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Internet to Sex: Defining Addiction

Addiction is used to describe everything from the Internet to shopping to sex. So how do you tell when something really becomes an addiction?

Treating Addiction

Treatment facilities abound for addictions, but not all of them deal with all kinds of compulsive behavior. There are places, though, that specialize in only one type of habit, like sex or Internet addiction.

The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery treats all kinds of abuse as officials there believe that individuals susceptible to one addiction are vulnerable to other compulsions. Patients there learn that freedom from all abusive behavior requires a lifelong commitment, including attendance of individual or group therapy, or 12-step groups.

In his practice, Greenfield also uses the philosophy that all addictions probably have the same neurochemical issue at hand, and recovery not only involves breaking the pattern of abuse, but also maintaining consciousness of behavior for life.

"It's very easy in a moment of weakness to resort back to a previous pattern that is well established," he says, likening the pathways of addiction to a riverbed. "When it rains, it always goes back to that original riverbed. It's a well-rehearsed path."

The bottom line, though, is that recovery is possible. The Illinois Institute reports that up to 80% of patients remain free of addictions at least six months after their primary treatment.

Greenfield says he's treated dozens of Internet addicts who have been able to achieve reasonable patterns of Web use.

As for Rachel, after realizing she had a problem, she began going to intense individual and group therapy and attending meetings with the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), 12-step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.

Now, a dozen years later, she reports having better relationships with her family and friends and having enough energy to have completed a PhD in education. She is also looking forward to her next love connection after being able to have two healthy relationships since her unfaithful boyfriend.

The road to recovery hasn't been easy, but now that she feels stronger, Rachel says she believes her future is bright. "My worst day sober is still better than my best day acting out," she says.

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