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What Causes Behavioral Addictions?

When someone suffers from behavioral addictions it can affect not only them, but those closest to them as well. Behavioral addiction causes can stem from the euphoric feeling felt when engaging in the addictive behaviors, or when profiting from them, such as in gambling addiction. Feeling good while engaging in addictive behaviors can lead to these behaviors becoming a habit, in order to feel that same feeling.

What are Behavioral Addictions?

Much like substance abuse, behavior addictions are behaviors that the body becomes dependent upon and craves. These can stem from compulsions, obsessions or addictive behavior. If those cravings are not satiated, behavior can then become unpredictable and erratic. Someone can’t control these addictions on their own and may need professional help to stop them. It is as though someone is experiencing the symptoms of addiction, however, that addiction is not to a substance. 

Most Common Behavioral Addictions

While almost anything can be addictive, including going to the gym and extreme or dangerous sports, behavioral addictions can seem mundane. However, some are more harmful than others. Discussing the more common ones can help to understand other behavioral addiction causes and symptoms. 

Some of these include:


A gambling addiction is the only behavioral addiction that is identified and recognized in the DSM-5. The DSM-5 is the manual used by mental health professionals when diagnosing mental health conditions and disorders. Gambling tends to create a reaction within the brain that is similar to that of drugs and alcohol.

It activates the reward centers and pleasure sensors in the brain, and leads to overproduction of dopamine as the individual participates in gambling activities. Over time, the body begins to produce less dopamine naturally and begins to solely depend on the activity for production.

Sex Addiction

Similarly, behavior addiction causes can lead to sex addiction. This addictive behavior is not formally recognized, but is growing in popularity within the mental health community as a condition many people struggle with. Sex addiction is when there is an uncontrollable need to fulfill some sexual need or behavior. This differs from someone who has sex often but can control their urges. Sex addiction can destroy relationships, someone’s self-esteem and other areas of their life.


Everyone likes to buy nice things, it makes them feel better. This is where behavior addiction causes a problem. Because getting things that are wanted can help to make someone feel better, it can become a compulsion. It can affect quality of life, and begin interfering physically and financially in the lives of those who struggle. 


While not formally recognized, the behavior addiction causes leading to porn addiction are still being studied. For many, the same effects that alcohol and drug addiction can have on their life are achieved through addiction to pornographic materials, leading to disruption to their life and ability to function on a daily basis. 

Causes of Behavioral Addictions

There is no real definition to behavior addiction causes. There are many different factors that can feed into the development of addictive behaviors. However, there are similar environmental and social factors seen within those who do struggle with behavioral addictions.

A family history of mental health disorders or addictions can be a risk factor when it comes to addictive behaviors developing. The same holds true for those who experienced childhood trauma, childhood abuse, or neglect. 

Oftentimes, those who struggle with behavior addiction, also struggle with mental health conditions. Behaviors addiction causes an unrealistic sense that the mental health condition symptoms may be dissipating. 

Effects on Families

The effects that behavior addiction causes on the family dynamic can be astronomical. For example, people who struggle with gambling addiction can begin neglecting the family solely to go to a casino or dog track to engage in the behavior.

Moreover, they could also find themselves in debt, and not paying the household expenses, in order to continue gambling. This can lead to a breakdown in the family structure. The same rings true in sex addiction. This can lead to unfaithfulness and leaving the family in order to achieve the effects that sexual gratification can cause. 

How Treatment Helps

Treatment for behavior addiction causes a restructuring of the mind and body to not rely on these behaviors in order to feel pleasure or reward. Being able to get to the root causes that led to the behaviors can help to find a positive outlet to implement instead of engaging in the harmful ones. Even though most behavior addictions are not diagnosed conditions, there are many individual and group therapies available to help treat those who struggle.

Since many of the behaviors can stem from and affect mental health, they can be treated through proper therapy and guidance. For example, group therapy or individual therapy (i.e. cognitive-behavioral therapy) can uncover drives for these addictive behaviors. There is help available if it is sought out.

Find Success Overcoming Behavioral Addictions

Struggling with behavioral addiction impacts not only the individual, but the family members and other loved ones around them. From financial difficulties, to neglecting relationships, these addictions can cause rifts in the family dynamics that can be difficult to repair. If someone you know struggles with behavioral addictions, we can help.

At Empowered Recovery Center, we offer individualized plans to help treat the addiction, and provide positive alternatives. Call us today and begin overcoming these behavioral addictions that are affecting you.

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    Marietta, GA 30066

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