Exploring the Psychological Aspects of Non-Substance Addiction


Non-substance addiction is a psychological concern. People who gamble, shop, play, or participate in risky behaviors in an uncontrollable and problematic manner have psychological issues that need to be addressed. Understanding psychological factors in non-substance addiction is key to overcoming it. To fully understand the psychological underpinnings of non-substance addiction, you need to fully comprehend the following concepts:

  1. Reward System Activation

Non-substance addiction takes place due to the activation of the brain’s reward system. When the brain’s reward system is activated, it releases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is present whenever a person feels pleasure and reward. Participating in an activity that brings pleasure triggers the reward system. It becomes concerning though when the brain’s reward system is always activated. No brain is supposed to always be in a state of pleasure. This is where the loss of control begins.

  1. Loss of Control

As the brain craves pleasure more and more after leaving a balanced state where it feels pleasure at a normal rate, a sense of powerlessness will begin to overtake the person. A person who has been continuously experiencing pleasure will crave for pleasure more and more because the brain has been conditioned to an imbalance state where it wants nothing but pleasure. This is why people still end up going about with excessive gambling or shopping even if they are well aware that there are already negative consequences. This loss of control is a sign that a person is already suffering from non-substance addiction.

  1. Craving and Withdrawal

People end up doing more and more of the things that they are addicted to (gambling, shopping, sex, etc.) because they experience strong pangs of craving. Not only this, they also suffer from intense withdrawal symptoms when they fail to do the certain activity that they are addicted to. This is exactly how it goes with people who are dependent on substances and are suffering

  1. Escapism and Coping Mechanism

In most cases, people end up suffering from non-substance addiction because they want to escape from reality where they have issues and problems. Most people cannot face their problems because they do not have the means and tools to cope with stress, emotions, or challenges healthily. They end up using their non-substance addiction as their way of coping. It becomes a case where a problem is dealt with in a wrong manner that causes a more severe problem like non-substance addiction.

  1. Obsessive Thoughts

A person suffering from non-substance addiction has a compromised mental health. They have consistent and uncontrollable thoughts involving the desire and actual engagement in the behavior that they are addicted to. This leads to a cycle of obsession and compulsion that further disables a person to act rationally and intelligently. A person suffering from non-substance addiction is conditioned to prioritize his or her behavioral addiction. Such a person will find all possible ways, even risky and illegal ones, just so they could engage in the behavior that they are addicted to like gambling, shopping, or sex.

  1. Impulsivity

As a person suffering from non-substance addiction is already obsessed, such a person will ever be impulsive and irrational in his or her actions. Such a person will begin to act in ways that are questionable and dangerous because even if their brain could still function, it can no longer function in such a way that consequences are seriously considered.

  1. Psychological Distress

Non-substance addiction is a serious matter because it involves a cocktail of psychological pain. Separate from the addiction itself, a person suffering from non-substance addiction will also experience shame, guilt, and regret every single time that they engage in the behavior that they are addicted to. What is heartbreaking is the fact that even if they already feel guilty and ashamed of their actions, they still end up engaging in the behavior that they are addicted to as they end up suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms when they do not do so. They suffer either way and they end up choosing addiction, their escape, as the lesser form of suffering.

  1. Underlying Psychological Issues

People suffering from non-substance addiction often suffer from underlying psychological issues like trauma, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Such persons are often not aware of their underlying psychological issues. So much so that they end up escaping from it instead of facing it head-on. This is why during the treatment and rehabilitation of non-substance addiction, a patient undergoes extensive psychiatric evaluation for complete healing to take place.

  1. Strained Relationships

As individuals suffering from non-substance addiction end up prioritizing their desire to engage in a particular behavior (gambling, playing, sex, and etc.), they end up straining their relationships with people around them. They lose support and connection from family, friends, and colleagues. As they become obsessed with a certain behavior, they end ever isolating themselves and ever ashamed of their actions. Actions, that they could not even bring themselves to stop doing.

  1. Escalation –– need for increasing stimulation

Upon the occurrence of non-substance addiction, people suffering from it end up suffering more as they crave more intense experiences as days go by. They end up needing more and more pleasure which leads them to engaging in the behavior more and more. People who are addicted to gambling end up gambling every chance they can get, to a point where they no longer have money to finance it and they end up being in debt. This is when intervention becomes ever necessary.

Non-substance addiction 

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