Addiction is addiction. Addictions to food, sex, gaming, spending, work, or gambling may be as serious as addictions to alcohol or other drugs, but we don't talk about them nearly as much. Sometimes referred to as "cross addictions," or "the secret addictions," these other addictions carry a unique stigma and shame of their own. They can leave people feeling isolated and hopeless. Brenda Iliff specializes in these "other addictions," along with many other recovery-related topics. Brenda is the executive director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's campus in Naples, Florida and the author of the book A Woman's Guide to Recovery. Why is the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation interested in focusing on these other addictions beyond alcohol and other drugs? Our mission is very clear. We're a force of hope and healing for individuals, families, and communities affected by alcohol and other drugs. That's our focus. Over the years, however, we've seen very clearly that the other addictions make people miserable and lead them back to the alcohol and other drugs. We do not ignore anxiety, depression, or chronic pain when we're treating addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and we are also doing more with the other addictions. Do these other addictions fit the definition for addiction as it is commonly understood? The American Society of Addiction Management has a definition of addiction that does not limit addiction to just alcohol and drugs. When this came out, it was freeing for many struggling with the other addictions. The ASAM definition speaks to the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations, as well as the significant problems associated with either a substance or a process. It speaks of brain reward, motivation, and the related circuitry. It also speaks to the inability to consistently abstain, to the impairment of behavioral control, and to the risk of relapse and craving. And finally, is says that without treatment, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or even premature death. Before that, of course, an addiction can just make people pretty doggone miserable. What's the difference between treating a bad habit and an addiction? If it's a bad habit, we can provide education and people sometimes learn. We can provide therapy, and they learn other coping mechanisms. Sometimes we provide punishment and put people away for a while if it's a bad habit. And sometimes people just lose interest. But when we call it an addiction, we need to treat it as a brain disease. When you give something the right label, you provide the right diagnosis and therefore the right treatment. At that point, we can reduce the shame and isolation and provide hope for the person who is still suffering. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says addiction is a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. So there's something the matter with the body, and there's something the matter with the mind of an addict. The problem with the body is that once a person with the addiction starts using, they just want more and more, even when the consequences become painful. This is an abnormal reaction. Why don't they just stop? It's because of the mind. The illness of the mind creates a mental obsession that focuses on the relief that comes with using. How does is the brain involved in these other addictions and recovery? The brain has many neurotransmitters. Two of them are dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is a chemical primary in addiction. It's that feel-good chemical. We get a dopamine rush when we eat a good meal, when we use cocaine, or when we have sex. Some rushes are much stronger than others: The sexual rush can be much stronger than just that of a good meal. People short of dopamine have trouble feeling joy. Is it any wonder why the obese person, the cocaine addict, the alcoholic, crave something? We all want to feel good, to feel comfortable, to feel at peace. And when we're talking about addiction, ultimately, it's about trying to feel good. Oxytocin, on the other hand, is what we sometimes call the recovery chemical. It's about connections, about compassion, about honest, open communication. It's a chemical that can be very healing for people as they move into recovery. Oxytocin is what is released when a baby locks eyes with its mama. They make a chemical connection with the help of oxytocin. How do these other addictions overlap with each other and with addictions to alcohol and other drugs? One addiction can lead to relapse in another. They can interact with each other. They can reinforce each other. They become part of each other. For some people, it just becomes a game of whack-a-mole. They move from addiction to addiction. They put one down and another pops up. But it doesn't have to be that way. What do you mean? Addiction is about powerlessness. It's not a defect of character issue. It's not a moral issue. In working with people in recovery over the years, I've seen a real turnaround when they start to name the addiction for what it is. The shame or despair of the other addictions decrease as people find support in identification in twelve-step rooms, where people tell it like it is. Recovery is about freedom. The question we all must ask is, "How free do you want to be?" Real recovery can be found by addressing these other addictions through the Twelve Step process with others who struggle with that very same addiction.