Behavioural addictions, also known as ‘non-substance addictions’, are characterised by a person’s inability to control an activity
Two types of behavioural addictions are officially considered as a disease: gambling addiction and video game addiction. Other behavioural disorders are the subject of research to better understand their impact and addictive potential. These include, for example, food and sexual addictions, compulsive shopping and addiction to the internet and smartphones.
It should be noted that ‘non-substance’ compulsive behaviours that are not officially recognised can still cause significant suffering and can be treated like other addictive disorders.
There are many similarities between substance addictions and behavioural addictions. Both types of behaviour are triggered by an emotional need to perform a certain activity or consume a certain substance. Both behaviours result in the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Over time, however, people can become addicted to this behaviour or to the alcohol or drugs they use. And when this dependence is accompanied by negative consequences for the individual – in terms of health, finances, social relationships, work, etc., thus leading to addiction.
Compulsive gambling is the inappropriate, repeated and persistent use of gambling, resulting in disruption of social, family or work activities and/or clinically significant suffering.
It should be noted that most people who regularly gamble on sports bets or go to casinos do not have any particular problem. Their gambling is controlled and, when they lose money, they do not feel the need to gamble again to compensate for their losses. In their case, gambling remains a relatively harmless leisure practice.
The behaviour of the compulsive gambler is quite different. Their trajectory consists of three successive phases:
- The winning phase – the compulsive gambler has always started by winning, sometimes a large sum – this winning has been accompanied by an intense feeling of well-being. Euphoric, the compulsive gambler feels compelled to gamble again.
- The losing phase – invariably, the gambler will lose, but instead of seeing the losses as inevitable, he or she will experience them as an affront. These losses drive him to gamble again to win back what he has lost. This is when difficulties arise
- The despair phase – losses become increasingly important. In despair, the problem gambler loses all control and, despite increasing problems, continues to gamble.
It is estimated that 2-3% of Europeans are at risk of video game addiction, meaning that they lose control over their gaming, whether online or offline. For these people, gaming becomes the main focus of attention, while other daily activities are abandoned or neglected. Over time, this has a negative impact on social and family relationships, as well as on employment and study opportunities.
Even among video game enthusiasts, not all gamers suffer from addiction. However, gamers should monitor the amount of time they spend playing and be aware of the impact this has on:
- Their daily activities (social, professional, school, job search, etc.).
- Their physical and mental health (dry eyes, overweight, sleep problems, loss of self-confidence, psychological discomfort, anxiety and depression, etc.).
- Their social relationships (withdrawal, isolation, loss of meaningful relationships, etc.).
 Currently, Internet gaming disorder is described in section 3 of the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM 5) as a condition that requires further clinical investigation before being included in the main body of the document as a formally diagnosable disorder. Instead, the disorder has been formally included in the 11th revision of the WHO International Classification of Diseases (gaming disorder) or ICD-11.
 Questionnaire adapted from DSM 5, which refers to gaming disorder if the person meets at least 4 criteria in a 12-month period (4-5 criteria: mild disorder; 6-7 criteria: moderate disorder; 8-9 criteria: severe disorder).
 Questionnaire adapted from DSM 5, indicating that 5 or more criteria are required for a possible diagnosis of video game use disorder.