Psychological addiction may not given much credence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the “DSM”), but individuals who suffers from these addictions often experience obsessions and withdrawal symptoms that mirror the experiences of substance abusers who are physically and chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addictions to shopping, gambling, sex and the internet all have the potential to consume a person’s time and energy and to disconnect that person from normal and healthy existence and interactions with the outside world. Psychological addictions may not cause the same brain chemistry changes that result from chemical addictions, but the brain’s dopamine reward system is similarly engaged with a psychological addiction. An individual who is psychologically addicted to an activity can experience the positive feedback that is a characteristic of that reward system.
Treating a Psychological Addiction
Treating a psychological addiction first requires a proper diagnosis of the condition and any underlying causes for the addiction. Regular or consistent involvement in a particular activity in and of itself is not a cause for alarm. The problem level of involvement occurs when a person experiences symptoms that are akin to detox from a chemical addiction. When an activity ends for a person who is psychologically addicted to that activity, he or she can experience restlessness, anxiety and high levels of irritation. He will obsess over getting back to the activity and organize his or her life to facilitate that involvement. He will continue to partake in the activity although it harms his family, social life and career. Individuals addicted to gambling, for example, will use all available financial resources to feed their gambling addiction to the exclusion of paying for the basic needs and necessities of his family.
When a psychological addiction is suspected, a psychologist or addiction therapist will treat the addict with cognitive and behavioral therapy to better understand the issues that fostered the addiction. This therapy may require uncovering a traumatic event or some shortcoming in the addict’s emotional growth and maturity. Individuals who are psychologically addicted to sex, for example, might have initially pursued some sexual activity as a substitute for nurturing that was not received during his or her formative years.
Psychological Addiction Recovery
Therapists and counselors will teach addicts to recognize their compulsions and to take action against the underlying problem rather than to use an activity as a substitute for a real solution to that problem. Individuals with psychological addictions also benefit from support groups that address specific types of addiction. Generally, the same type of group and behavioral therapy that is used to treat substance abuse will be effective to treat psychological addictions. People with psychological addictions are adept at using defense mechanisms to deny their problems, however, and the more difficult part of that treatment is to convince the addict to acknowledge the problem and to seek help to cure it.
The counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) have extensive experience with treating all forms of psychological addictions. Please call us at 512-360-3600 if you have questions about psychological addictions or you would like more information on how we can help you to overcome your own psychological addiction problems.