Recent world events have many of us struggling to understand what “normal” is. If you’ve been feeling isolated, lonely or completely overwhelmed, you’re not alone! Managing this discomfort can be very tough. While managing this stress is certainly possible, it’s easy to make poor choices and cause damage to your life and relationships.
What are addictive behaviors? Addictive behavior is something that takes your time, resources and energy without giving you clear benefits over the long-term. Online gaming may lower your stress level as a way to connect with friends, but if you don’t sleep, it’s not serving you. A regular exercise program is critical to good health. Exercising despite being injured is not.
Secrecy Is Poison
Addiction is sneaky as well as addictive. For example, you may want to lose weight and change your diet or you may start vomiting each time you eat. One behavior is something you can share with others and the other is a behavior you hide. Sadly, many who struggle with eating disorders also deal with dangerous drug addictions. You may have money problems and take on a side hustle to get on top of your bills, but if the source of your money problems is related to gambling, your side hustle will never keep up.
Once you have these secrets eating away at you, relationship will start to suffer. If you can’t be home with your children because you have to work two jobs to cover gambling debts, your addiction is stealing from your family. If you’re neglecting your spouse because of your porn addiction, your addiction is starving your marriage.
Getting help for your addictive behaviors can be a serious challenge. Because gambling addiction is the only recognized behavioral addiction, you may need to work privately with a therapist or participate in an outpatient program to get a handle on your addictive behaviors.
It should be noted that the mental pain of withdrawal is consistent, whether you’re dealing with a mood-enhancing drug or the rush of online gaming. Your brain gets a hit of dopamine each time you pull the slot arm or ask for another round of cards. Cutting off that supply will create a craving that you will need to overcome. For those who are addicted to exercise or sex, the endorphin rush bathes the brain in pleasure chemicals. This receptor overload lowers their sensitivity. It is at this point that behaviors become addictive; it takes more of the chemical to reach the same comfort point, so behaviors must be reinforced to get the same enjoyment. From here on out, you’re chasing the rush.
Avoid Replacing the Addiction
One of the big risks in fighting behavioral addictions on your own is that you replace the addiction. The exercise addict who can no longer run because their knees are a mess may become food obsessed. They may also turn to stimulants to enjoy some of the rush they enjoyed as a distance runner. Such changes may be paired with a “poor me” attitude as they try to gain support from others to justify their addiction.
The other risk is that you become a “dry” addict. All the need is still there, you just don’t get the pleasure. In such cases, the addict lets that need take center stage. The focus on want becomes the addiction. Such addicts need to keep their suffering front and center; they may be impulsive or self-pitying.
There is a strong connection between gambling addiction and domestic violence; those who are forced to stop gambling because money is no longer available can quickly start to take out their harshness on those around them. If you are engaging in a behavior that is damaging your marriage, your connections with your friends or your ability to do your job, it may be developing an addictive loop in your brain.
The inability to put down the game controller or to get off the treadmill will eventually cause long term harm to your life. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 772-266-5320 for a conversation about behaviors that you cannot stop without pain or distress.