1. Convergences in the psychology of behavioral addictions
Beyond gambling disorder and gaming disorder, problematic pornography use, problematic social-networks use, and problematic buying-shopping are considered potential disorders due to addictive behaviors. Psychological theories explaining the development and maintenance of these addictive behaviors are largely aligned with substance-use disorder theory and research findings. Recent empirical studies consistently point to the involvement of specific psychological processes and functions in the above behavioral addictions, which will be summarized in this presentation. Narrative literature overview of theories and empirical findings regarding psychological processes involved addictive behaviors. Psychological risk factors for behavioral addictions include (non-exhaustively) negative early childhood experiences, stress vulnerability, dysfunctional coping styles, and problems related to emotion regulation. Good self-control is considered as resilience factor. Common comorbidities include depression, social anxiety, and ADHD. Based on reward experiences (positive reinforcement) and experiences of avoiding negative emotions (negative reinforcement), behavior-specific expectations and implicit cognitions related to the behavior may develop. Based on conditioning processes, cue-reactivity and craving may develop during the course of the addictive behaviors. Reduced inhibitory control may contribute to the continuation of the behavior despite negative consequences in everyday life. The findings converge to the view that reward-oriented and avoidance-oriented driving paths may contribute to the acceleration of the addictive behaviors and reduced inhibitory control may further increase the problematic behaviors. The psychological processes may currently be understood most appropriately as correlates of the addictive behaviors (not necessarily causal mechanisms). More systematic research on specific psychological mechanisms is needed to better understand addictive behaviors and to optimize prevention and treatment.