Treatment of Behavioral Addictions
Finally, a life free from addictive behaviours.
Frequently Asked Questions about behavioural addictions
Although many downplay their seriousness, behavioural addictions are clinical conditions, and treatment is necessary to address them. Contrary to what you might think, behavioural addictions can lead to serious consequences on the physical, mental, and emotional health of those of sufferers and their loved ones.
That’s why centres like CITA Clinics are important. We offer effective treatments to counteract all kinds of negative behaviours: addictions to sex, gambling, video games, shopping, and technology. Below, you can find out more about how to deal with these new addictions.
What are behavioural addictions?
Before investigating the nature of behavioural addictions, it is first important to define what behaviour is. “Behaviour or conduct is, in terms of psychology, the set of responses, either by presence or absence, that a living being presents in relation to its environment or world of stimuli. These responses can be conscious or unconscious, voluntary or involuntary”.
Consequently, the term “behavioural addictions”, refers to recurring behaviours, which a person displays with regard to specific activities, that share characteristics with addictions to drugs or alcohol. In other words, these are habits that even if they do not have a direct negative effect on the health of the individual, lead to detrimental repercussions elsewhere.
For example, addictive behaviours negatively affect a patient’s mental and emotional state. In many cases, they also produce negative effects on social interaction, personal finances, and other aspects of a patient’s life.
What does the treatment of addictive behaviours involve?
Like drug addictions treatments, there is no one universal treatment for all behavioural addictions. The centre or professional treating the addiction must instead develop a system that fits the patient’s profile and form of addiction. That said, most behavioural addiction treatments make use of both behavioural therapy and medication.
The most important thing to start with is the detoxification process in which the patient is deprived of their compulsive habits. Next comes the psychological treatment, which is the most widely used technique to help the patient identify, avoid and manage the patterns that trigger their addiction.
Next, the behavioural addiction treatment programme incorporates medications. These act as reinforcers and help to neutralize symptoms that could otherwise lead to a relapse. Medications are most commonly used to manage anxiety, mood disorders, high impulsivity, and obsessive thoughts.
What kind of medications are used in the treatment of behavioural addictions?
Although there are no medications used solely to address these new types of addiction, detoxification centres and professionals do use certain drugs to treat behavioural addictions. Naltrexone (sometimes referred to as eVia or Vivitrol) is one of these. This medication is commonly used to block opioid receptors, which respond to heroin and morphine, and is also used to prevent relapses for patients suffering from alcohol addictions.
Naltrexone has been shown to be effective in the treatment of gambling addictions and kleptomania. Studies have also been published that demonstrate Naltrexone is a good ally when tackling sexual addiction and excessive internet consumption. This is because opioid receptors behave similarly in behavioural and substance addictions.
Medications that alter activity in glutamatergic neurons have also been shown to be effective for the treatment of behavioural addictions. Topiramate (sometimes called Topamax) and N-acetylcysteine are used to regulate dopamine levels in these neurons, affecting the brain’s reward system and helping to overcome addictions. In the case of internet addictions, some studies in which antidepressants were used as part of a treatment programme have been carried out, however, the results are not conclusive.
Given that these addictions have only recently been identified, it is not surprising that more progress is required to develop further therapeutic and pharmaceutical treatment options.
What therapies are used?
The treatment of addictive behaviours is made up of behavioural therapies that can be administered to outpatients or following a patient’s hospitalization. These therapies help patients to understand, confront, and control the conditioned stimuli that can trigger a relapse. The aims of such therapies are:
- Achieve financial control and manage expenditure.
- Plan consumption habits which the patient must adhere to.
- Strengthen relationships with friends and family members that do not encourage compulsive behaviour.
- Identify risky situations.
Many make the mistake of underestimating behavioural addictions. These pathologies can result in serious problems if not treated in a timely fashion. Fortunately, CITA Clinics and our healthcare professionals have developed effective behavioural addiction treatments.