Compulsive Behaviors

Gambling

Risking money in hopes of winning more than you are risking is gambling.

It can include playing online or video lottery games, playing cards, going to casinos, betting on sports events, etc.

You wonder whether your friend’s gambling is normal or an “out-of-control behavior.

How Do I Know There’s a Problem?

  • Friend unsuccessfully tries to limit or stop
  • Bets increase
  • Lies to cover-up losses
  • Losses are just “bad luck”
  • Angry if confronted

What To Do or (How To Help)?

  • Show your concern
  • Be supportive and reinforce even small efforts to change
  • Encourage non-gambling activities
  • Avoid lecturing or judging your friend
  • Tell your friend how his/her gambling affects you
  • Don’t be manipulated into participating yourself or enabling
  • Help your friend get professional help if necessary

Resources

Gamblers Anonymous
520- 570-7879

AZ Council on Gambling
800-777-7207

National Council on Problem Gambling
24-hour hotline at 1-800-522-4700

Arizona Office of Problem Gambling

 

Internet Addiction

Does your friend seem to be spending more and more time online, getting less work done, becoming more involved with cyber friends than flesh-and-blood ones? Studies have shown that an increasing number of students go beyond functional use of computers and the 'Net to the point of failing courses, losing jobs, hurting relationships, and even flunking out of school altogether. And these are not just "marginal" students; high-achieving students are just as susceptible. Using the internet is like other potentially compulsive activities, such as gambling, exercise, eating, etc. Most people who become involved in these behaviors derive pleasure and benefit from them, and can engage in the activity without much of a problem. There is a small percentage, however, for whom the behavior takes over their life; instead of being an enjoyable addition to their routine, it becomes a way to manage the anxiety, loneliness, and depression they may feel offline. Relationships in cyberspace are fine to a point, and they may even help ease feelings of loneliness and self-doubt. However, the more time spent online, the less time and energy available to spend in face-to-face relationships. Through lack of use, your friend may even begin to lose interpersonal skills, making face-to-face interactions more awkward, and online interactions, which have more control and anonymity, more tempting.

How Do I Know There’s a Problem?

Your friend may be experiencing fatigue, loss of sleep, withdrawal from other activities, friends or relationships, or s/he may complain of losing money through online gambling or shopping.

What To Do or (How To Help)?

  • Break the Pattern – Encourage your friend to find something else to do when first getting home rather than turning on the computer.
  • Use an alarm clock to remind him/her to get off after an hour
  • Find Other Things to Do – Join a club, start an exercise program, get involved with friends.
  • Find Other People to Talk to – Many people get sucked in to the 'Net through talking with others online. Encourage your friend to find people in "real life" to talk to, even if s/he starts out with small things.
  • Examine the Underlying Issues – Frequently internet overuse is a symptom of a deeper issue. Surfing the Web and chat rooms become a coping mechanism for dealing with emptiness, self-doubt, and other problems. S/he needs to figure out what s/he might be avoiding and begin to deal with root causes.
  • Seek Professional Help – If all else fails, and your friend wants help with the process, seek assistance from a mental health professional. Through individual or group work, the dependence on the internet can be reduced.

Resources

www.netaddiction.com
Kim Young’s Center for Internet Addiction Recovery

 

Cybersex

Cybersex and cyberporn addiction is the most common form of internet addiction. The widespread availability of sexual content online has given rise to a new form of sexual addiction. Nearly 60% of the cases of online sexual compulsivity result exclusively from internet use. New problems related to online affairs have also emerged as a sub-type of internet abuse given the widespread popularity of interactive online applications, such as chat rooms and instant messaging, leading to surprising new trends in divorce and marital separation. Finally, addictions to eBay, online gambling, and multi-user role-playing online games are growing new forms of internet abuse.

How Do I Know There’s a Problem?

Your friend may have a problem if s/he:

  • Keeps sexual activity on the Internet a secret from family members
  • Carries out sexual activities on the Net at work or school
  • Frequently erases computer history files in an effort to conceal activity on the Net
  • Feels ashamed at the thought that someone might discover her/his Internet use
  • Finds that time on the Net hampers other tasks and activities
  • Goes into a kind of online trance during which hours just slip away
  • Frequently visits chat rooms that focus on sexual conversation
  • Looks forward to online sexual activities and becomes frustrated or anxious if plans are thwarted
  • Finds him/herself masturbating while on the Net
  • Has sexual chat room friends who become more important than the family and friends in his/her life
  • Has and regularly visits favorite porn sites, or downloads porn
  • Taken part in sexual video games
  • Viewed child pornography online

What To Do or (How To Help)?

Here are some suggestions you can give your friend, knowing that they may need more professional help, as cybersex addiction is rapidly growing, due to advanced availability:

  • Reduce access – move computer to high traffic area; reduce access through software protection; avoid chat rooms; move monitor so others can see
  • Reduce anonymity – insure your e-mail address identifies you; confide in at least 2 others
  • Reduce objectification – remind yourself that people on the Net are real people, with real hopes, worries, families
  • Increase accountability – allow trusted others to monitor your behavior and access
  • Find a good therapist or support group
  • Make social connections
  • Develop a sexual health plan

Resources

www.sexhelp.com

www.netaddiction.com

 

Compulsive Eating

While we know that, ultimately, we cannot exercise control over the behavior of another person, when there are indicators that a friend may be at risk, you do have power over your choices. You can offer support. That may be sitting up late and talking; it may be inviting the friend to have a meal with you; it may be assisting in finding a therapist or making a phone call home. You have a better chance of success if you are informed about available resources as well as having listened well and cared enough to have observed the reality of your friend’s situation.

There is no way to gauge how the friend will respond to your offer of support. It is worth a risk of your friend becoming upset, to demonstrate your willingness to help. Your efforts and expressions of encouragement and concern may be crucial to your friend’s wellbeing.

You do not have to wait to have “proof” of a full-blown eating disorder to express concern.

What To Do or (How To Help)?

  • Choose a private place and an un-hurried time.
  • Reflect understanding and concern. Empathy is necessary.
  • Stay open to the perceptions of your friend even if they are different than your own.
  • Talk about what you have observed. “I noticed that you have eaten that whole bag of chips.” “I heard you getting the bag of cookies last night after we went to dinner” “I worried when I noticed that you ate the whole extra-large pizza.
  • Phrase comments in neutral tones. “I’m worried that you aren’t happy.”
  • Mention concerns other than food and body.
  • Share information about resources.
  • Avoid arguing with your friend.
  • Accept your limitations.
  • Exercise patience.
  • Refuse to become “the food police”.
  • Avoid discussing appearance.

Resources

Websites

National Eating Disorders Association

Academy for Eating Disorders

Overeaters Anonymous

International Association of Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Information Network

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Eat, Drink, and be Mindfull

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Mirror-Mirror

Bulimia Guide

Bulimia.com

Center for Change

Something Fishy

Andrea's Voice

Body Positive

Books

Eating in the Light of the Moon
Anita Johnston

Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin
Anne Katherine

Bodylove
Rita Freedman

When Food is Love
Geneen Roth

Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating
Barbara L. Van Noppen, MSW.

It’s Not About Food
Normandi and Roark

Mindful Eating 101
A Guide to Healthy Eating in College & Beyond

by Susan Albers

Intuitive Eating
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

The Body Myth
Margo Maine, PhD

Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Family and Friends
Siegal, Brisman, & Weinshel

The Eating Disorder Sourcebook
Carolyn Costin, M.A., M.Ed., MFCC

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is compulsive eating treatable? Is recovery possible?
A: Compulsive eating is treatable with counseling and therapy and in some cases, with psychotropic medications. Statistics reflect that approximately 80% of suffers seeking professional support experience significant reduction in symptoms, with many recovering completely.

Q: What is proper treatment for compulsive eating?
A: Because eating disorders are behavioral patterns, which are a result of unresolved emotional conflicts, the conflicts need to be addressed and ultimately resolved or neutralized in order for the sufferer to develop a healthy relationship with food and body image. Compulsive eating is a serious condition and should be addressed with appropriately trained professionals. Medical care, nutritional counseling, and talk therapy are standard modalities of treatment.

Q: Is being overweight a character indicator?
A: While cultural stereotypes may suggest that an individual who compulsively over eats, simply lacks self control and is naturally lazy, there is no substantiation for this bias. The emotional reactions of guilt, shame, self-loathing and depression may curtail the energy and attention of the sufferer and may be interpreted as lack of intention.

Q: Why can’t an overeater just stop?
A: Like other addictive behaviors, an addiction to food serves as an effective means to avoid feelings that are difficult to confront and to resolve. It is a “detour” that works to a certain degree. It is reinforcing because it does distract the individual from attending to the uncomfortable source of the unwanted feelings.