Biological Underpinning of Behavioural Addictions and Management Implications

  • Yvonne H. C. Yau
  • Robert F. Leeman
  • Marc N. PotenzaEmail author
Reference work entry


Neurobiological and clinical data indicate that maladaptive engagement in certain behaviors warrants consideration as “behavioral” or non-substance addictions. The present chapter reviews existing neurobiological and genetic/family history evidence for behavioral addictions involving gambling, Internet use, video-game play, sex, eating, and shopping. At a neurochemical level, behavioral addictions may involve dysregulation of serotoninergic, dopaminergic, noradrenergic, and opioidergic systems. At a neurocircuitry level, findings suggest dysfunction in brain regions associated with the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway and frontal areas; disruption in these circuits could lead to disadvantageous decision-making, impaired inhibition, and increased cue-induced craving. While a genetic understanding is at an early stage, genetics/family history data support heritability for behavioral addictions and suggest genetic overlaps with other psychopathologies. As this represents an emerging area of research, data remain sparse in multiple domains. An improved understanding of behavioral addictions will help in establishing appropriate nomenclature and enhance the ability to recognize, prevent, and treat these disorders more effectively.


Fractional Anisotropy Anterior Cingulate Cortex Pathological Gambling Binge Eating Disorder Internet Addiction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yvonne H. C. Yau
    • 1
    • 2
  • Robert F. Leeman
    • 1
  • Marc N. Potenza
    • 1
    • 3
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Yale Child Study CenterYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Department of NeurobiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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