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Why Do We Become Addicted to Certain Behaviors?

We tend to associate addiction with being dependent on addictive substances, but many of us who identify as addicts have become dependent upon certain behaviors in addition to substances or instead of them. Our behavioral addictions, or process addictions as they’re sometimes called, can be just as debilitating as substance abuse issues. We can find our lives have become totally unmanageable because of them, with our mental and emotional pain and suffering being just as acute as with substance addictions. Why do we become addicted to certain behaviors?

One of the major components of our addictions is the reward system we become dependent upon. When we use our drug of choice, we feel rewarded in powerful ways, with intense, rewarding feelings of pleasure, happiness, euphoria, relief, detachment, and nonchalance, in ways that make us feel so much better than we do without them. We’re dealing with so much inner turmoil and mental and emotional distress that these feelings, albeit temporary, are welcome distractions and escape tactics. The exact same thing is true with behavioral addictions. The behaviors we enjoy that make us feel good, from gaming to gambling to shoplifting to sex, operate in the same ways. We get the thrill of an adrenaline rush. We get the pleasant, joyful effects of a rise in our dopamine levels. We get to temporarily be in another place altogether, where we can’t think of our troublesome thoughts and feel the weight of our pain.

We turn to these reckless and often dangerous behaviors every time we feel we need to escape the pain of our lives. We turn to them when we feel lonely, afraid and sad. We use them when we’re feeling insecure and threatened, or when we feel bored and unfulfilled. We turn to them when we’re feeling ashamed, full of regret and unable to forgive ourselves. We use them to cope with our anger and resentment. Our behaviors are often compulsive, and we default to them without being mindful of why we’re doing them in the first place. We impulsively do them repeatedly, even when there isn’t an emotional trigger present, and over time they become our ingrained behavioral patterns and our habitual ways of being.

True addiction recovery entails addressing the behavioral dependence issues we have, that often accompany our substance abuse issues but that can also stand alone and wreak just as much havoc on our lives and our psyches.

The caring, compassionate staff of The Guest House is here to support you as you start your journey to recovery and healing. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.