Compulsive and Addictive Behaviors (CABs)
If you or someone you love has said any of these things, it may indicate a problem with a chemical or non-chemical compulsive or addictive behavior (CAB). You may have not ever thought of it in this way but Webster defines an addiction as “a strong, irresistible impulse to habitually carry out an act.” Most non-chemical compulsions and addictions are socially acceptable behaviors that become more and more time, energy, and/or financially consuming. They can be every bit as consuming and destructive as the more well known addictions to chemical substances such as alcohol and drugs.
The CAB may have begun recently or it may have been controlling your life for years. Many start off innocently and become more and more powerful and uncontrollable. It may give you a feeling of being in control, be a refuge from a world where you feel out of control, or it may be an escape from having to be constantly in control. It may have begun as a way of coping with stress or life’s pressures and difficulties. It may have even helped you to keep anxiety or pain at bay. But now, if you can admit it, the behavior is controlling you and causing stress and pain of its own.
We Can Be Addicted to Anything
We are creative. In my observations, any behavior which can repeated will have someone addicted to it. These are just a few of the things we can be addicted to.
Alcohol, Cocaine, Crack, Heroine, Methamphetamine, LSD, Marijuana, Pain Killers, Barbiturates, Prescription Medications, PCP, Coffee, Cigarettes, Cigars, Snuff, Chewing Tobacco, Skoal, Cokes, Chocolate orDiet Pepsi.
Pornography, Exhibitionism, Prostitutes, Video Parlors, Masturbation, X-Rated Movies, 900 Numbers, Affairs, Sado-Masochism, Internet Porn, Pedophilia, Exhibitionism, Transvestism, Homosexuality (in some cases), Voyeurism or Bestiality.
Horses, Cards, Slot Machines, the Lottery, Sports, Office Pools, the Internet, Dice, Roulette, Bingo, Casinos or the Stock Market.
Movies, Soap Operas, Sports, Court TV, News Shows, Information Channels, Cartoons, Horror, the Weather, Financial Programs or the O.J. Simpson Trial.
Surfing the Net, Chat Rooms, Solitaire, Free Cell, Programs, the Latest Hardware or Software, Internet Porn, Stock Market Quotes, On-ling Games or Finding Deals on E-Bay.
Love, Helping, Rescuing, Martyrdom, Being Alone, Friends, Popularity, Power, Fame, Controlling Others, Being Different, Being the Same, Fixing Others, Being Adored, Spouse Abuse or Serial Murder.
Credit Cards, Gifts, Home Shopping Network, Sales, the Mall, Tools, Clothes, Shoes, Garage Sales, Flea Markets, the Latest Electronic Gadgets or Trinkets.
Eating Too Much, Binging and Purging (Bulimia), Eating for Comfort, Not Eating Enough (Anorexia), Cooking or Eating Out.
Sports and Exercise
Running, Weight Lifting, Aerobics, Body Building, Biking, Swimming, Golf, Tennis, Basketball, Softball, Handball, Pool, Bowling, Playing Cards or Racquetball.
Money, Stamps, Dolls, Books, Comics, Cards, Bottles, Videos, CD’s, DVD’s, Music, Pogs, Paper, Security, Trivia, Art, Sports Team Paraphernalia, Shoes, Jewelry or Stocks and Bonds.
Dieting, Make-up, Hair, Clothes, Jewelry, Shoes, Hats, Our Car or Our Home.
Knowledge or Information
Through Reading or the Internet, Educational TV Shows, History, Geography, News, Sports Statistics or about the Future (through Palm Readers, Psychic Hotlines).
Work, Reading, Meetings, Bible Studies, Dog Shows, Cleaning, Organizing, Politics, Traveling, Setting Fires, Stealing, Self-Mutilation, Card Games, Chess, Video Games, Nintendo, Backgammon, Being in Nature, Power, Being on Time, Perfection, Animal Breeding, Cutting or Pulling Hair.
An Avoidable Epidemic
The World has suffered incredible destruction from unavoidable, natural disasters over the past few years, but addictive and compulsive behaviors are avoidable, unnatural disasters which also destroy individual lives, families, businesses, and churches. Certainly not all of the CABs listed above are destructive. Some are neutral while others are even valued or beneficial to some aspects of the partaker’s life.
Chemical and Non-chemical Addictions Are Similar
Many of these non-chemical compulsions such as spending or gambling are as powerful and as destructive as an alcoholic’s compulsion to drink. The chemical addictions and non-chemical compulsive behaviors are often viewed as being different by traditional theorists and researchers who work in the area of addictions. Contrary to this prevailing notion, the chemical and non-chemical CABs are virtually the same psychologically, only differing in the object or behavior that is compulsively pursued. When taken together, these behaviors represent a hidden plague of unparalleled proportions (see accompanying article). And in the late Twentieth Century, the list of CABs seems to be constrained only by the potential number of activities we can engage in. If a behavior can be repeated and taken to a destructive extreme, someone is taking it there. This tendency of our fallen nature holds profound implications for the church and every client that walks into a therapist’s office.
A few of the features both chemical and non-chemical CABs have in common are: a preoccupation with the behavior (or substance), greater amounts of time, energy, or resources are expended than intended or available, tension or anxiety builds when away from the behavior leading to a temporary release of tension when the behavior is engaged, repeated thoughts about and/or attempts to control, cut back or stop the behavior, secretiveness and/or lying are utilized to limit the knowledge of significant others regarding the true extent of the behavior and a continuation of the behavior in spite of physical, emotional, relational, or financial health being compromised.
The Extent of the Problem
With the arbitrary barriers removed and the great number of similarities exposed, the total number of chemical and non-chemical CABs is staggering. Unfortunately, an accurate estimate of how many individuals suffer from destructive forms of CABs is impossible because of several factors. First, we feel shame and embrace secrecy, we seldom reveal the true extent of our activities. It is extremely difficult for anyone, especially Christians, to admit when we are out of control. Problems seldom come to light until we have been caught several times or have caused a great deal of damage, usually after repeatedly swearing to ourselves or others we would cut back or stop. The second problem is that the different CABs are seen by researchers in isolation. This results in different estimating practices using different reporting methods and statistics. The final issue confounding an accurate estimate is that many CABs have yet to be recognized by sources such as the DSM IV or the media. Many of us often never know what to call what we do. The numbers would be overwhelming if an anonymous survey Christian Therapy Services focusing on the similarities within these behaviors were ever administered to the general population.
Christian Therapy Services
This therapist can be found at our intake request form and by entering their zip code 87107