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What Is A Process Addiction? - and How to Get Help

A process addiction, or a behavioral addiction, is an addiction to a particular behavior or activity. Many behaviors can be addictive or dysfunctional and do not involve substance use. A process addiction is characterized by a compulsive engagement in a behavior despite adverse consequences. For example, people who gamble continue to gamble despite losing money. Or a person who is addicted to exercise decides to go running while they're injured.

Process addictions share similarities with substance addictions regarding the addictive cycle, neurochemical changes in the brain, and the impact on an individual's life. Process addictions involve a behavioral pattern that becomes the focus of compulsive and repetitive behavior.

Which Behaviors Can Become a Process Addiction?

A person is addicted to behavior when they seem consumed with it, despite harmful consequences. Negative consequences often include relationship troubles, financial issues, job issues, and other stress.

Common examples of process addictions include:

  • Gambling: Compulsive gambling that leads to financial and personal problems.
  • Internet and gaming: Excessive internet use, social media, online gaming, or other digital activities.
  • Workaholism: Obsessive and compulsive need to work excessively, often at the expense of personal relationships and well-being.
  • Shopping: Compulsive shopping or spending that results in financial difficulties, debt, and emotional distress.
  • Exercise: An unhealthy obsession with exercise, leading to excessive workouts, injury, and neglect of other responsibilities.
  • Food: Compulsive overeating, binge eating, or restrictive eating patterns negatively impact physical and mental health.
  • Pornography: Excessive consumption of pornography leads to relationship problems and diminished sexual satisfaction.
  • Self-harm: To cope with emotional pain, engaging in repetitive self-harm behaviors, such as cutting or burning oneself.
  • Gambling: Excessive engagement in gambling, such as card games, lottery tickets or sports bets.
  • Love and relationships: Co-dependent and obsessive behaviors in romantic relationships lead to emotional turmoil and dysfunction.
  • Hoarding: Compulsive accumulation of objects, often resulting in significant clutter and an unwillingness to throw some items away.

It's important to note that addiction is a complex condition, and these behaviors can vary in severity and impact an individual's life. Seeking professional help and support is crucial for individuals struggling with addiction. People who are addicted to work, gambling, or drugs deserve treatment and help to reclaim their lives. For many people, treatment can be outpatient, but some people benefit greatly from inpatient treatment.

How Is a Process Addiction Treated?

Treatment for process addictions often involves a combination of therapeutic approaches. Most people will benefit from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. Depending on the severity and type, this person can help you decide about addiction treatment. Usually, treatment for a process addiction includes:

  • Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based therapies help individuals identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and change problematic thinking and behavior patterns.
  • Support groups: Participation in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, or Overeaters Anonymous can provide community, understanding, and guidance.
  • Family therapy: Involving family members in the treatment process can address relationship dynamics and support the individual and their loved ones.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to address underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, that coexist with the addiction.

It's important to note that not all individuals with process addictions may resonate with the 12-step approach. In such cases, alternative treatment modalities can be explored based on individual needs and preferences. A qualified mental health professional can guide the most suitable treatment options for a person struggling with a process addiction.

Tackling a Process Addiction

Addressing a process addiction can involve self-help measures to support recovery. First, it's crucial to acknowledge the problem and accept that you need help. Educating yourself about the addiction and its consequences can help strengthen your motivation to change.

A therapist or treatment counselor can help you identify triggers that lead to addictive behavior and develop healthy coping strategies. With the help of a compassionate professional, you can overcome your addiction and focus on more beneficial coping skills, letting you begin to reclaim your life one day at a time.


Getting Help for Addiction

If you or somebody you love is struggling with addiction, including process addiction, we're here to help. We have inpatient and outpatient programs and can help you decide on treatment based on your needs. Get in touch to learn more about what we can offer.



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Mark G
Mark Gladden brings both personal and professional experience to his role as co-founder of Present Moments Recovery. Now in long-term recovery himself after struggling with addiction for years, Mark understands firsthand the challenges men face in achieving and maintaining sobriety. It was this insight, combined with a desire to help others, that led Mark to establish Present Moments Recovery.

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