Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Behaviors

Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Behaviors

Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Behaviors

Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Behaviors


There is a tremendous concern and interest in the number of chemical dependents with co-existing compulsive behaviors. However, no one has developed a theory that can explain the high prevalence of compulsive behaviors in chemical dependents, and more importantly, describe the treatment and recovery implications. The literature and professionals are divided with the counselors/clinicians on one side and the researchers on the other. The authors try to bridge this obvious gap by writing a book that can bring recent genetic/biochemical research to the counselor/clinician in a way that will help them diagnose and treat their patients.

This book is the result of the authors' long interest in and study of chemical dependency and compulsive behaviors. It begins with the observation that chemical dependents experience a much higher prevalence of compulsive behaviors than the general population. Although many have written about the two subjects--generally the relationship of a single compulsive behavior to chemical dependency--none have developed a theory with supporting research that ties the type of chemical dependency to specific compulsive behaviors. The authors describe recent research that connects chemical dependency and compulsive behaviors to the underlying genetic/biochemical mechanisms, and provide detailed examinations of the clinical implications of the model as well as case histories.


For a chemically dependent person or a person with compulsive behaviors, life is fraught with pain, misery, broken homes and marriages, and disruptive children. There are also employment and social problems and a myriad of other health, financial, and legal problems. It does not particularly matter if the condition is chemical dependency, a compulsive behavior, or a combination of both. The problems may be extremely severe or relatively mild, and they may or may not be recognized by the person involved. The problems may have existed over a long period of time or they may be of a more recent vintage. Whatever the case, without proper help or treatment, the problems are sure to worsen.

On the basis of our clinical observations and those of our colleagues, we find that in the majority of cases, a strong correlation exists between chemical dependency and compulsive behaviors. In spite of the usually estimated relatively low prevalence of compulsive behaviors in the general population, we estimated that proper assessment of chemically dependent persons would show that at least 50% suffer from one or more compulsive behaviors. The compulsive behaviors that are most correlated with chemical dependency include eating disorders, compulsive sex and relationship problems, gambling, workaholism, stealing, overexercising, and overspending and excessive shopping. Our data, reported in chapter 3, suggest that our original estimate is relatively accurate.

Before we present our theoretical model and supporting data, it would be beneficial to first define and clarify, as much as possible, our understanding of the terms chemically dependent (CD) and compulsive behaviors and to discuss what is known of the prevalence of each of these disorders.

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