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12-Step Behavioral Addiction Support Groups

12 Step Group Therapy

What is Behavioral Addiction?

Behavioral addictions are a group of mental health disorders that involve compulsions to repeat non-drug-related behaviors. This can include behaviors such as overeating, overspending, or compulsively watching porn. According to a clinical review in 2011 in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, behavioral addictions involve a pattern of engaging in persistent behaviors to obtain a short-term reward, despite the negative consequences.1

Behavioral addictions have a detrimental impact on your life and overall functioning because you feel like you cannot control the behavior—rather, the behavior controls your life. You cannot stop thinking about the behavior, and you feel a compulsion or an uncontrollable urge to perform the behavior. Not only does this have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health, it negatively affects your behavioral health as well.

As with any addiction, treatment plays an important role in recovery. Behavioral addiction support groups are an important part of the recovery process, because you can benefit from the advice and support of others. Some of these groups follow the 12-step approach to recovery, which gives participants the chance to improve their lives.

The most commonly sought avenues of behavioral addiction treatment involve either inpatient or outpatient recovery programs. In either setting, treatment addresses underlying issues through individual and group counseling and different forms of behavioral therapy. Once you complete one of these treatment programs, you participate in aftercare, which helps solidify the skills you learned in treatment and helps prevent relapse. Effective aftercare strategies often involve a combination of components, such as ongoing individual or group therapy and 12-step behavioral addiction support group participation.

What Happens at a Support Group?

Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral Addictions

While other behavioral addictions were not included in the DSM-V, many experts in the field of mental and behavioral health acknowledge that addiction is not restricted to substances.

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According to a paper published in 2016 in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, 12-step groups are a useful form of help for people struggling with a wide range of addictions, especially when combined with other types of treatment.2 Each 12-step program, whether designed for people suffering from work addiction or those with eating disorders, is based on the same principles and rooted in the concept of peer support.

The first step in this type of program is admitting that your addiction has taken control of your life. Program participants also:

  • Admit their wrongdoings.
  • Work on their shortcomings.
  • Use prayer or meditation to improve their situations.

Those who have been in recovery for a long time are encouraged to help others use these principles to gain control over their addiction and often become sponsors.

Most 12-step behavioral addiction support groups follow the same structure. Group members attend regular meetings so they can share their successes and shortcomings with one another. During these meetings, participants share only their first names, which helps new members feel more comfortable about joining the group. Anonymity also protects people from exploitation by other group members.

New members may introduce themselves to the group, but they are not required to do so. A chairperson typically brings the meeting to order and keeps participants on track so the meeting ends on time. Some 12-step groups begin each meeting by reciting the group’s guiding principles and end each meeting with a prayer or recitation.

Many people struggling with addiction use 12-step groups as a supplement to traditional forms of mental health treatment, such as individual or family therapy. But 12-step groups differ from these types of treatment in that they are not technically a form of treatment; rather, they are based on the idea of establishing a network of peer support to promote recovery. There’s no expert in a 12-step group, like a counselor or psychiatrist, which you might expect to find in individual or group therapy. Instead, 12-step groups offer and rely on peer support—the camaraderie and kinship of others who have walked in your shoes and who can provide advice and encouragement on your road to recovery.

Porn Addiction Support Groups

Despite common misbeliefs, porn addiction is a real and serious problem for many people. 12-step groups can help people in recovery from porn addiction by providing a safe, shame-free forum in which to share experiences and to stay abstinent from porn. Some of the more widespread porn addiction 12-step support groups include:

  • Pornography Addicts Anonymous: This group provides a spiritually focused program of recovery following the traditional 12-step model to specifically prevent relapse. The group also helps members develop healthier relationships and a more stable sense of self-esteem.
  • Sexaholics Anonymous: Sexaholics Anonymous has strict standards to which you are expected to adhere. The focus of this group is “to stop lusting and to become sexually sober” by using the 12-step principles and committing to not having sex with anyone beside your spouse. This group uses the term spouse to refer to the relationship that occurs due to marriage between a man and a woman.3 If you are unmarried, you are expected to commit to sexual abstinence.
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous: The only requirement for this group is a desire to stop your addictive sexual behavior. Sex Addicts Anonymous relies upon the concept of the Three Circles to define healthy and unhealthy behaviors. The inner circle includes all behaviors you wish to refrain from, including viewing pornography. The middle circle involves more “slippery” behaviors that you feel might cause you to act out, and the third circle includes behaviors that are healthy and positive for your recovery.4
  • Sexual Recovery Anonymous: While this group also focuses on avoiding sexual compulsion and committing to sexual sobriety, it has a more liberal focus than Sexaholics Anonymous, in that people from all walks of life are welcomed. The idea of sex only with a committed partner is promoted, but without the strict Judeo-Christian interpretation of what this might mean.

Gambling Addiction Support Groups

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction

Gambling becomes an addiction when it is something you or a loved one cannot control and when it begins to affect a person’s financial, familial, social, recreational, educational, or occupational functioning.

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People with a gambling addiction often think of themselves as morally weak or just no good.5 Instead of viewing yourself in this harsh, critical light, you might find it helpful to see yourself as someone suffering from a form of illness. Various 12-step support groups view gambling addiction as a progressive disease that cannot be cured but may be halted and managed with the proper support and education.

The primary 12-step support group for people suffering from gambling addiction is:

Gaming and Internet Addictions Support Groups

As with other types of behavioral addiction, gaming and internet addictions can be pervasive and cause significant impairment to your overall well-being and ability to function. These 12-step groups provide support and offer a sense of fellowship to people addicted to all types of games or the internet.

The 12-step support groups that can help guide you on the road to recovery from gaming and internet addiction include:

Eating Disorder Support Groups

Eating disorders are a group of disorders characterized by abnormal or problematic eating habits. This can include disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge or compulsive overeating.

Women in Eating Disorder 12 Step Group

How Can I Find a Support Group Meeting Near Me?

For almost any behavioral addiction, there’s a 12-step group. In addition to the more common behavioral addictions listed above, 12-step groups also exist for lesser-known behavioral addictions, such as work addiction, shopping addiction, and even debt addiction. Some of these 12-step groups include:

Don’t let your addictive behaviors control your life. Find a 12-step behavioral addiction support group that helps support a healthier way of life.

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