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5 Strategies for Resisting Behavioral Addictions

  1. Get the Help You Need
  2. Know Your Triggers
  3. Set Clear Guidelines (and Stick to Them)
  4. Enlist Some Assistance
  5. Find Another Source of Gratification
  6. Sources

Sex Vs Drug Addiction

No one ever described the life of a drug addict as easy--except possibly for someone experiencing a behavioral addiction. Drug and alcohol addictions have a simpler remedy: stop using. And while the behaviors associated with some behavioral addictions, such as gambling, can be totally abandoned, many behavioral addictions involve actions that are impossible to completely abandon.
Sex Vs Drug Addiction

No one can give up shopping or eating, and it's unreasonable to expect anyone to give up sex. If you are recovering from a behavioral addiction, then, you'll need to find novel strategies for combating temptation and practicing moderation.

A 2010 American Journal of Alcohol Abuse study suggests that shopping, sex, skin-picking, and gambling are among the most common behavioral addictions.

Get the Help You Need

Most people know that drug and alcohol addiction require professional assistance. Because behavioral addictions are rarely fatal and are unlikely to yield immediate health consequences, many people mistakenly believe they can fight a behavioral addiction on their own. The fight against a behavioral addiction begins with professional treatment. Therapy can help you understand the factors underlying your addiction, while assisting you to implement healthy coping skills.

Take time to research your specific addiction, and the treatment modalities that best support it. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven highly effective in the fight against compulsive sexual behaviors, since CBT encourages patients to notice and control destructive automatic thoughts. You can also try group therapy, some compulsive shoppers continue going to Debtors Anonymous meetings for decades, and therapy can help you resist temptation for the rest of your life.

The nice thing about seeking professional help is that, even after you've shaken off the worst of the addiction, you can still continue with treatment. If you or someone you love is suffering from a behavioral addiction, there are treatment programs that can help. Call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? and get help today.

Know Your Triggers

Every addict has specific triggers that encourage them to indulge their addictions. Some of the most common include:

  • Boredom.
  • Physical pain.
  • Psychological pain.
  • Peer pressure.
  • Frustration.

Identify your triggers, and be as specific as possible. Maybe you feel fine after a fight with a friend, but a fight with your spouse has you heading for a credit card-sponsored spending spree. Knowing this in advance can help you prepare for the inevitable challenges of daily life.

For each trigger, make a list of alternative coping strategies that distract you from your craving. Some options might include:

  • Exercise.
  • Meditation.
  • Talking to a friend.
  • Playing with your dog.
  • Painting.
  • Playing a game you love.
  • Doing something nice for yourself, such as getting a massage.

Talk to a therapist or someone you trust about your alternative coping skills since sometimes one addiction can lead to another. A gambling addict, for instance, might start compulsively spending money to cope with his cravings.

Set Clear Guidelines (and Stick to Them)

Impulsive decision-making, especially in a world where we all must make dozens of decisions each day, rarely produces a good result.

  • Rather than trusting yourself to make a good decision in the heat of the moment, set clear guidelines for your behavior ahead of time.

These rules can guide you during moments of weakness.

  • For instance, a shopping addict might decree that it's acceptable to spend $100 on clothing a month, and a sex addict might limit himself to dating only twice per month, and never having sex before the third date.

Behavioral addictions sometimes go unnoticed. After all, these compulsive behaviors often involve activities that are a normal, healthy part of daily life, such as shopping and sex. When these activities take over your life, it's easy to feel out of control and ashamed. Please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? to get connected with a treatment program that meets your needs.

Enlist Some Assistance

In the 12-step model of recovery, everyone picks a sponsor. There's a reason for this. Just as peer pressure can encourage bad decision-making, it can also empower you to resist temptation.

  • Find someone whom you can trust to counsel you when you're overwhelmed by cravings.
  • When you face a situation that you know might trigger a relapse--such as the rush of Black Friday for a compulsive spender--take the loved one with you.

  • Better yet, consider outsourcing "necessary" behaviors to someone you trust, or even paying them. This isn't possible with every potentially compulsive behavior, of course. But you can pay someone else to do your shopping, to make your meals, and to keep up with your business's social media page.

Find Another Source of Gratification

Here's something you might not hear in rehab: indulging an addiction feels good, and removing it feels bad. Otherwise, no one would become an addict. We all need the shot of dopamine that a behavioral addiction offers, but there are other options for feeling good. Find healthy behaviors that give you pleasure to replace your addiction.

Love spending money? You might enjoy the hunting and gathering inherent in gardening just as much. Constantly looking for your next gambling fix? Find something else that offers intermittent reinforcement, such as birdwatching or trying to break your previous fitness records.

Addiction is a disease, not a failure, and the right help can get you back to living the life you deserve.


Fong, T. W. (n.d.). Understanding and managing compulsive sexual behaviors. Retrieved from

Grant, J. E., Potenza, M. N., Weinstein, A., & Gorelick, D. A. (n.d.). Introduction to behavioral addictions. Retrieved from


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