Clinical signs and symptoms of addictive behaviors

Abstract

Despite extensive research and clinical practice in the field of biological addictions, addictive behaviors associated with maladaptive patterns have not been sufficiently studied. As a result, adolescents, a clinical group with frequent referral to psychiatric units, are not adequately screened for behavioral addictions. The aim of this review is to supply the clinician with a guide containing the main clinical features of addictive behaviors and several ways to perform differential diagnosis and assess comorbidity. In the following text, the basic maladaptive behavior patterns connected to addiction are demonstrated: Pathological gambling, excessive Internet use, eating addiction, sex addiction and compulsive buying disorder. It seems that addictive behaviors share common clinical signs such as preoccupation, loss of control and continuous use despite harmful consequences. Overlapping or coexisting with other psychiatric disorders is presented in the majority of the clinical cases. Early identification of the addiction type and related intervention can contribute to effective therapeutic management and lower odds for continuity in the adulthood. Mental health professionals should be educated in diagnosing and treating addiction. Implementing primary and/or secondary prevention programs is a matter of high importance. Clinical and diagnostic issues are discussed.

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