Imagine Life Module: Behavioral Addictions

Imagine Life HMV

Behavioral Addictions

By Steven Mandel, MD, Gary Smith DVM


Addiction to behaviors that lead to impairments in one’s work, family, and social relationships. 

There are several hallmarks: 

  • The behavior dominates the persons functioning.
  • The person experiences euphoria or relief that reinforces the behavior.
  • The person experiences interpersonal friction because of the behavior. 
  • The person performs the behavior in escalation of frequency to get the desired effects.
  • The person experiences repeated failure to cut back the behavior. 
  • The person experiences unpleasant feelings associated with withdrawal and risk taking for physical safety.


Types of behavioral addictions include the following:

  • Internet addiction - compulsive need to spend time on the internet, leading to social withdrawal, poor diet, and psychosomatic symptoms.  Examples include gaming addiction, pornography, and conspiracy theory websites.
  • Sex, love addiction – pursuing sexual activities that interfere with marital and occupational responsibilities.  These are unhealthy attachments with the experience of obsessions, mood swings and risk taking. Examples include pedophilia and sex trafficking
  • Shopping addiction – spending money for consumer goods in unnecessary quantities beyond one’s budget and without any necessarily intended purposes
  • Gambling – a need to achieve excitement with inappropriate financial risk taking accompanied by lying, poor social relationships and inability to seek help.

Consequences of Behavior Addiction and what it leads to:

Consequences of behavioral addictions are the following: 

  • Depression, anxiety, fatigue, drug addiction, shame about sharing their experiences with others. 
  • The breakup of family and social relationships, loss of work and school, financial insecurity. 
  • The higher incidence of co-morbid conditions, such as substance abuse, risk of suicide and criminal behavior

Therapeutic interventions are the following: 

  • Support groups,
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, including for co-morbid conditions and medical and psychiatric evaluation, regarding medications etc.

Brief Rules

The goals are to have an open discussion with success being learning about awareness, prevention, and education.  Please respect others’ time and experience.  All discussion should be confidential. Group members are permitted to contact other group members for support outside of the group.

Questions for Group Discussion

  1. Do you identify with any of these behavioral addictions and, if so, what are your triggers?
  2. How have these behaviors affected your daily life?
  3. Have you been spending too much time alone?
  4. What are you grateful for in your current life?
  5. What might be healthy habits to replace the maladaptive ones?
  6. What are your goals for recovery?
  7. What type of support services do you feel comfortable seeking help?
    Examples, support groups, clergy, family, and friends.

For questions, please contact Steven Mandel MD  or  Gary Smith DVM

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