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  • Writer's pictureChris Thompson

What Are Cross Addictions?

People that struggle with addiction are in a very vulnerable position. If you are in active addiction, you know that dealing with one, let alone two addictions, is extremely difficult to overcome. When a person is struggling with substance use disorder, they are at a higher risk of developing another addiction later on in life.

But even with multiple addictions, there is hope for recovery. This is your comeback story, and it starts today!

Being addicted to more than one substance is not an uncommon occurrence. While two addictions might not always happen at the same time, someone who enters recovery for one might find themselves becoming addicted to something else during that period. This often happens as a way to cope with the recovery process for one addiction.

The concept of cross addiction isn’t as widely understood or realized as dual diagnosis is, but it still exists. To learn more about cross addictions and how they come about, keep reading.

Cross Addictions Defined

Cross addiction is when a person who struggles with a certain addiction and has become sober becomes addicted to something else in the future. Not all cross addictions will happen one after another. Some might occur years after you've entered into recovery for another addiction.

A person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol at one point may become addicted to a different substance later on. However, many times, a person who has recovered from drugs and alcohol addiction can turn to gambling, sex, or food addiction.

This is because when you stop using substances, there is a lack of dopamine circulating in your system. You can begin seeking ways to receive that burst of dopamine, which is when the risk of another addiction can happen.

Difference Between Cross Addiction and Dual Diagnosis

People often mistake cross addiction for dual diagnosis, and vice versa. Dual diagnosis is when a person has two mental health disorders, like substance use disorder and depression, that happen simultaneously.

Cross addictions can have lengthy amounts of time between diagnosis and recovery of the two addictions, meaning that a person can be sober for a time before the onset of the next addiction.

Dual diagnosis will always mean two different disorders occurring at the same time. They usually play into each other and work together to make life quite difficult. Treating one without the other is impossible, and if you’re struggling with two different disorders, you will want to seek treatment for both.

How Does Cross Addiction Happen?

Cross addiction can be different for every individual. Not everyone experiences cross addiction in the same capacity or for the same reasons. It's very unlikely that a person has chosen to become addicted to more than one substance in their lifetime.

For the most part, cross addiction is accidental. Someone in recovery from alcohol abuse might not recognize that they are capable of becoming addicted to prescription pain meds.

Additionally, people with dual diagnoses are at a higher risk of developing cross addiction. If other mental disorders go untreated, you might not be getting the proper care needed to maintain sobriety.

Once you overcome one addiction, you might seek to engage in other dopamine-filled activities to fulfill what you think is missing from your life.

What Are Common Cross Addictions?

More commonly than having a cross addiction related to two substance use disorders, people will develop an addiction to things like gambling or shopping. This is because the actions of these more casual actions still release dopamine into a person’s brain.

This feeling has already once created an addiction in a person’s life, so when it’s reintroduced differently, your brain can more easily become addicted to this new method.

Some of the most common cross addictions that occur after an addiction to substances are:

  • Gambling, whether online, at the casino, or buying scratch tickets, can be an easy (and usually legal) method for dopamine release.

  • Food is another common cross addiction to develop. It is very easy to feel good from food, but it can have serious consequences for a person’s overall health.

  • Gaming can be seemingly harmless, but it can be very consuming in a person’s life and can make separating reality from the game difficult. It’s also very prevalent in people who once suffered from substance use disorder.

  • Exercising can also be addicting. While usually a healthy habit, a person who becomes addicted might overwork themselves and see more negative results than anything.

  • Sex or love can be addicting, but they aren’t always the same thing.

  • Shopping addictions can be bad for your finances and can result in hoarding and collecting that become unfit for living.

Some of these addictions seem almost unreal because how can one be addicted to exercise? Sometimes this kind of addiction goes hand-in-hand with an eating disorder or when someone lacks self-esteem.

And it’s normal and expected for self-esteem to be impacted by addiction and recovery. You are not alone. It’s important to recognize the signs of another addiction so you don’t have to go through the pain of one again.

How Do You Treat or Avoid Cross Addictions?

If you’ve struggled with addiction in the past, you should always be on your toes about other addictions forming later on. Staying away from other addictive substances and only participating in gambling, exercise, and other potential issues in moderation can help you to avoid developing another addiction.

There are ways that you can work towards keeping yourself safe from another addiction, but they take time and dedication. It’s smart to be mindful of what situations you are putting yourself through and take time to ensure that you intentionally choose healthy activities and put yourself first.

Create Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Being prepared is the easiest way to protect yourself from developing another addiction. By having a list of healthy helping mechanisms ready to go when you need them, you can prepare yourself for difficult situations. Becoming sober from one addiction means leaving behind unhealthy habits and unhealthy situations.

By leaving these situations behind, you open yourself up to the possibility of creating a new and happy life. You can begin practicing yoga or meditation during situations that bring you stress, learn a new skill that you’ve been putting off, and find hobbies to cope with negative feelings.

Having healthy things to do when you feel negative emotions can steer you down a more positive path. Create a list of healthy coping mechanisms to follow when you’re feeling stressed or irritated, and your life can feel tumultuous.

Experiencing joy is essential, and you deserve to feel that joy.

Commit to Treatment

Committing to your health and well-being is essential to see the changes you want. Just because you have stopped using does not mean the addiction isn't still around. Sobriety is an active choice that you have to make every day, and without proper treatment, this might be difficult for you.

For those who have struggled with a severe addiction, entering into treatment might be necessary. Others might feel that attending therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous-type groups can offer the benefits of a supportive community while offering new coping methods. Staying in treatment for as long as possible is nothing to be ashamed of; it just shows your commitment to getting better.

Find a Support System

When you are a person that struggles with addiction, finding a community that supports you is key. Whether you join group therapy sessions, enter into different AA groups, or join an online community of sober individuals, being around people who understand your struggles can make them feel less intimidating.

You want to be around other sober individuals, making it easier for you to maintain your own sobriety. With addiction, you can often feel isolated and alone, like no one else understands what you have gone through.

While this is true to an extent, other people who have suffered from addiction can often relate and are willing to lift you up. We believe isolation breeds addiction, and connection and community can heal it.

Seek Help Through Sober Sidekick

If you want all the benefits of a support system at the tip of your fingers, consider downloading Sober Sidekick. Available on Androids and iPhones, Sober Sidekick aims to give people with substance use disorder a place to find support and track their progress.

You can count how many days you’ve been sober and use that as a motivator, find other people to lift up and share coping skills with, and gain access to medical professionals when you need them.

Once you’ve recovered from one addiction, the last thing anyone around you wants for you is to develop another. Get the app today and see just how essential having access to a sober community can be.


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