Why Behavioral Addictions Often Pair with Substance Addictions

Behavioral addictions are often considered to be addictions on their own. Surprisingly, these addictions often go hand in hand with substance addictions. When you look at the reasoning behind addictions, it becomes easier to understand the link between the two. Many behavioral addictions caused by early childhood trauma (physical abuse, sexual abuse), start out as substance abuse. Those who have psychological issues, often start out by self-medicating themselves to feel better. The underlying trauma is still there and will manifest itself when the self-medicating no longer eases the pain.

Sometimes behavioral and substance addictions are masking each other. A person who has an eating disorder like anorexia may begin this disorder by using drugs to stop hunger. This behavior then spirals out of control to include both types of addictions.

A person with a sexual addiction may start out with just the sexual acts, since the person is addicted to the euphoric release of chemicals in the brain following the sex act. Then this person may discover that adding a drug to the behavior intensifies the feeling of euphoria.

Those with a gambling addiction are experiencing what many consider to be the most addictive of all behaviors. The dopamine release with gambling is higher than that of heroin. It is no coincidence that casinos use blinking lights and sounds to elicit chemical releases in the brain. The rush experienced with a “win” is like the rush from a line of cocaine. Desiring this feeling often leads those addicted to gambling towards a drug that will give them the same feeling.

It is difficult to diagnose those with the two types of addiction. It will take a highly-skilled professional team to treat both behavioral and substance addictions.


N.A. “Behavioral Disorders and Addiction.” Kleantreatmetncenter.com (Website). (2014).
  • 6 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • You provided a really great perspective in this post, and it is the unfortunate reality that behavioral and substance addictions can go hand in hand with one another. These types of addictions can feed off of each other and really lead someone down a difficult path. 
  • Wow.  This is such a miracle post for me!  I was just thinking today...   there are so many things wrong with me that I don't know where to begin; however, your post described me to a T.  Any recommendations on any GOOD experts can help someone with multiple addiction issues? 
  • This is definitely something I need to think about. Actually, its something I need to go over with my husband. He'll see it more clearly than me
  • It's horrible to know someone is suffering from a behavioral addictions, and they might lose so much more because people do t understand why they ended up addicted to drugs and/ or alcohol
  • I think a lot more research needs to be done to solidify what a behavioral addiction is and what constitutes it as an addiction before the term is run with. 
  • They have just started touching on a lot of these behaviors. I pray it isn't too much longer before there isn't that much of a question about it
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