Behavioral Addictions

Among all pleasure-inducing behaviors that may cause an addictive pattern, Gambling is the only one formally recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a behavioral addiction. This could be because less-common behaviors aren’t as thoroughly researched. However, certain behaviors can release the same chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, that some substances release. These chemicals cause a desirable, or pleasurable, experience that can sometimes generate an addiction. Gambling disorder is becoming a widely spread practice, specifically in the United States where a large survey revealed that about 0.5% of people have had a gambling disorder in their lifetime. Even more concerning, “problem gambling” – a more mild form of gambling – possibly effects up to four times more people.

Behavioral addiction disorder is not as common as substance use disorder, and that could possibly be due to the fact that behaviors do not influence a person’s state of mind as strongly or regularly as substances do. That’s not to say that behavioral addictions aren’t harmful; gambling can cause financial problems and eating addiction can cause obesity and health issues. Every type of addiction poses a harm to the individual engaged in the behavior or substance, therefore it’s important to recognize when one’s behavior or use is out of the ordinary. In order to be more aware of whether or not gambling is a problem, refer to the following list. If you experience four of the nine listed behaviors within a year, you may have an addiction to gambling:

  • Gambling preoccupies your mind
  • To achieve the desired excited, you increase the amount of money when gambling
  • You have repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, attempted to quit
  • When attempting to quit, you are irritable or restless
  • Gambling is used as an escape from any present problems or bad moods
  • You tend to return to gambling after losing, as an attempt to win
  • You tend to lie to people around you to hide your gambling problem
  • Gambling has jeopardized or caused you to lose a job, relationship, educational or career opportunity
  • You tend to rely on other people for money to fix financial problems caused by gambling
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