It is termed as a gambling addiction when the person:

  • Places bets more and more frequently
  • Bets more than originally intended
  • “Chasing” losses by continually betting beyond the ability to pay
  • Feels irritable or aggressive when unable to gamble or when losing
  • Is preoccupied with gambling

Those who seek treatment for a gambling addiction often report huge losses, including legal problems, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce, lost careers, and more. Additionally, many who struggle with gambling addiction may consider or attempt suicide.


Sex addiction is defined as anonymous sex, sex with multiple partners, and other sex acts designed to be as highly stimulating as possible. Often, this is a risky behavior connected to other mental health disorders as many do not use protection and thus open themselves up to the possibility of contracting STDs, including HIV.


Many people are prone to overeating on occasion or eating out of boredom or for pure enjoyment, but those who struggle with food addiction cannot control their compulsive eating behaviors and tend to crave foods that are high in fats, sugar, and/or salt and often describe feeling “high” while engaging in the activity.

Additionally, people who are addicted to food may develop a tolerance for food, as is characteristic of people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. In other words, they require more and more of their favorite foods in order to experience the “high” they seek.

People who struggle with food addiction may be obese, but people with a normal BMI may also struggle with the disorder. Food addiction results in damaged relationships, issues of self-esteem, and other health problems.

Please note that though the effects may be similar, having a food addiction is different from having an eating disorder.


Just being connected and online can be compulsive and addictive for many people. Commonly seen characteristics include checking email compulsively, stock updates, breaking news, blog updates, and more. These people experience a feeling of missing out if they are not connected 24/7

Social media addiction: Similar to internet addiction, is social media addiction. It is a compulsive use of social media in which the people suffering may post the minutest details of their life, spending hours taking pictures to post on Instagram, editing videos to upload to YouTube, updating their posts to Twitter and Facebook, and responding to others on those same social media forums. Unfortunately, it can mean that they do not make positive in-person connections and may ultimately reduce their options in life.


Since video games provide an escape to fantasy video gaming addiction has become a growing phenomenon. Graphics are getting better all the time, new games are always coming out, and the ability to communicate with others via headsets while playing the game with people who would otherwise be strangers from all around the world is uniquely interesting to people who may have a hard time connecting with others in person. Similarly, taking on the role of someone else and living a virtual life can also be alluring.

Compulsive video gaming can interrupt a person’s ability to connect positively with others and have healthy relationships, maintain responsibilities at work, and make choices that support their physical and mental health (e.g., eating regularly or healthfully, going to the doctor, etc.). Ultimately, those who don’t get treatment may end up completely isolating themselves from the real world, losing their ability to function, be with family, and achieve any goals outside of the video game world.