Recovery from a substance use disorder or compulsive behavior is a huge win for anyone. There is this feeling of finally being able to exert control over your life and dictate how you want to live.
You get this feeling of freedom from having your life choices made for you by forces that have no regard for what you truly want. You feel strong and hopeful. You wake up in the morning, get out of bed and face the day with an overwhelming sense of hope and gratitude.
However, you need to be aware of cross addiction and the dangers it poses to you and your newfound freedom. You need to be aware of how vulnerable you are to it and you need to know what can start it.
Does it suddenly spring up because you have a history of alcohol or drug addiction? Do certain behaviours trigger it? Does every recovering addict suffer from it or is it unique to some people?
A lot of research has gone into answering these questions. Read below to find out what has been uncovered…
What is Cross Addiction?
Cross addiction is when a person starts abusing another thing when the drugs and alcohol are taken away. It is important to note that while the new addiction could be to another controlled substance, it could also not be drugs or alcohol at all.
The way addiction works is that it has direct effects on the brain. It causes the brain to secrete dopamine – the brain chemical responsible for reward response. The effect of this is that the addict feels high and continues to indulge in the behavior which made that high possible.
This effect is not created by drug and alcohol abuse alone. It could also be created by compulsive behaviours such as gambling, shopping, sex, excessive workout and a lot of other things. The bottom line is that you get the same high as when you were abusing drugs or alcohol.
According to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan, a person that recovers from alcohol addiction is 18 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs than a person who never had an alcohol addiction. Here are 5 common cross addictions that may spring up after an addiction.
At the mention of the word gambling, the picture that often springs to mind is a casino table with lots of chips stacked on the table. However, gambling is more than that. It is not restricted to casinos, slot machines or cards. It expands into purchasing a lottery ticket, entering a raffle or making a bet with a friend.
Gambling as a cross addiction can occur when the gambler plays the game and makes risky bets to experience the emotional high associated with taking huge risks and having them pay off. That sense of danger and teetering on the brink of financial ruin brings the gambler a high that is equal or sometimes bigger than before.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 1 percent of Americans suffer from gambling problems.
Symptoms of Gambling
- The symptoms of gambling are not as obvious as in drug or alcohol addiction. Gambling is sometimes referred to as the “hidden illness”. The following are some of the symptoms of gambling:
- The gambler feels a need to be secretive about it: this is usually reinforced by the feeling that if others know about the gambling, they won’t understand the need for it.
- The gambler has trouble controlling the gambling: this is a trap that many gamblers fall into. They feel that it is only weak-willed people that fall victim to gambling problems. There is this feeling of “I can always stop”. Yet, they are unable to stop. They are constantly compelled to keep upping the bet until they have gambled their last dollar and exhausted all means of raising money.
- The gambler feels restless or irritable when he or she attempts to stop, control or reduce the gambling
- The gambler uses gambling as an escape route when feeling distressed
Negative Consequences of Gambling
- The most obvious is the loss of money. No matter how rich a person may be, his or her pocket will still feel the sting from gambling.
- Relationship issues
- Work problems
- Family problems as the continued gambling puts a strain on relations with loved ones
How to Avoid Gambling Addiction
- Avoid tempting environments and websites
- Hold yourself accountable to someone. This might require you temporarily giving up control of your finances – at least until you are strong enough to fight the temptation on your own
- Find healthier activities to replace the gambling in your life
#2: Compulsive Sexual Behavior
This is a condition in which a person cannot manage his or her sexual behavioural tendencies. A review carried out in 2014 reported that 3 to 6% of the United States populace are victims of compulsive sexual behavior.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), compulsive sexual disorder is “characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior”.
Symptoms of Compulsive Sexual Behavior
The common symptoms of compulsive sexual behavior include:
- Constant sexual activities at the expense of health, personal care and other interests or activities.
- Inability to control or reduce repetitive sexual behavior even when there are adverse consequences and the person no longer derives satisfaction from it.
Negative Consequences of Compulsive Sexual Behavior
- Family and relationship problems
- Financial problems
- Intense feelings of guilt and low self-esteem
- Severe anxiety and depression
- Sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex
How to Avoid Compulsive Sexual Behavior
Your best chance at avoiding this cross addiction is to avoid risky situations or compromising situations as often as possible. You should also have an accountability partner who will regularly keep you in check. Your accountability partner could be a trusted friend or your counselor while you were in therapy.
#3: Shopping Addiction
A person is addicted to shopping when he or she shops compulsively and feels like they have no control over their behavior. “When people shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive,” says Ruth Engs, a professor in applied health sciences at Indiana University. It affects about 18 million adults in the United States.
Symptoms of Shopping Addiction
The common symptoms of shopping addiction include:
- An obsession over making purchases on a daily or weekly basis
- Using shopping as a means to cope with stress, depression, anxiety, boredom and anger
- Maxing out credit cards or opening of new ones without paying off previous balances
- Experiencing a feeling of intense euphoria or excitement after making purchases
- Buying things that are either unnecessary or have no use
- Getting money for shopping by any means possible which may include lying or stealing
- Feelings of remorse or guilt after shopping, but unable to stop or control it
Negative Consequences of Shopping Addiction
A person with a shopping disorder may resort to borrowing money from friends and family to fuel their addiction. This puts a strain on relationships in the person’s life as most times, he or she is unable to pay back the borrowed money. This can lead to broken homes and broken relationships.
Other consequences include an inability to meet financial obligations as all the money he or she has is squandered on fuelling the addiction.
How to Avoid Shopping Addiction
- Cut up your credit cards: the logic behind this is simple. You cannot charge your expenses to a non-existent credit card.
- Carry cash only: carry a modest amount of cash with you to meet little expenses.
- Track your spending: note every cent you spend in a journal or notebook. This helps you see clearly how you are spending and you will be able to make adjustments if necessary.
- Have “no spending” days: have days where you make up your mind to spend little or no money at all. There is a great feeling it gives you when you know that your will is strong enough to stay away from spending for a whole day.
#4: Exercise Addiction
It sounds totally weird to be addicted to exercises. They are supposed to be good for the body, so how can a person be addicted to exercises?
Exercise addiction is an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness or exercise. Research at the University of California speculated that 15% of exercise addicts are also addicted to controlled substances like cigarettes, alcohol or illicit drugs.
They also estimated that 25% may have other addictions such as sex addiction or shopping addiction. In most of the cases, former addicts turn to exercises to fill the void left by the past addictions.
Symptoms of Exercise Addiction
The common symptoms of exercise addiction include:
- Experiencing uncontrollable desires to exercise
- Reducing activities in other areas to make time for exercises
- Experiencing an inability to stick with a reduced exercise routine
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after long periods without exercise
Negative Consequences of Exercise Addiction
The consequences of exercise addiction include health complications due to an inability to take care of physical health, reduced sleep, alienation of friends and family. Most exercise addicts shun family and friends and avoid social functions to make time for their exercises.
How to Avoid Exercise Addiction
- Examine your motives for exercising
- Have clear, SMART exercise goals
- Work with your physician when you want to start a new exercise regimen
- Avoid excessive trips to the gym
- Ensure to give your body adequate rest in between exercises
#5: Food Addiction
This is a condition where a person eats a lot of food in a short amount of time even if he or she is not hungry. An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men have or have had an eating disorder at some point in their life.
Symptoms of Food Addiction
Some of the symptoms include:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Inability to eat with others due to feelings of embarrassment and shame
- Eating large amounts without feeling hungry
- Feeling guilty or disgusted with oneself
Negative Consequences of Food Addiction
The negative consequences include feelings of extreme unhappiness and distress about overeating. Excessive weight gain is also a possible consequence.
How to Avoid Food Addiction
The best way to avoid food addiction is to work with a doctor, preferably a nutritionist. He or she will work with you and try to help you break the cycle of overeating compulsively
Getting The Help You Need
Most addictions occur because of some unresolved underlying issues. The things a person gets addicted to are most times crutches used to “deal” with the issues. Most recovery programs deal with not only the things a person is addicted to but the issues that could have given rise to addiction in the first place.
For this reason, your best chance at avoiding a cross addiction is to make sure that you are as honest as possible during your recovery program. This gives your counselor insight into whatever issues you are facing and makes it easier for those issues to be appropriately dealt with.