Behavioral addictions: an overview

Behavioral addictions: an overview.

By Dr. Reef Karim and Dr. Priya Chaudhri

The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs

2012 Jan-Mar;44(1):5-17.

The legitimacy of nonsubstance addictions has received increased attention from clinicians, researchers and the general population as more and more individuals report symptoms consistent with impairment of impulse control. The clinical presentation of these disorders is varied, as compulsive activities may include: gambling, eating, sex, shopping, use of the Internet or video games or even exercising, working or falling in love. As such, there is great controversy in diagnosing, treating or even naming these conditions, as many of these behaviors are daily rituals instrumental to our ultimate survival. Historically, the phrase “impulse control disorders” described these conditions but many researchers and clinicians also use the term “behavioral addictions,” “process addictions” or “impulsive-compulsive behaviors” to report behavioral pathology. This review summarizes the data of each of these behavioral addictions from epidemiology to neurobiology to treatment options. Research suggests similarities between natural and drug reward processing but clinical evidence supports the utilization of treatment modalities for these behavioral conditions that can sometimes differ from traditional drug treatment.

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