Compulsions Without The Chemicals – 5 Other Forms of Addiction

When most people think of addiction, drugs or alcohol are the first two things that come to mind. That is because almost 20 million Americans suffer with varying forms and severity levels of substance abuse. That being said there are other fairly common addictions that can cause similar levels of destruction in an individual’s life. We call these addictions process or behavior addictions. That is because these addictions do not involve introducing a foreign chemical into the body, they involve external behaviors which release high levels of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain, which create the “high”. In this article we will take a look at 5 of the most common process or behavioral addictions. They are Sex Addiction, Gambling Addiction, Shopping Addiction, Video Game Addiction, and Cellphone Addiction, in no particular order.

Sex Addiction

What is Sex Addiction

Sex addiction can be an extremely destructive condition, although it is not officially diagnoseable in the DSM-5. So, what is sex addiction? Despite not being listed in the DSM-5, sex addiction is characterized as overwhelming desire or need to preform sex acts to obtain the “high” or “relief” an alcoholic gets from a drink, or heroin addict gets from using heroin. Although it is not officially listed in the DSM there are a few defining characteristics professionals agree indicate a sex addiction. These sex addiction signs or sex addiction symptoms include multiple sexual partners, risky sexual behavior, prioritizing sexual encounters above other responsibilities, and continuing sexual behavior despite negative consequences. It is important to note that alone these symptoms do not necessarily indicate sexual addiction, but when all or most of them are present sex addiction is likely.

Sex Addiction Facts

  • Studies indicate up to 20 million Americans may suffer from a form of sex addiction
  • Childhood trauma or sexual trauma has a strong correlation with sex addiction.
  • Studies indicate as many as 82% of those reporting sex addiction have suffered sexual or physical abuse
  • Sex addiction commonly presents as a co-occurring condition with depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders

Is Sex Addiction Hereditary

While the information on this topic is fairly contradictory, it is safe to say there is some evidence that genes and family history play a role in sex addiction. Individuals who are predisposed to emotional dysregulation, pleasure-seeking behavior, and impulsivity are more likely to report sexual addictions.

Is Sex Addiction a Mental Illness

While sex addiction is not officially listed in the DSM-5 which is used to diagnose mental illnesses, many professionals consider it to be a mental disorder.

How to Treat Sex Addiction

If you are looking for sex addiction help, sex addiction counseling is the gold standard. There are no medications approved to treat sex addiction but CBT therapy  12 step program involvement has been shown to be effective in many cases.

Gambling Addiction

What is a Gambling Addiction

According to the Mayo Clinic, a leading authority in the field of behavioral health, Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you’re willing to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value. Gambling is an addiction much like alcohol and drugs.

Gambling Addiction Facts

  • Approximately 1% of the US population has a severe gambling problem
  • As many as 6-9% of young adults relate problems related to gambling.
  • According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, 96.3 percent of the lifetime pathological gamblers also met lifetime criteria for one or more of the other psychiatric disorders assessed in the survey


How to Tell if Someone Has a Gambling Addiction

The signs of gambling addiction and symptoms of gambling addiction are much like those of alcohol or drug addiction. It includes: increasing tolerance (needing to gamble more to achieve the same effect), withdrawal symptoms if gambling is stopped or reduced, and inability to stop or moderate gambling.

Is a Gambling Addiction a Mental Illness

The variety of terms used to describe gambling addiction – pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, problem gambling, probable problem gambling–can be confusing. For now, the emerging consensus in the scientific community is to use the term “gambling disorder,” as proposed for the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

Stock Market Gambling Addiction

Trading in the financial markets can be stimulating and exciting. But for many of the same reasons as individuals get addicted to casinos or sports better, individuals can become addicted to trading in the stock market. The results can be disastrous and money can be won and lost at much higher intervals than many other forms of gambling. While it is not diagnostically separate, it definitely has its own unique characteristics.

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

If you are looking for gambling addiction help, there is a gambling addiction helpline in the United States that will connect you to services free of charge. The number is 1-800-522-4700. Gambling Addiction treatment usually consists of psychotherapy, group therapy, and 12 step involvement in GA or Gamblers Anonymous.

Shopping Addiction

Is Shopping an Addiction

Shopping addiction or oniomania involves compulsive buy as a means to feel good, much like the gambler places a bet to feel good. Usually beginning in one’s late teens or early twenties, shopping becomes a coping mechanism and shopping addiction is very commonly co occurring with another psychiatric issue. Shopping is an addiction that can destroy relationships and financial situations and should be taken seriously.

Shopping Addiction Facts

  • As many as 6% of all Americans may suffer from shopping addiction
  • Shopping addiction is not new and was recognized as a mental disorder in the 20th century
  • Shopping addiction is very controversial as some do not believe it meets the criteria to be considered an addiction

Symptoms of Shopping Addiction

While there is no officially shopping addiction test or shopping addiction quiz, there are a few warning signs that when found in conjunction with others can indicate shopping addiction.


  • Shopping more than you planned to
  • Spending more money than you planned to
  • Lying about how much you spent or how much you shopped
  • Shopping despite consequences

How to Overcome Shopping Addiction

Although there is little research in the field of shopping addiction treatment, there is shopping addiction help available. It appears much like other behavioral addictions shopping addiction may respond well to individual and group therapy as well as 12 step group involvement.


Video Game Addiction

What is a Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction has been identified as a process addiction that most closely resembles gambling addiction, where the thrill of winning the next game overtakes the individual. Video games have been around for almost 50 years but the concept of video game addiction is fairly new.

Video Game Addiction Facts

  • Research shows 1-16% of all video gamers meet the criteria for addiction
  • Addiction is most commonly seen in MMORPG games (massively multiplayer online role-playing games)
  • Research indicates children with video game addiction exhibit a lack of impulsive control, impaired cognitive function, and ADHD like symptoms

How to Help the Video Game Addict

Although DSM-5 classifies video game addiction as needing further study and does not classify it as a mental disorder as of yet, there is definitely video game addiction help available. Similar to gambling, individual and group therapy seems to be most effective. Although there is very limited research available on video game addiction thus far.

Cell Phone Addiction

What is a Cell Phone Addiction

Cell Phone addiction is a disorder involving compulsive overuse of mobile devices. Overuse is quantified by the number of times an individual accesses their phone or by the total time spent on the phone for unnecessary activities. This is the newest of all the process addictions we spoke about today. It has really risen to prominence in the last 7 or 8 years as more and more apps and social media platforms have become available for mobile devices.

Cell Phone Addiction Facts

  • In a recent study, as many as 50% of teens surveyed reported feeling “addicted to their device”
  • As many as 59% of those teen’s parents reported thinking their teen was “addicted to their device”
  • 71% of people sleep with or next to their phones
  • 44% of 18-24 have fallen asleep with their phone in hand

Common Symptoms of Cell Phone Addicts

  • Reaching for the phone while still in bed upon waking up
  • Increasing usage time
  • Feeling anxious when the phone is out of site
  • Using the phone while engaged in other activities

Methods to Help Break Cell Phone Addiction

There is help available for cell phone addiction. If you need cell phone addiction help there are many apps available that will help you limit screen time. For more severe cases individual and group therapy have shown some promise. It is important to note there is little to no data on the long-term effects or treatment of cellphone addiction as of the writing of this article.


If you or someone you know is suffering from any of the addictions mentioned in this writing, or any addiction period, we are here to help! Please call us at 855-698-3554 or directly at 201-663-2914 for a no-cost no-obligation consultation. We are more than happy to discuss treatment options with you as well as provide referrals to specialists for your specific situation.