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Process Addictions

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Process Addictions

Process addiction is a mental health condition marked by a strong compulsive desire to take a particular action or behave in a specific way. It’s also called behavioral addiction. A person with this disorder engages in this behavior even when it’s harmful to their physical, emotional, financial or interpersonal wellbeing.

Process addictions and substance addictions may co-exist in a patient. The behaviors give a person an emotional high or reward. But just like all addictive behaviors, the person with a behavioral addiction is unable to abstain from indulging in the behavior and needs treatment to stop it.

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What is Process Addiction?

This is an addiction that occurs without any substances. It’s a form of habitual, compulsive behavior that provides the same type of emotional high that comes from using drugs or alcohol. Although these behaviors are harmful to the person’s wellbeing, and though they bring shame and guilt, the person still feels compelled to keep doing them. Just like someone who is addicted to drugs, a person with process addictions tries to avoid the discomfort that comes with refraining from the action.

Types of Process Addictions

Some examples of process addictions include:

  • Shopping addiction
  • Sex and love addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Work addiction
  • Internet and social media addiction
  • Porn addiction
  • Video game addiction
  • Exercise addiction
  • Gambling addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Process Addiction

Various signs can indicate a loved one, friend or family member has a behavioral addiction. Some of the common signs of a process addiction include:

  • Spending a very long time thinking of or partaking in a particular behavior
  • Developing a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, irritability, alcohol or drug addiction after the behavior stops
  • Inability to resist the urge to partake in a behavior
  • Engaging in a behavior with no concern for the negative emotional or physical consequences
  • Making unsuccessful attempts to stop a particular behavior
  • Staying away from family, work and academic responsibilities because of the behavior
  • Using the behavior as an escape from difficult feelings, emotions and situations
  • Developing emotional withdrawal problems when the behavior is avoided
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Causes of Process Addiction

Behavioral addiction may stem from a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics and inheritance
  • Growing up or living in a place that permits such behavior
  • Trauma that changes certain functions in the brain
  • Stress that stimulates the person to use the behavior to cope
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Who is at Risk for Behavioral Addiction?

Genetics is one of the most prominent factors that causes process addiction. People with family members who became addicted are more likely to develop process addictions. Other risk factors include trauma during childhood, neglect, abuse, inadequate parental care or a dysfunctional home environment. Peer pressure can also be a risk factor in developing behavioral addiction.

Treatment for Process Addictions

Process addictions treatment must involve professional therapy because the individuals involved can’t overcome the addiction alone. Process addictions must also be treated promptly to prevent the devastating effects they can have on work, family, academics and social life.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective treatment approach for process addiction. This is because it helps the person control negative thoughts and change bad behavioral patterns.

During therapy, the patient learns the factors that trigger addiction, discovers the reason for their addiction and learns coping skills that can control their impulses.

In cases where the process addiction is a co-occurring condition with a substance use disorder, both conditions will get treated at the same time.

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How to Help a Loved One with a Behavioral Addiction

Family members can help a person accept their need to change and seek treatment for their addiction. Family members can also attend family therapy sessions and participate in support groups to learn more about the mental disorder and how to provide support in the early years of recovery in the home.

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