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Overcoming Behavioral Addictions

Overcoming Behavioral Addictions

Exercise - You Really Can Get Too Much of a Good Thing!


With so many overweight and out of shape people in America, exercise seems to be the all-purpose answer to this problem. Unquestionably, exercise is the foundation of fitness and flexibility.


Exercise even helps men and women stave off depression and stress. So how could exercise be bad?  Too much of a good thing can become harmful and exercise is no exception.


Actually, it's not exercise that's the problem - it's the way exercise is used. When exercise becomes a compulsion that drives you to continue beyond the point of physical exhaustion, then exercise is becoming a detriment to your body.


Setting a regular exercise schedule helps keep the activity level consistent. But sometimes work or family needs interfere with that schedule. If you have an exercise addiction, you'll neglect work or family in order to exercise!


Failing to exercise at the level you think is necessary leads to tremendous guilt. That guilt will probably drive you to work out even longer and harder tomorrow to make up for what you perceive as a weakness.


Exercise addicts will refuse social invitations if the timing interferes with a workout. Even if you're sick, you get up out of bed to run or do aerobics, prolonging your illness and making it harder for your body to fight the viral or bacterial infection.


The extra stress of the exercise eventually damages your immune system. Some exercise addicts are using activity as a way to sustain anorexia or bulimia. But not all exercise addicts have eating disorders.


Men who exercise to the extreme claim it's part of their body building and toning regimen. Excessive exercise results in lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of cortisol - the stress hormone.


This is dangerous combination leads to a decrease in bone density and greater risk of succumbing to a stress fractures. Instead of building muscles, excessive exercise leads to muscle waste.


To see if you're addicted to exercise, ask yourself these questions:


·         Can you take a day off from exercise, even if you're exhausted or injured?

·         Do you spend a large amount of time recording in an exercise journal and critically analyzing the results?

·         Do you only feel good about yourself when you meet your exercise goals?

·         Do you feel like a loser or get irritable if anything interrupts your exercise regimen?


Exercise addiction requires psychotherapy to deal with the false beliefs you may have about body issues and in order to rebuild self-esteem. Depression or anxiety that rises when cutting back on exercise may need to be treated with an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.



Addicted to Dangerous Relationships


The most wonderful date of your life may become your nightmare if you're in the sights of a dangerous man. He may be charming and exciting - boasting about his exciting and lucrative career, but in reality, his profile is not how he makes it appear. 


Your grandmother used a term, "bum's rush" to describe someone who shows up and takes over your life, ruining it before disappearing. Yesterday's bum is today's modern predator - and some of these men (and women) have worked hard to attract their prey.


Women who are addicted to dangerous relationships always remember back to a time when their mate was kind and endearing - during the honeymoon period when he turned on the charm and didn't expose his violent and shifty ways.


Often, women get addicted to the showering of attention they receive, but eventually this line of attentiveness and control gets blurred and you realize you can't call a friend without him asking, "Who's on the phone?" 


You no longer see your friends because he's consuming every waking second with you, and you realize he's in control of everything from your fashion to your finances!


Why wouldn't a woman just leave this situation and not stand for a controlling partner?  Some do, but for many, the addiction to a dangerous relationship grows too strong to resist.


The subtle control over time and behaviors eventually morphs into something more destructive - abuse and violence.  The women hears threats that if she leaves him, he'll kill her.


And it's not all women who are addicted to bad relationships, either!  There are plenty of men who succumb to their abusive environment from a jealous, mean wife or girlfriend who controls their every move.


Relationship addiction has nothing to do with physical control - it's all about how they control you mentally.  After a fight, they'll cry, promise to change, or even manipulate you into thinking you were the cause of the disagreement in the first place. 


If you believe you might be addicted to your relationship, test yourself to see if it's a positive or negative influence in your life.  Move into your own residence and separate your finances.



Sexual Addiction - Put Aside Your Shame and Find a Solution


People with sexual addiction aren't just "looking for love in all the wrong places," they're looking for love for all the wrong reasons. Actually, love has nothing to do with it - they only want the sex.


If it means declaring love to get sex, they'll do it. If it means lying, buying or manipulating to get sex, they'll do it. The sex addict is constantly on the hunt for a fix and that fix involves another person who may or may not be a willing participant.


The 24/7 access to pornography online, even downloaded to a PDA or phone, makes it easy to feed sexual addiction. No more sneaking into sex shops or driving across town to get the latest nudie magazines.


From photos to videos to actual online communication, the Internet is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for a sex addict. Even worse is the online access to child pornography and places where individuals are demeaned or harmed for the amusement of others.


All the sex addict needs is a wide screen monitor and a credit card with a generous limit. As a result, the chance of getting caught is far less than before the Internet made it so convenient to pander to sexual addiction.


As with any addiction, sex addiction is compulsive, demanding and constantly craving new levels of stimulus.  Some sex addicts use alcohol or drugs to lower their inhibitions or escape from the reality of their behaviors.


Sexual addiction is a strong psychological dependency, which drives behaviors beyond reasonable physical or moral limits. These addicts crave sexual release as much as a drug addict craves a chemical high.


Both types of addicts become irritable, depressed, angry and sometimes violent when the cravings aren't satisfied. Of course, there's no real satisfaction for any addict - the drive gets larger and larger while the satisfaction remains out of reach.


Even with sexual addiction, the person can't fully enjoy the situation without adding more and more intensity, drama, pain or fear into the experience. Sex addicts aren't easy to spot - they include lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers and even ministers.


Their attractive outer image is finely tuned to hide their secrets. A sex addict in a marriage will not be monogamous, subjecting their partner to disease and humiliation. The partner who discovers the addiction often tries things that are repulsive or degrading to them, hoping to be "enough" for the sex addict, but there's no such thing as enough of a fix for an addict of any kind.


Sexual addiction requires intense psychotherapy to reach the core issues of self-loathing and depression that drives the demand for sex. The partner or spouse in the relationship also needs to be part of the counseling - both as a couple and separately.


The behaviors of the sex addict have been harmful for the partner, and the only way for the relationship to continue is to address the psychological needs of both parties. The sex addict must be removed from online access, changing jobs if necessary to eliminate computer use. Many communities have privacy-protected groups where sex addicts can find support in a non-judgmental climate.



Gambling With Your Future


Just take a chance - you might win big!  The lure of easy money is powerful. What if you could spend a single dollar and win millions in the lottery?  You start out buying one ticket, then another and another - but you never win anything substantial.


You might win twenty dollars and use it to buy more tickets. Once you get the gambling bug, it's a short step from buying a lottery ticket at the convenience store to pulling a chair up to the slot machines in a casino.


With so many online gambling sites, it's easy for anyone to gamble - even those who are underage, and teenage gambling addictions are growing.  The sites say you have to be over 18 or 21, but who's checking the IDs?


Teens are three times more likely to get addicted to gambling than adults. Some rack up thousands of dollars in gambling debt before they're even old enough to get a driver's license!


Gambling is a hidden addiction because it's more likely to be done in secret than on a night out to a casino with friends. As the addiction increases, gambling interferes with work, social, mental and physical aspects of your life.


Up to 4% of Americans have a gambling addiction. If you find that you crave the thrill of risking money and hoping to win big, then you're an "action gambler." But if you're more likely to gamble when you're upset or in some type of life crisis, then you're an "escapist gambler."  Women are more likely to be escapist gamblers while men are usually action gamblers.


If you realize that you're driven to gamble and it's taking over your life, then you need to get help. You can't beat this on your own. Gambling is an addiction as powerful as drugs or food. Here are some tips to help you break the addiction to gambling:


·         Tell your spouse, significant other, parent or someone close to you. Ask for their support as you confront your problem.

·         Reduce your access to money. Cut up your credit and debit cards. Carry only small amounts of cash in your wallet.

·         Change your path. Stay away from places that are triggers to gamble.

·         Stay away from people who encourage you to gamble. If necessary, change your cell phone number or email address so that they can't contact you.


Contact the nearest Gambler's Anonymous group. You and your family members need to attend this group to know what to expect. And find an experienced counselor who can work one-on-one with you.



Thrill Seeking - What's Wrong with It?


Images of James Bond jumping from an airplane, free falling in a tuxedo seem very appealing. It's easy to forget that this is a movie stunt, and every precaution is taken to make something that looks dangerous actually be as safe as possible. 


In the real world of extreme sports, there's no safety net - and the chance for serious injury isn't changed by a cameraman's call for a re-take.  The first man to climb Mount Everest is credited with explaining his reason as, "because it's there." And he's still there - he died on that mountain and his body was never found.


It's not likely that he spent much time thinking about death because he was fascinated with the mountain. Did that cause him to be careless and underestimate the danger?  Maybe. Mountain climbers may say they want to climb "because it's there" but really, they want to climb it to prove that they can.


The popularity of extreme sports plays into the thrill seeker's desire for risk. They push themselves to the limit and beyond because they get an extreme high from the adrenaline rush. The risk high is as addictive as alcohol or drugs. In fact, you'll notice that alcohol products often show images of extreme sports in their advertisements.


Thrill seeking is mistakenly associated with men and their effort to be tough, strong and attractive to women. In reality, thrill seekers just have an inclination to be impulsive and non-conforming to social norms. As with substance abuse, the level of the thrill must constantly increase to provide the same high.


Not only is thrill seeking addictive, but as with substance abuse, it's also expensive. Surfers and skate boarders travel around the world for competitions. Race cars and other sports equipment gets used and abused before it's abandoned.


One in five Americans are prone to be risk takers. They don't all become bungee jumpers or cliff divers, but they find ways to take risks. Some are street racers and shoplifters, keeping their risks closer to home. But they have one thing in common - they will do anything for the thrill.


Thrill seeker therapy groups are hard to find, except at addiction research centers. You and your family can attend substance abuse groups because the elements of addictive behavior are essentially the same.


Sell or give away your extreme sport equipment. Stop hanging around with your thrill seeker friends. Replace extreme sports with team sports, running or competitive individual sports. You aren't going to become a couch potato, so find ways to be active that are healthy and not extreme or risky.

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