When Behaviors Become Addictions

Behavior Addictions - Is shopping, gaming, over-exercising, bulimia, gambling, internet-addiction, or porn a problem?

A colleague referred “Jim” to me because the couples' work he was doing with Jim and his wife was at a standstill.  The therapist felt he had reached an impass with the couple because Jiim’s issues were likely chemical.

Jim had struggled with porography for decades and had spent the last three years "white-knuckling" it - avoiding porn but then later substituting it with increased alcohol use.

If you are in an addiction your #1 relationship is with the addiction - no one else can compete.

You may argue with this statement and I say, if you do not believe it then get clean and see how your relationships change.  I have walked the journey with enough clients to promise you that you will agree with me.

Knowing this and saying this to Jim (or anyone locked in an addiction) doesn’t matter. 

I had to help him with the underlying root cause of what his body chemistry was lacking that made him crave the porn (and then the alcohol) in the first place. 

After doing an assessment with Jim I trialed the supplement DLPA (D-phenylalanine + L-phenylalanine).  DLPA works on endorphins and dopamine in the brain, the same way porn does (and other behavior addictions).  I used other supplements as well, and we discussed Jim’s diet and how to make a few small changes that would be helpful.

Within a couple weeks, Jim was telling me he was able to drink less and, much to his surprise, really didn’t think about porn at all.

I know it seems too simple, but it is very logical and scientific.  When any of our neurotransmitters are low, our body craves a way to balance them, even if it is temporary. This includes behaviors such as porn, bulimic behavior, shopping, gambling, over-exercising, internet addiction,  or gaming.  The problem is that none of these behaviors give us a lasting boost of endorphins or dopamine and the behavior must be repeated the next day in order to feel ok. 

And this is where addiction begins.

When behaviors force the flood of dopamine on the brain, the brain adapts by making less and becoming less responsive to its effects (tolerance) needing more time and more intensity to feel the same “high”.  The neural pathways connecting the reward circuit to the prefrontal cortex actually weaken.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for taming impulses, making it even harder to stop the endorphin-flooding behaviors.

Dr. Kenneth Blum helped the scientific and medical community by discovering what he called the Reward Gene, which is a dopamine receptor gene.  Since his discovery there has been over 3000 studies showing the association of the Dopamine D2 receptor gene and addiction reward dependency disorders.

Douglas Gentile began studying video gaming in 1999 because he wanted to prove that there was no such thing as an addiction to gaming.  He was shocked by his own results!  To read his findings go to www.drdouglas.org

I recently participated as one of the speakersin a tele-class for the Alliance for Addiction Solutions (www.allianceforaddictionsolutions.com) on this very topic.  

Of course, no one supplement stands alone.  It's important to insure that all the building blocks are present so the body can make its own dopamine.  It's also important to address  life style changes, tweak the diet, regulate blood sugar and incorporate other ways to increase dopamine naturally.  Yoga, breath exercise and any form of exercise all cause the release of dopamine naturally.  

Is addiction getting in the way of your life?  To learn more in a self-study method, take a look at my ecourses which explain neurotransmitters and the diet connection more in-depth.