The existence of behavioral addictions is still a controversial topic among addiction experts. While some argue that the problematic behaviors exhibited by people with behavioral addictions closely mimic the behavior of drug and alcohol addicts, others feel that so-called behavioral addictions aren’t really addictions at all, but simply bad habits. However, when we look at the characteristics of various behavioral addictions side by side, there seem to be shared symptoms and personality similarities that tie them together.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at two of the most common types of behavior addiction, sexual addiction and gambling addiction, in order to highlight just how similar they truly are.
Common Symptoms Of Gambling And Sex Addiction
Recent findings published in the “Comprehensive Psychology” journal seem to indicate that sexual addiction and gambling addiction have more in common than previously believed. A study headed by Dr. Joseph M. Farré of Hospital Universitari Quirón Dexeus in Barcelona, Spain, set out to find the similarities and differences in the personalities of those suffering from the two types of addiction.
The results of Farré’s study indicate that there are no statistically significant differences between sex addicts and gambling addicts when it came to their self-reported personality characteristics. After completing a self-assessment questionnaire, both groups showed similar scores for all of the following symptoms:
- Phobic anxiety
- Paranoid ideation
Not only did the two groups show similar symptom patterns, the intensity of their symptoms was also nearly identical.
Common Behaviors Of Sex And Gambling Addiction
On the surface, gambling addiction and sex addiction don’t appear to share many similarities, but their effects on the addict’s life are quite alike. The thrill of sexual activity and the suspense of betting money both produce a powerful high.
Sex addiction and gambling addiction often cause their respective addicts to lead a secretive double life, hiding the extent of their compulsive behavior from friends and family. The addictive behavior also becomes highly ritualized. A gambling addict isn’t just addicted to the thrill of winning, and a sex addict isn’t addicted solely to the feeling of orgasm.
Rather, the entire process, from beginning to end, is what becomes addictive, which is why behavior addictions are also referred to as process addictions. The thrill of the conquest is what keeps them coming back for more.
Dopamine And Behavior Addiction
The similarities between the symptoms of sex addiction and gambling addiction can be attributed to their common effect on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Every time someone experiences pleasure, the brain releases dopamine. In the case of most healthy individuals, this response serves to reinforce behaviors that are beneficial for survival.
Behavior addicts, on the other hand, have an unhealthy relationship with dopamine. A compulsive gambler will constantly chase the fleeting high of winning at the blackjack table, and a sex addict will compulsively seek the high of intimate pleasure. While the addictive behaviors might look different on the surface, both gambling addiction and sex addiction are manifestations of an abnormality in the brain’s natural reward and pleasure system.
Experts who treat behavioral addictions have long recognized the connection between sex addiction and gambling. In fact, many of them have observed that the two addictions often overlap, resulting in individuals who suffer from both sex and gambling addiction at the same time.
By better understanding the common thread that runs through these two behavioral addictions, we can begin to approach treatment in a more effective way.