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Process addictions can take many different forms, but all occur when a person becomes addicted to a rewarding behavior that doesn’t involve an addictive substance. Compulsive sex, gambling, or binge eating are all examples of a process addiction. Sometimes referred to as compulsive or behavioral addictions, process addictions drive a person to continue to pursue compulsive activities despite the negative consequences they can have.
Process addictions are unique as they do not, on their own, involve any substances such as drugs or alcohol. However, compulsive behaviors, destructive habits, and recurring moods can have just as devastating an impact as substance addiction. Without the right management or treatment, these behaviors can affect all aspects of a person’s life, resulting in financial, social, relational and legal consequences.
Some of the most common behavioral addictions are socially acceptable in their controlled forms. For example, having sex and eating food are natural human activities. It is only when these activities get out of control that they become process addictions.
Common types of process addiction include:
Of all the common process addictions, gambling is the most talked about and researched. The consequences a compulsive gambler can face are severe and can include problems with relationships and finances. These problems can often lead to death by suicide. The rate of suicide attributed to gambling addiction is higher than that attributed to drugs or alcohol.
Sex addiction is a relatively new addiction that has caught the attention of practitioners and researchers. This process addiction occurs when people become so preoccupied with sex and act on compulsions without any concern for negative impact. They may demand more and more sex from their partner, use dating apps to seek out sexual conquests or use the services of sex workers to fuel their addiction.
Eating is an essential part of life, but when it becomes a process addiction it can be a real problem for the addict and the people around them. Food addiction occurs when somebody becomes addicted to the act of eating and the emotional feelings that certain foods can create. Food addiction can be physically, socially and emotionally detrimental as it can cause health problems, feeling of extreme guilt and problems with relationships.
Where would we be without the Internet? From shopping to communicating with friends, family, and colleagues, the Internet has revolutionized how we work, rest, and play. However, Internet addiction is becoming a serious concern worldwide. While the majority of people use the Internet daily without any problems, some people use the web compulsively. When using the Internet becomes more important than nurturing real-life relationships or fulfilling work responsibilities, it is likely there is a process addiction in play.
It’s true that the term “shopping addiction” is often taken quite lightly, but the consequences of this process addiction can be severe, especially from a financial aspect. Spending is a form of process addiction that results in feelings of shame and guilt, a loss of control, and financial, emotional and social consequences.
A process addiction can start for many reasons and can affect people from all backgrounds. What starts off as a normal pastime, activity or behavior can suddenly turn into something that is uncontrollable and potentially destructive. For example, some people can develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise. When they are in the gym, they feel strong and powerful, and when their workout has ended, endorphins flood their body and enable them to leave their stresses behind. Soon, they might start to crave these feelings and start running every day. Then they might start running twice a day. Before long, they are running in the middle of the night, obsessing over their diet and weighing themselves constantly. What started as a fun and healthy activity has now become a severe process addiction that is taking over their life.
Some people can find their job incredibly addictive. For example, people in a sales environment may become hooked on making that sale and the commission that comes with it. They become obsessed with their job, working all the hours under the sun, desperate to keep their name on the leaderboard and those commission payments rolling in. They may start to take over-the-counter drugs that keep them awake and alert and may even stray into the realms of illegal or prescription drugs.
The same factors that can contribute to alcohol or drug addiction can also fuel a process addiction. These factors may include:
Trauma – A troubled childhood or other life trauma can be the driving force behind a process addiction. Unhealthy family relationships can result in a lifetime of struggle and people often try to numb this pain with compulsive behaviors. These behaviors give them a skewed sense of control and allow them to detach from bad memories and uncomfortable feelings, even if that detachment is short lived.
Co-occurring mental health disorders – Similar to alcohol and drug abuse, process addictions are often amplified when other mental illnesses are present. Just like substance abuse, process addiction offers momentary relief from the symptoms these mental health conditions create.
Low tolerance to distress – People who lack healthy coping skills are vulnerable to behavior addictions. These addictions can rapidly become a survival tactic for coping with stress as a result.
Whether you have an addiction to work, shopping, exercise or gambling, these process addictions can cause you and your loved ones severe stress and anxiety. In addition to the emotional strain these addictions can have, you may also start to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, a weakened immune system, and weight gain or weight loss.
Believe it or not, process addictions share many of the same symptoms as an alcohol or drug addiction. However, it may not be obvious at first that a person has developed a process addiction. They may try to hide it or be in denial about their compulsive or obsessive behavior.
Whether you or a loved one has concerns about process addiction, it is good to understand and recognize the signs. These include:
The best way to describe addiction is as a loss of control; a loss of control that willpower alone cannot reverse. It is also important to understand that a process addiction is not a moral failing. It is simply a situation that has developed over time that the person has no control over and which can have negative consequences on all concerned. A prescriptive and personalized approach to treatment will help an addict to recognize the behaviors and habits that are causing their addiction and to get the therapy they need to recover.
If you or a loved one is struggling with process addiction, it’s reassuring to know that help is at hand. Through a combination of cognitive therapy, medication and group and one-to-one therapy, it is possible to leave this addiction behind and experience lasting change and a happy and fulfilled life.
The diagnosis of process disorders isn’t always so straightforward as the signs are usually not so obvious as, for example, a heroin addiction. With a process disorder, health does not immediately deteriorate and the addict can often hide or disguise compulsive behaviors from their loved ones.
One of the biggest obstacles when diagnosing these disorders is the social acceptance of behaviors such as eating, using the Internet and spending money. These behaviors may not be obvious red flags until the person’s life has started to spiral out of control as a result of compulsive activities.
It can be difficult to admit to yourself that you have a problem, let alone anybody else. It can be even harder when the problem is not understood, or not taken seriously by friends and family. Understanding that it is not your fault and that you are not alone can help you to make a decision to change the course of your life from this point on.
Even if you feel that you don’t want to seek help right now, you can still focus on ensuring that your behaviors and actions do not hurt those around you, including yourself. Even if you don’t feel ready to tell people about your problems, try not to lie to those around you. Lying can continue the cycle of guilt which can, in turn, make your condition worse.
Treatment for process addiction and compulsive behaviors should involve professional intervention and a personalized treatment plan. If the addiction is not treated, the impact on a person’s personal, social, occupational, academic and financial life can be devastating.
Process addiction treatment almost always involves psychotherapy of some type. One of the most successful forms of psychotherapy is that which has a behavioral component, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This form of therapy focuses on helping a person to manage negative thoughts and to cope with the triggers and stressors that cause them to partake in their compulsive habits. In time, and with the right commitment and mindset, addicts can learn healthy coping skills that help them to manage urges and impulses.
It is common for a process addiction to co-occur with another disorder, such as a drug abuse disorder or another mental health condition. In these cases, the simultaneous treatment of each disorder will result in the best outcome.
Process addiction treatment is similar to treatment for other addictions but may need a different approach in some cases. For example, there are areas where lifelong abstinence is sometimes unrealistic or impossible. For example, treating food addiction by cutting out all foods would be impossible. In this case, treatment would be tailored to address specific situations and foods that trigger compulsive behavior.
If a loved one is battling a process addiction and you are not sure where to turn, the first step towards recovery is to talk to them and show them there is help available. The decision to change and recover can only be made by your loved one. Without this consent and desire, they will lack the commitment and drive required to get better.
Science-driven, evidence-based and person-centered, Transformations Treatment Center offers highly personalized process addiction treatments for patients at any stage of recovery and from every walk of life. With unparalleled clinical expertise and a full continuum of care, our treatment programs help patients to recover at their pace and with long-term results in mind.
We strive to provide the highest standard of care to our clients, helping them to understand both the symptoms and causes of their addiction and the consequences they have on their life. We address the physical and psychological symptoms and deliver holistic care in a pleasant and relaxing environment. Only treatment plans that address the individual needs of each client can succeed and that is exactly what we offer with our rehabilitation programs.
You may have lived with process addiction for decades or just a few months. Either way, this doesn’t have to be how you live your life going forward. At Transformations, we offer treatments that will help you to change your behaviors, understand underlying causes and cope with triggers and stressors once you return to normal daily life. You just need to take that important first step towards your recovery.
Our programs deliver a complete recovery experience that incorporates the mind, body and spirit in the healing process. Our carefully crafted treatment programs are designed with full recovery in mind and are tailored to suit the individual needs of each client.
If you are struggling with process addiction or you are seeking help for a loved one, our team would be delighted to tell you more about the treatment options we have available and how we can help you to overcome compulsive behavior and take back control of your life once and for all.