What are behavioral addictions?

bihevioralne zavisnosti



Addiction to the Internet, video games, mobile phones, social networks

Are there different types of addiction? Yes!

One group consists of behavioral addictions. The term “behavioral addiction” or “non-chemical addiction” includes a number of compulsive activities. They do not require the presence of a psychoactive substance, but a range of addictive behaviors. 

The sudden expansion of neurobiological research in this area also contributed to exploring this. The development of new technologies is a fertile ground for compulsive activities that include the whole complex of addictions: internet addiction, game addiction, addiction to mobile phones, social networks… These are just some of the behavioral addictions.

Compulsive activities

Many activities of everyday life, such as work, sports activities and shopping, can become compulsive – forced. As such, they can dominate our life in an unhealthy way. 

Meeting basic biological needs may lose its primary purpose. It happens to grow into compulsion – so we have an addiction to love, sex, compulsive overeating…

The results of numerous studies indicate that behavioral addictions and addictions to psychoactive substances have many similarities by:

·        risk factors

·        onset

·        neurobiological mechanisms

·        the course of the disease

·        manifestations

·        comorbidity

·        response to treatment

·        consequences.

Technological innovations, primarily neuroimaging techniques (PET scan), have enabled us to observe how the brain works. 

It has been noted that the same areas of the brain are activated in a gambler who expects to gain and in a cocaine addict when taking drugs.

The diagnostic criteria proposed for behavioral addictions are based on common clinical features with addictions to psychoactive substances. These are preoccupation with activity, craving, compulsion and loss of control, tolerance, abstinence syndrome and continued exercise despite harmful consequences. Click on the link to find out all the indicators of addiction.

Behavioral addictions can be just as destructive as substance addictions. Some of them, such as gambling (read more about gambling addiction here), can be associated with significant risks such as, for example, the risk of suicide.

All behavioral addictions involve extremes that disrupt the lives of individuals, and often entire families.

Behavioral addictions take a lot of time and energy. But most importantly, they deprive the addict of relationships with others. Addictive behavior can dominate so much that it makes it impossible to establish quality and meaningful relationships with anyone and anything else.

An example from our practice

My first encounter with computer game addiction was more than 20 years ago. The desperate mother, otherwise a very educated and business-successful woman, complained that she was completely helpless to watch the progressive decline of her eighteen-year-old. He spent endless hours in front of the computer. He stopped communicating with his family, going to school, hanging out with his peers. His girlfriend left him. He would not even get up because of the meal, he would eat in front of the computer, not taking his eyes off the screen. 

Unable to separate him from the computer in any other way, once they turned off the electricity. Her son had a fit of rage, broke everything around the house, alternately shouting and crying. She failed to bring her son for treatment. Like many parents who showed up in the following years.

Despite the prevalence and consequences in all fields, it is astonishing how invisible these problems are.

Many doctors do not know that their patients have problem with behavioral addiction. Although it causes severe emotional suffering, addicts often keep their activities secret:

  • due to denial and minimising the issue, to which family members are also inclined
  • due to the social acceptability of these activities
  • out of shame and fear of condemnation
  • because many function well for some time, until the progressive course of the disease leads to consequences in all areas of life.

How are Internet addiction and other behavioral addictions being treated?

For patients with behavioral addictions, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, gambling addiction, shopping addiction, pornography, compulsive overeating, appropriate psychotherapy programs are provided. They can be conducted in a group or individually.

With many behavioral addictions, and especially with Internet addiction, a certain activity cannot be completely eliminated. An effort is needed to re-establish previously lost control of behavior and find a balance between that and other life activities. It is a model similar to the one used in the treatment of eating disorders. The results of the research indicate that the best results in treatment are achieved by a combination of motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

Success in treatment is not possible without authentic motivation.

At the first meeting with the patient, we assess his readiness to face the problem and to be treated. Then, carefully, by the method of motivational interviewing, in a non-confrontational way, we move it towards the so-called decision gate. We move it along the path that goes from recognizing and acknowledging the problem all the way to making and implementing a treatment decision. Read more about how you can help awaken authentic motivation at the following link.

In the further process of treatment, the client is helped to find alternative rewards. If obsessive-compulsive aspects are in the foreground, an effort is made to develop other habits and restructure the thought process. In the recovery process, by applying relapse prevention techniques, clients learns to avoid “triggers” for using the Internet. They learn to limit access to the Internet and the time spent on it in various ways. This is of help in creating healthy habits. Cients make numerous lifestyle changes that will help them control their addictive behavior or eliminate it completely.

The professional team of the LORIJEN CENTER has been successfully solving the problems of getting rid of all types of addictions, including behavioral addictions, for over two decades now. Through various therapeutic activities, especially tailored to his problem, the client learns how to re-establish control over his life, how to control the craving for the Internet or video games, and how to recognize and overcome risky situations. The duration of treatment depends on the severity and cause of the addiction, the psychological characteristics of the patient, the frequency of visits and more.

Contact us now to discuss your specific situation: email help@lorijen.center or

+381 69 30 88 090, +381 69 30 88 091 (mobile, WhatsApp or Viber)


Knežević-Tasić J., Đukanović B., “Bihevioralne zavisnosti u Srbiji” (Bihevioral addictions in Serbia), Izdavačka knjižarnica Zorana Stojanovića, Sremski Karlovci, 2015.

Đukanović B., Knežević-Tasić J., “Bihevioralne zavisnosti u Crnoj Gori” (Bihevioral addictions in Montenegro), Crnogorska akademija nauka i umjetnosti, 2016.

Beard, K. W., & Wolf, E. M. (2001). Modification in the proposed diagnostic criteria for Internet addiction. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 4(3), 377-383.



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