The Impact of Behavioural Addictions on Mental Health

The Impact of Behavioural Addictions on Mental Health

Table of Contents

Addiction has become an extremely pervasive condition that negatively impacts one’s quality of life. Among the varying types, behavioral addiction is often overshadowed by substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, etc. However, the former has terrifying impacts on one’s life, which must be addressed.


Unlike substance abuse, which involves the consumption of drugs or alcohol, behavioral addictions revolve around compulsive engagement in certain activities, leading to negative consequences on one’s mental well-being. However, unlike alcohol addiction and substance use, the signs of addiction in this case are often concealed.


What’s alarming about developing a behavioral addiction is the complexity. The National Institute on Drug Abuse often accounts for the advent of behavioral addiction as a worse condition as opposed to people with drug and alcohol addiction.


To give you a better idea of how behavioral addiction can impact one’s mental health, we have sorted all the relevant information in this guide.


What is Behavioral Addiction?

Before we discuss the impacts of behavioral addiction on one’s mental health, it makes sense for us to discuss the basics first.


Behavioral addiction includes one’s compulsive engagement in repeating certain activities despite the negative consequences of the situation.


To explain it in simpler words, people with addiction in this aspect aren’t addicted to drugs, substances, or alcohol. Instead, they are inclined toward performing repeated actions that provide them temporary pleasure or relief from their negative headspace.


What are the Types of Behavioral Addictions?

There are multiple forms of addiction, especially when it involves one’s behavior and actions. Unlike alcohol and drug addiction, this health condition involves different elements, including:


Internet and gaming addiction

With how advanced technology and the world of gaming have become, it makes sense that people are developing an inclination towards the internet. The development of gaming addiction transcends time, though, and leads to the worst impacts associated with addiction. They do have mental health repercussions in the long run.


Gambling addiction

While we are discussing the development of addiction, gambling addiction does not require any explanation. Most people who are addicted to gambling are the ones who find a thrill in the risk-taking aspect of this activity. It is quite easy to become addicted to gambling, given the addictive nature of the task.


Shopping addiction

Another type of behavioral addiction that requires you to seek help is with shopping. There’s one thing: shopping extensively occasionally, but if you can’t process your life without shopping for something every day, you must see a professional because it’s not normal to have such a compulsive attitude towards shopping.


Food addiction

Another type of factor that people become addicted to is food. If you can’t eat without proper emotional regulation, that’s a sign that it’s time to seek professional help. Identifying the risk factors of addiction beforehand can help in regulating the outcomes associated with food addiction.

The Impact of Behavioural Addictions on Mental Health-
How Does Behavioral Addiction Impact Mental Health?

Simply understanding the basis and history of addiction isn’t enough to overcome the challenges. You need to get into the situation and understand how the addiction is impacting one’s physical and mental health.


To be fair, when you are developing an addiction, being aware of how it’s affecting you mentally is the key to overcoming the complications in the long run. Following are a few factors that you need to focus on:


The Role of Dopamine

When talking about the correlation between behavioral addiction and mental health, you first have to understand the role of dopamine.


The brain experiences several changes with addiction. And among them, the changes to the brain chemistry happen to be one of them. When you become dependent on drug and alcohol use or on the compulsive behavior that brings you momentary pleasure, it causes an excess surge in dopamine levels, which leads to irreparable complexities in the brain chemistry. It also affects the brain’s reward system, imposing a greater risk of drug and other addiction.


Psychological Changes

The advent of behavioral addiction also leads to various complications, including:


There exists a bidirectional relationship between depression and addictive behaviors. Individuals may turn to behavioral addictions as coping mechanisms for emotional distress, creating a complex interplay between mental health and compulsive behaviors.



In some cases, the abuse and addiction are often triggered by anxiety, often pushing people to opt for escapism as a way to find relief from the situation.



There are instances where the impulsivity that comes with ADHD often leads to addiction symptoms that progressively get worse over time. If you have ADHD, the risk for addiction is often heightened. This explains why paying attention to the symptoms of addiction is vital for early diagnosis and interventions before situations get worse.


How to Prevent Behavioral Addiction?

When you indulge in drug use and have a nicotine addiction, the most effective way of overcoming the situation is by enrolling in a treatment program. With behavioral addiction, you have the choice to implement preventive measures to overcome relapse and prevent further worsening of the addiction as well.


Some of the preventive measures include:


Early recognition and education about drug addiction

When you are trying to overcome any addiction, the most effective preventive measure is to educate yourself. The more you know about the subject and how addiction may alter your life, the easier it becomes for you to stay away from falling into the trap. Besides raising awareness, prioritize developing responsible habits as well.


Therapeutic approaches when becoming addicted to drugs

Much with the case of drug use and addiction, even behavioral addiction can be treated with multiple therapeutic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, integrated therapeutic approaches, etc. When you understand the science of addiction, availing relevant and effective addiction treatment becomes a walk in the park.


Identifying the triggers in substance use

Be it trauma or environmental factors, preventing addiction relies on identifying the triggers that contribute to the condition in the first place. Why are you using the drug? What’s forcing you to eat without control? Why are you so attuned to shopping and gambling? Once you get an answer, it becomes a lot easier for you to navigate the complexities and get professional help.


People with substance use disorders or process addiction often find it easier to consult professionals to be able to overcome the challenges. If you want to overcome your possible addiction, even support groups can help in navigate through the shortcomings.


Final Words

Addiction is a chronic ailment that can get worse if left untreated. If you struggle with process addiction and are trying to overcome the challenges, the key is to consult a reliable medical professional and get on a relevant treatment plan. The moment you seek treatment for your addiction and your mental health is the moment when things change. Instead of letting addiction take control over your life, it is time to find ways to overcome addiction more proactively.


Behavioral addictions are not similar to substance addiction because they involve a compulsive need to perform certain actions despite the consequences. This type of addiction doesn't propel people to use drugs but other forms of addictive and recurring behavior.

If you are trying to get help for your behavioural addiction and overcome withdrawal symptoms, support groups can be of immense help.

Every person's struggle with addiction is subjective. So, whether or not you will find benefits when you take the drug as prescribed by your psychiatrist will depend on multiple factors, including the severity of the condition and how you respond to the ongoing treatment.

Contributing Editor

Troy Wakelin – Co-Founder and Contributing Editor

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