Behavioral Addictions vs Substance Addictions Recovery

October 24, 2019 Amanda Richardson

Behavioral addiction and substance addiction have similarities and differences. I've learned over time that most people only associate addiction with substance abuse or chemical dependency, often leaving those suffering from behavioral addictions completely alone and underserved in their recovery process. In my recovery journey, I have had to overcome a lot on my own and even to this day, I have been told by many that my addictions either aren't real or aren't important simply because they don't involve illegal or harmful substances. Behavioral addictions are just as valid and often just as devastating as substance addictions, although sometimes the recovery process for each one can differ greatly.

What Makes Behavioral Addiction Recovery Different from Substance Addiction?

I cannot speak for every recovering behavioral addict out there, but I can say with certainty that my behavioral addictions, similar to substance addictions, have taken years of hard work, determination, faith, and self-love to overcome. 

I believe what sets behavioral addictions apart from other addictions is the fact that most behavioral addictions involve habits and activities that are nearly impossible to avoid, making something like abstinence an unattainable goal for many people. In my struggles with sex addiction and food addiction, I had to work tirelessly to create a world where I could still eat normal meals and still have a healthy sex life without experiencing a mental relapse.

The truth is that no addiction recovery journey is an easy one. Both substance addiction and behavioral addiction have their specific struggles and frustrations that follow. However, behavioral addicts often are forced to learn how to partake in their "drug of choice" while somehow not being consumed by it, and that is a task not for the faint of heart.

What differences and similarities have you noticed between behavioral addiction and substance addiction recovery?

APA Reference
Richardson, A. (2019, October 24). Behavioral Addictions vs Substance Addictions Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Amanda Richardson

Amanda is a professional health and wellness writer who specializes in creating content tailored to the female audience. She is especially passionate about social injustice, mental health, and addiction recovery.

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For more information on Amanda's professional writing services, be sure to check her out at Richardson Writing Influence.

October, 30 2019 at 6:44 pm

My experiences have been both different and similar to yours. My biggest addiction, and the one that I found the hardest to overcome, was an addiction to self-injury. I agree that there are certain things that you need to just learn to be around without relapsing and being triggered to go back to a full blown addiction.
There certainly are some things that can be avoided for awhile, depending on the methods of self-injury that you've used in the past, but some things are harder to avoid.
I'm sure you've heard it said that if someone really wants to self-injure, they will find a way to do it, no matter where they are or what they have at their disposal. For someone who has a long history of hurting themselves, every day objects such as a red marker or a pencil sharpener can be huge triggers. I remember once, being in residential treatment and I had come out of my room in short sleeves (and my arms were covered in scars). When I had entered treatment I had been told that there wasn't any policy or rule stating that I had to cover up my wounds, but that one of my peers may approach me and ask me to cover up. And that's what happened. One of the girls in the program asked me to go back to my room and put long sleeves on, which I did willingly at the time. But I have thought about it since, and thought that I shouldn't have. She would eventually have to leave this protective little bubble she had built for herself at the facility, and there would be people on the streets with visible scars, whether or not they had been caused by self harm, they would be there, and she would not be able to just ask people to cover up or go away. It's one of those things that we just need to learn to live with...
Anyway, thank you for the article! I enjoyed reading about someone else's point of view!

October, 30 2019 at 7:34 pm

First, thank you so much for sharing something so vulnerable and important. I really admire your courage and strength to fight through this specific type of behavioral addiction. I definitely agree with you though, facing triggers is a normal and healthy part of any type of addiction recovery.
I guess some addictions are just easier to avoid than others though. I definitely used to envy people who could just successfully avoid their triggers/addiction every day for the rest of their lives lol!
Thanks for the read and great feedback. I hope I can continue to serve my fellow recovering community well!

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