Not all people who are living with an addiction are involved with alcohol or another type of substance. Behavioral addictions are just as powerful as substance abuse problems, and there are alternative ways to treat them than a 12-step program.


Addiction is now considered a medical disease. It affects the way the addict's brain works. A person with this type of addiction issue uses the behavior to deal with other issues going on in their lives. They may resort to gambling, overeating, fixating on another person, working to excess, or inappropriate sexual practices to deal with anxiety, depression, or simply zoning out.

Approach to Treatment

Rather than have an addict surrender his or her life to a Higher Power, as in a 12-step program, this approach to treatment is scientifically based. It may involve medications, such as antidepressants, or behavioral therapies to help the addict learn how to deal with his or her triggers and develop new coping strategies. Rather than teach the addict that they are a powerless individual, approach to treatment helps to boost self-esteem and instill a positive attitude.

Techniques Used

This approach to treatment can be adapted to meet the needs of the individual addict. It can include elements such as exercise, nutritional counseling, relaxation techniques, and life skills instruction. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also used to teach the addict new patterns of behavior.

Types of Meetings

Treatment centers that work with people with substance abuse issues may also offer treatment programs for behavioral addictions. If the level of addiction is severe, an inpatient program may be appropriate. Some treatment centers will also offer outpatient services to their clients, either as a follow-up to a period of residential care or as an alternative. A psychotherapist or addiction counselor in private practice can also help with a behavioral addiction.


This approach to treating behavioral addictions can be effective. If the addict commits to implementing the strategies they learn during therapy sessions and continues to use them, they will be able to change their behavior over the long term.

Treatment for Related Issues

The addiction can be present with other issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, or attention-deficit disorder. Treatment centers and therapists can offer treatment for them as well as the addiction. The behavioral addiction may operate in conjunction with these conditions and the person may have started engaging in the addictive behaviors as a coping mechanism for the underlying issue.

How to Choose a Program

An Internet search will give you a list of programs ready to help you. As you gather information, be sure to take note of each program's approach to treatment and the kinds of services they offer. Many of them have a toll-free number or offer a live chat option where you can ask questions and get more information. If you are considering seeing a therapist individually, schedule an appointment to meet the person and get an idea of whether this is someone you feel you can open up to and work with.