Substance Use Disorder VS Behavioral Addictions

When most people hear the term addiction, they automatically think of drugs and alcohol. However, addiction is a broad term that refers to a wide variety of repetitive and compulsive behaviors or actions that may provide temporary pleasure but ultimately lead to negative consequences. There are two main types of addiction: substance use disorders and behavioral addictions.

Both types of addiction share some common characteristics, such as a strong urge to engage in the addictive behavior, difficulty controlling the behavior, and continued use despite negative consequences.

What Is a Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder refers to a problematic pattern of using chemical substances like drugs or alcohol that leads to impaired functioning. Substance use disorders can range from mild to severe and may be characterized by cravings, tolerance, withdrawal, and unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit.

People with substance use disorders often continue using despite negative consequences, such as health problems, job loss, financial problems, relationship difficulties, and legal troubles.

What Is Behavioral Addiction?

Behavioral addiction is any non-substance-related addiction that leads to impaired functioning. Behavioral addiction typically involves repetitive behaviors that offer some sort of reward or satisfaction, such as gambling, shopping, sex, eating, exercise, or technology (gaming, internet use, television). 

Like substance use disorders, behavioral addictions can also lead to cravings and compulsive behaviors, and the consequences can be just as harmful. 

In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was updated to reflect behavioral addictions alongside substance use disorders. However, only gambling addiction is currently listed in this category, but research is ongoing, and more behavioral addictions are likely to be included in the future.

How Does Addiction Develop?

People with substance or behavioral addictions often have underlying issues, such as trauma, anxiety, depression, or stress. These issues can lead to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol or engaging in potentially addictive behaviors as a way to cope.

Over time, the addiction can take over and become the primary focus of a person’s life, leading them to neglect other important aspects of their life, such as work, school, or family. Addiction is a progressive disease, which means it typically gets worse over time.

Treating Addiction

Addiction is a debilitating mental illness that can have a major impact on your life. Luckily, addiction treatment may help you break the cycle of addictive behavior and live a healthy life.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment, as every person’s situation is unique. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups. 

Medication helps manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while therapy can help address the underlying issues that lead to addiction and provide strategies for coping with triggers and avoiding a relapse. Support groups offer peer support and accountability, which can be helpful in recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help. Treatment can make a big difference in your life or the life of your loved one. Remember, addiction is a serious mental condition, but with treatment and commitment, recovery is possible.

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