Process addiction is the term to describe a myriad of disorders that include any behavior that one can become addicted to that is not the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol. Process addictions are also called behavioral addictions. Those who are addicted to these behaviors receive positive short-term rewards, but suffer short and long-term negative consequences as a result. As with addictions to substances, those with behavioral addictions may very well be aware of the negative consequences of their behaviors, but are unable to stop the suspect behavior without intervention.
It is becoming more apparent and likely that process addictions have a similar epidemiology as substance use disorders. This is true for risk factors, such as genetic and environmental factors, and for the characteristic changes in the brain structure and function that is caused by addiction. In fact, process addictions can also exhibit tolerance and withdrawal phenomena like those in drug addiction and alcoholism.
A core attribute to process addictions is that the persons suffering from a behavioral addiction have an inability to control the behavior, despite rigorous attempts. Some behavioral addictions may be classified as impulse control disorders, others are classified as anxiety disorders, and still others are considered sexual disorders. As more and more of the process, or behavioral addictions, are determined to closely follow the patterns, neurophysiology, and social consequences of drug addiction and alcoholism, they are being included in the additive disorders classification. As of this date (2017), only gambling disorder has been classified as an addictive disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Gambling Disorder is now classified as a Non-Substance Related Disorder. It is likely that many other of the process addictions will ultimately end up with a similar classification.
Since those with a process addiction are unable to resist the temptation or urge to exhibit a behavior, such as gaming, pornography, skin picking, sex, tanning, internet addiction, exercise and others, they will engage in the behavior despite warnings, negative consequences, and when they have promised to themselves or others to cut down or stop the behavior. These behaviors can lead to impaired functioning in multiple domains, like poor work performance, faulty relationships, financial stressors, medical and psychiatric problems, and others.
People who are addicted to a process tend to feel tense before the behavior is executed, and a gratification and pleasure at the time and after they engage in the act. Sometimes, when a process addiction progresses, the addict engages in the behavior to avoid unpleasant feelings (withdrawal, unease, tension, anxiety, sadness), rather than to seek gratifying feelings, such as euphoria.
Many of those with a process addiction possess an impulsive, risk-taking personality profile, and do not show high harm avoidance behavior. This is like what is seen in drug addicts and alcoholics. Without question, gambling disorder victims show a high comorbidity with substance abuse. It is likely that the other process addictions also have a high incidence of comorbidity with drug addiction and alcoholism. Of interest, those with process addictions and those with drug addiction and alcohol both respond favorably to the same types of treatment.
Because the presence of a process addiction may also indicate the presence of other addictions, such as alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as various mental health and emotional disorders, a thorough evaluation by a qualified treatment center is appropriate.
Many have asked themselves, “Do I have a process addiction?” Just like in alcoholism, it is the quantity and the negative consequences that determine whether an addiction is present, not simply the presence or absence of a certain behavior. A process addiction can involve almost any human behavior.
Every type of process addiction is not covered on this site. For example, there has been reports of people being addicted to eating tires, cat hair, or plastic bags, drinking paint, dolls, bee stings, and other self-injurious behaviors. Because of the enormity of process addictions, only the most common will be discussed on this site.
If you feel you are addicted to a behavior, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. To learn more about process addiction and the resources available for the treatment of process addictions, you may contact the Addiction Specialists at the National Addiction Institute by calling 844-889-8140 or by completing a digital contact form.