Process Addictions

What is a Process Addiction?

Process addiction, or behavioral addiction as it’s also called, refers to compulsive behaviors that an individual engages in and continues to do despite harmful consequences. Process addictions are like substance addictions in that the individual is unable to stop or cut down on the behavior even though negative outcomes are occurring. It is unlike a substance addiction in that the desirable high from dopamine and other hormones is not from drugs or alcohol but from the behavior. Engaging in the behaviors produces an emotional ‘high’ that drives the individual to keep repeating the behavior.

Process disorders may include food addiction, gambling disorder, sex addiction, Internet addiction, social media addiction, video game addiction, shopping addiction, and other behaviors that are marked by poor impulse control.

Negative consequences aren’t always immediately associated with process addictions but they can cause serious issues in the person’s life. While most of the detrimental impacts aren’t physical as they are with substance addiction, many negative results occur when a process addiction goes untreated. Some of these issues are very much the same as with a substance abuse problem. These are concerns with:

  • Relationships
  • Family life
  • Finances
  • Legal
  • Work
  • School
  • Mental health
  • Physical health

Oftentimes process addictions are seen as harmless ‘bad habits’. This is not accurate as process addictions can be just as destructive as alcohol or drug addiction. An individual with a process addiction behaves in many of the same ways as someone with an addiction to a substance. Individuals will go out of their way to engage in the behavior, overlook commitments, responsibilities, and go to any lengths to avoid enduring the withdrawal that comes with stopping the behavior.

Just as an addiction to alcohol or drugs is not something an individual plans to happen, process addictions also typically begin as normal, healthy behaviors that either quickly or over time become addictive. Just as with substances such as alcohol, a process addiction like video gaming, for example, may begin as a way to have fun or socialize. Over time, it becomes an addiction. Process addictions can be treated and most individuals respond to evidence-based treatment programs for this type of addiction.

Common Process Addictions

There are different types of process addictions. Here are some of the most common:

Addiction Interaction Disorder (AID), also referred to as cross-addiction or addiction transfer, is when an individual has one addiction and then becomes addicted to something else. For example, a person could have an alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction as their primary addiction but then begin gambling for fun and become addicted to that. Addiction Interaction Disorder or cross addictions aren’t the same as co-occurring disorders as they don’t occur simultaneously. Cross addictions occur one after the next and essentially is replacing one addiction with another.

Learn more about Addiction Interaction Disorder.

Internet addiction is a disorder characterized by hard to control, excessive use, preoccupation with, or urges to use the computer and internet. The behavior continues despite impairment and negative consequences. There are different types of internet addictions such as cyber-sex addiction, cyber-relationship addiction, net compulsions, information overload, computer addiction, and online shopping addiction.

Learn more about internet addiction.

Video gaming use disorder or gaming disorders are disorders in which an individual becomes involved in the world of gaming often due to feelings of loneliness and isolation. As time progresses, this way to “escape reality” becomes an addiction. The individual neglects many aspects of their lives to play video games, often for hours upon hours.

Learn more about video gaming use disorder.

Sex addiction or relationship addiction are disorders where an individual uses sex or relationships as a means of coping with stressors, handling feelings of loneliness, and releasing stress. This form of hypersexuality is characterized by the individual being unable to control urges or behaviors around sex and relationships.

Learn more about sex and relationship addiction.

Gambling addiction also known as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling, and problem gambling is one of the most familiar types of process addictions. This disorder is characterized by the individual’s inability to cut down on or stop gambling despite the negative consequences that are occurring. As with other process addictions, gambling addictions often start as a way to have fun, release stress, earn easy money, or socialize.

Learn more about gambling addictions.

Process addictions may start as innocent ways to relieve stress, loneliness, and to have some fun or socialize. However, for some, these initially innocuous behaviors turn to full-blown addictions in which the individuals feel guilt, shame, and isolation just as with alcohol or substance use disorders.

And, just as with other addictions, the negative consequences of these addictions can be just as damaging to the life of not just the person with the addiction but also to their family and loved ones. There has been a correlation between depression and social isolation and some of these process addictions such as internet addiction and gaming use disorder.

As process addictions, particularly those associated with online behaviors, are becoming more common and gaining more attention, it’s important to realize that these types of addictions are not only just as serious as substance addictions, they are also highly treatable. Evidence-based behavioral therapy is helpful in both identifying the underlying causes for the addiction and teaching new, healthier coping skills. Caron treats process addictions and helps individuals go on to live healthy, happy lives free of addiction. If you or a loved one have an issue with a process addiction, reach out today and find out how we can help you recover. Call 1-800-854-6023 and learn more.

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