Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addiction, sometimes called process addiction, is a condition characterized by the compulsive engagement in a certain activity in spite of negative consequences. Like a drug addiction, the behavioral addict cannot control the impulse to keep doing it. Like a chemical addiction, the abuser feels compelled to engage in the behavior, gets pleasure from it, suffers negative consequences and acts in a manner that is out of control. Like a drug addict, a sex or gambling addict may want to stop, but can’t.

Sex and Gambling: The Dopamine Connection

A brain chemical called dopamine underlies nearly every addiction including drugs and alcohol as well as behavioral addictions. This chemical can explain some of the similarities between sex addiction and compulsive gambling. When you experience anything pleasurable, cells in your brain release a small amount of dopamine. Winning at a blackjack table or a slot machine causes a release of dopamine, as does sexual pleasure.

While most of us are able to have a healthy relationship with dopamine, some people are susceptible to chasing the high it imparts. A compulsive gambler is constantly seeking the high that comes with winning, while the sex addict is looking for the high of sexual pleasure or gratification.

Sex, Gambling and the Internet

Another similarity between these addictions is in their connection to technology. In the past, gamblers had to go to casinos to get their fix. Today, compulsive gamblers need only go online to find a poker game or a virtual slot machine. The same is true for sex addicts obsessed with pornography or with having affairs. It can all be found online now, quickly and often for free. Easy and quick access has always fueled addiction. Both gambling and sex addictions can develop in a person quicker than ever before, thanks to this easy access.

Similar Behaviors

While the acts of betting money and engaging in sexual behaviors are not the same, they are similar. Both are capable of giving a person an intense high. Both can lead to the same negative behaviors as well. Compulsive gamblers and sex addicts both tend to lie to loved ones and end up with dysfunctional relationships. Neither is able to control their impulses. Both sex and gambling addicts often suffer consequences in all areas of their lives, including failed relationships, financial problems or loss of access to children.


Experts in the field have long recognized the similarities between gambling and sex addictions. It is important for those who struggle with either of these addictions to understand the connection. Each one is vulnerable to developing another addiction. Compulsive gamblers may be particularly vulnerable to developing a problem with sex. Online casinos have taken advantage of the sex-gambling connection and are merging content. Online sex and gambling games are growing in number and popularity. With increased awareness, we can be better prepared to treat any type of addiction.


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.