¿Qué son las adicciones conductuales?

Can playing video games be as addictive as smoking? Can shopping become as harmful as alcoholism? Can sugar be considered a dangerous drug? Today we are going to try to shed light on those activities that, although we do not identify them as the classic «dangerous substances», can be problematic. We’ll talk about…

Behavioral addictions When does pleasure become harmful? What is an addiction? Etymologically, «addict» comes from the Latin addictus, which means «favourable, dedicated or delivered» to someone. An addictus was a type of slave: someone who, due to debts, had to belong to another person and give him all the fruits of his labor. More recently,

“addict” was used as a synonym for “faithful” or “loyal”: (HISTORIAN CHARACTER): “This musketeer is the most addicted to the queen”, but also as a synonym for “amateur” (FUNNY CHARACTER): “ My aunt is addicted to Mozart’s music.» And currently the term is

Almost always used to talk about slavery… but towards some substance or activity. An addiction is a disorder in which someone has a strong and persistent urge to use a substance or perform an activity that will bring some immediate satisfaction despite the fact

That it will bring harmful consequences. Although specialists do not agree on the same definition, these can be considered the 5 attributes that characterize addictions: Compulsion. It is an impulse so strong that it surpasses our self-control (although it does not cancel it) and pushes us to perform the activity repeatedly.

Damaging effects. The use or conduct interferes negatively with our lives, damages our health, or prevents or makes it difficult for us to perform healthy activities or achieve our goals. Tolerance. We get used to the pleasure that

The stimulus gives us and the amount we receive is no longer enough for us: each time we feel that we need more to feel that it does us good. obsessive thoughts When we are not using or doing what stimulates us, we are constantly thinking about it.

Abstinence syndrome. The absence of the substance or activity causes us suffering. Specialists distinguish two types of addictions: the first is substance addiction , which we already talked about in a previous video and in which we mentioned alcohol, tobacco and other types of stimulant or tranquilizing products. The second is behavioral addiction

, also called behavioral or activity addiction. In another video we already talked about the first type of addictions and its main mechanisms. We also talk about why campaigns against addictive substances are often unsuccessful and what can be done to address this problem. On this occasion we will focus on the other

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Addictions: the behavioral ones. And how can someone become addicted to a behavior? In the case of substances, these become addictive because they interact and affect one or two possible mechanisms of our nervous system. One is the endogenous opioid system, which is in charge

Of relieving pain: substances such as morphine and heroin act on it. The other is the dopamine reward system: basically it is in charge of making us feel pleasure. Therefore, not only substances, but potentially any activity that generates pleasure could become an excessive or pathological hobby. However, medically

Speaking, very few are considered addictions. Let’s see some of the most common: Gambling or gambling addiction. It consists of the compulsion to gamble in casinos or card games. It is the only behavioral addiction recognized by the DSM diagnostic manual because it meets all the characteristics. A person with pathological

Gambling raises their norepinephrine levels (which increases their stress) and when they win money they have a brain response similar to having received a dose of cocaine. People with this disorder, in addition to ending up bankrupt or even stealing to pay for their addiction, can fall into

Depression and all the risks associated with it. Sugar addiction. Although it is not officially recognized as an addiction disorder, there is evidence that sugar consumption releases opioids and dopamine in our brain and that, if consumed in excess, it can lead to consumption.

Compulsive, craving for sweet things and even cause withdrawal symptoms. Health problems related to excess sugar consumption include type II diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, liver and kidney malfunction, and erectile dysfunction. Nomophobia. It is the excessive love of

Social networks and the fear of a person to part with his mobile phone. According to a survey in the United Kingdom , currently 60% of men and 20% of women suffer from this problem. It is not included in the DSM either, although some specialists point out that it does meet the characteristics, but

Not of an addiction, but of a phobia. It is correlated with low self-esteem, loneliness, and depression. If when you are without your phone you suffer from anxiety, tachycardia, sweating, rapid breathing and you can even panic, you could have nomophobia. Shopping addiction. Shopping is considered a socially acceptable activity,

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But when it becomes compulsive it is called oniomania and can lead to wasting too much time and money. This addiction is difficult to detect because in our economic model it is not necessarily frowned upon to buy more than what is needed or to spend more than what one has,

Getting into debt. That is why it is usually only detected when the person has already fallen into bankruptcy and depression. Video game addiction. In the most recent version of the DSM it does not appear as an addiction, but it is recommended to continue studying it. This

Pleasurable activity is only considered to become a disorder when the hobby prevents the person from attending to their responsibilities or pursuing other interests. Its mechanism seems to be very similar to that of gambling. A person with this addiction spends so much

Time gambling that they ignore their personal hygiene, may lose or gain a lot of weight, disturb their sleep patterns, gamble at work, or lie to hide their addiction. An important factor is that video games are generally designed to be addictive: they create

Compulsion loops that directly stimulate the dopamine reward system, and many of them are structured to never end. Like these five examples, many other activities taken to excess can become problematic: addiction to physical exercise, to food, addiction to work, or to pornography, addiction to the Internet,

To sex… Does this mean that we should avoid eating any pastry, reject play a video game and get away completely from any pleasant activity, because of the risk of falling into an addiction? Well no, unless you want to become a hermit monk who feeds only on insects

And bitter roots – which is a perfectly valid option. But, if we want to lead a pleasant and healthy life, live longer and better, it is convenient to know why a person becomes addicted to a substance or an activity? Different specialists have proposed three types of theories: Neuroscientific theories

Explain how substances or activities interact with neurotransmitters and neuronal communication mechanisms. The dopamine reward system and the endogenous opioid system are the two mechanisms most involved in the development of addictions. One of these theories is that of neuroadaptation, which says that, given the stimuli it receives, the

Brain changes to adapt to function in the new conditions. If the stimulus is withdrawn, our nervous system, already accustomed to working with it, will look for a way to obtain it. Another theory says that our personal genetic and biological makeup makes us more resistant

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Or vulnerable to developing certain addictions. Psychological theories can be behavioral: they talk about how we acquire certain habits because we associate them with pleasant effects, and if what we are conditioned to associate with pleasure is available,

We will try to find it. There are also cognitive theories that say that the addicted person is dependent on external factors to maintain a sense of internal balance. Finally, the personality theory says that there are certain types of people more prone to

Developing addictions. The latter is the one with the least evidence: although there are features of personality types that increase the risk of addiction, especially when they are extreme, there are no specific personality types with a higher propensity. Contextual theories talk about how there are

Family and social factors that make a person more vulnerable to suffering an addiction. Evidence shows that if a person’s family or friends use a substance or engage in an activity, it is easier for the person to imitate the behavior. It has also

Been shown that families with conflicts or lack of emotional support have more members with addiction problems. Finally, poverty and the lack of opportunities and economic and social perspectives are directly related to a higher prevalence of addictions. No single theory explains why addictions develop. That is why the

Most recent approach is the biopsychosocial: it recognizes that the problem is complex and has neurobiological, psychological and social components. If you feel that your impulses to do something are exceeding your willpower, that you are losing control over a habit,

Or that this activity is negatively affecting your health, your relationships, or preventing you from reaching your goals, do not face the situation alone or alone: ​​it is very important that you seek help: both from someone you trust who is not addicted, and from mental health professionals who can

Accompany you to regain control. Dealing with an addiction can be a challenging process, but with the right help it is possible to overcome it. Do not hesitate to seek professional help and advice to start your path towards a healthier, more balanced and truly happy life. Interestingly!

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