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How to Treat Process Addictions

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If you or someone you know is dealing with a process addiction, you might get to a point where it’s time to seek treatment. But is there even treatment for process addiction available? What kind of process addiction recovery treatments are there?

Well, you might have guessed it, but that’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this post. The good news is that there are absolutely treatment options available for process addiction. Otherwise, this would be a pretty short post! Let’s take a look at how to treat process addiction.

What Causes a Process Addiction?

Much like with a substance abuse or addiction, there often is no single cause that is responsible for the development of a process addiction. So, what is a process addiction? It is usually a combination of issues that together can cause or lead a person to developing an addiction.

Some people are actually genetically predisposed to addiction, most often having a family history of addiction, while others have a biological composition that makes them more susceptible. Others may live or grow up in an environment that enables the behavior to occur and grow into an addiction.

There may even be specific instances or an accumulation of problems that can trigger a person to use a given behavior to cope with their issues. Sometimes, physical or emotional trauma can alter a person’s brain function, which can, in turn, lead to a process addiction as well.

Naturally, any one of these factors can trigger a process addiction, and often, more than one will be in play at the same time.

Understanding Your Addiction

Many process addictions are strongly linked to other mental illnesses. For instance, someone with an exercise addiction may have issues with their weight and body image. This can lead to anorexia or bulimia.

Being a workaholic or a compulsive cleaner may point to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a mental illness involving a need to perform a given action to perfection, and will repeat the action until it is perfect.

What this all means, is that before you are treated for a process addiction, a doctor may run a series of tests to see if there are any other underlying issues that need to be dealt with first before the addiction. Your treatment plan will largely depend on what, if any, underlying issue is found, and what you’ve done to cope with it previously.

Then, there will be therapy options with licensed counselors, and support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, etc. Some people may even want medications to help them focus on healing.

So there are options! And the options themselves should validate any concerns that the addiction is, in fact, real and caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. You can’t just get over a process addiction and will not be able to “quit” on your own, and this doesn’t make you morally flawed, weak, or defective. Such issues are common, and asking for help is the first step toward easing the addiction and building a healthier life.

Treating Process Addiction

Behavioral addictions have similar treatment options as substance abuse and other addictions, but also pose unique challenges because of the potential underlying issues listed above. Another challenge is that abstinence is sometimes unrealistic, such as with sex or food addictions. In these instances, a treatment program has to be tailored to the foods or sexual situations that trigger the compulsive behavior.

Process addiction treatment is holistic since the addiction often coexists with another condition. It will aim at improving the person’s overall lifestyle rather than addressing a specific behavior. This method will help prevent a relapse or replacement addiction from occurring. An addiction treatment center like Haven House will be able to come up with a customized plan for each person’s individual situation and set of circumstances.

As we mentioned, the goal of process addiction treatment is not total abstinence, but the elimination of compulsive, unhealthy behaviors. This makes process addiction treatment different than substance abuse treatment. However, both can often involve behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, counseling sessions, and support groups, depending on the type of process the person is addicted to.

Another complication in treating process addictions is that there is not yet any formal classification for the set of addictions, other than gambling. Regardless, let’s take a look at a few different process addictions and their treatment options.

Treating Gambling Disorder

The only process addiction with diagnostic criteria from the APA, gambling disorder has a specific set of symptoms, including persistent gambling that leads to significant distress, and the loss of increasing amounts of money to generate excitement. This may lead to significant financial issues and other areas of their life suffering because of their preoccupation with satisfying their gambling need.

No other mental disorder or medical condition will help explain a person’s gambling addiction, although there are high rates of co-occurring substance and drug abuse in those with a gambling addiction, as well as depression and high anxiety.

Gambling addiction is most often treated using a combination of psychotherapy and support group participation. Someone with a gambling addiction will become irritable and nervous when they try to stop gambling, but there is no withdrawal protocol even though some may feel withdrawal symptoms just as someone with a drug addiction does. Some medications can be used when the individual has a co-occurring issue.

Sex Addiction Treatment

Intimacy disorders like sexual addiction typically involve a person having compulsive thoughts about having sex, often engaging in sexual activity with multiple partners, compulsively masturbating often, becoming addicted to pornography, or even illegal activities such as child pornography or exhibitionism.

A person develops a sex addiction once their sexual behavior has a negative impact on their functioning. They will increase their sexual activity and require more and more to achieve the same level of satisfaction they once were able to meet with less activity.

The cause of sex addiction is unknown but thought to be a combination of genetic factors, environmental experiences, and social interactions. But in general, those who believe they are obsessed with sexual activity and who are seeing it control other areas of their life should seek treatment.

Treatment for Internet Addiction

Another disorder not recognized by the APA, Internet addiction is a process addiction that has produced feelings of euphoria in the individual, consumes their time, and creates problems in the person’s personal and professional life. Internet addiction is an umbrella term itself, encompassing online gaming, social media, online shopping, pornography, and more.

Those individuals who compulsively engage in the problematic use of the Internet will fail to maintain their personal obligations, which definitely does signify a problem, whether or not the APA recognizes it as an actual addiction. Psychotherapy is often used to treat an Internet addiction as well as support groups and social support from friends and family.

This is another area where total abstinence isn’t an option, so a treatment plan will need to be put together where the individual can curb their habit but still be able to use the Internet productively when they need to in their personal and professional life.

What Therapies are Used to Treat Process Addictions?

A wide range of therapies are found to be useful in the treatment of behavioral addictions, including:

Personal Therapy

One-on-one therapy with a professional counselor can help the person with a process addiction discuss the issues that may be triggering their urge to engage in a particular behavior. Often, they will discuss other events from their past that may have contributed to the development of the addiction. This can help empower the person to take responsibility for their behaviors and take on a new, healthier coping mechanism.

Family Therapy

A process addiction can often harm relationships at home. Family therapy can help to repair the feelings of resentment and broken trust. This helps the addict know they have their family’s support behind them in their recovery as well.

Support Groups

Being able to connect with other people who are struggling with the same behavioral addictions can help a person feel less alone in their addiction. Increasing their support network is necessary for their long-term health, and having a support group of people in recovery for the same process addiction gives the person the resource of people who are going through the same issues.

Alternative Therapies

There are other, alternative, holistic therapies that may be beneficial to a person who is seeking new paths of healing and self-exploration. These can even include sports and adventure therapies, nutritional therapy, journaling, and animal-assisted therapy.

How to Help a Family Member with a Process Addiction

Having family behind you in your recovery can be a huge boost to a person’s recovery process. The ability to accept that there is a problem and a need to correct it is the first step, and getting loved ones involved and playing an active role by attending family therapy sessions or support groups for family members to learn more about the disorder will go a long way toward helping the addict’s recovery. Empowering your loved one to recover helps them to heal themselves and also helps repair any fractured relationships at home.

When to Intervene with a Family Member’s Addiction & How

Process addictions are often not easy to recognize, especially since many of the activities, such as browsing the web or being sexually active, are not unhealthy whatsoever. However, if they reach the level of addiction, the person will require treatment. The signs of addiction will vary depending on the behavior attached to their addiction, but in general, treatment is needed when:

  • Engaging in the behavior becomes an obsession, including planning and thinking about the behavior
  • The person engages in the behavior more frequently
  • The person chooses to engage in the behavior rather than work, spend time with family, or engage in other activities that were once enjoyed
  • The person’s obsession with the behavior causes relationships to be harmed
  • Other more serious consequences result from the inability to stop the behavior, including having problems at work or losing your job, financial issues, legal issues, health problems, and more

Can Medications Help Treat Process Addictions?

There are some instances where medication will be an appropriate step in the treatment process. This will involve the extent of the person’s addiction, the specific addiction and behavior itself, if there are any mental health symptoms involved, or an underlying mental health disorder diagnosed. This will vary from person to person, and there is no medication that is a “cure” for any process addiction.

Medication also will never be the focus of treatment, instead used to assist with transitional periods of the recovery process that may be more difficult. The medication will be used to help keep the person more comfortable during the process or help with any underlying issues. Regardless of if any medication will be used, therapy will always be the primary focus of treatment.

How Does a Person with a Process Addiction Avoid Relapse?

To avoid relapse, the person in recovery should identify the people, places, situations, feelings, and events that triggered the urge to engage in the behavior. They then must determine how to eliminate those triggers and create a plan to mitigate the impact of the triggers to be able to keep a relapse from happening should they encounter them.

To help in this process, the person should build a support system that will include friends and family. This support group should have a desire to help the person not relapse and not enable the person in their addictive behavior.

Summary

Realizing you need professional help to treat your process addiction and take back control of your life is the first step toward a successful recovery. Treatment will vary greatly from person to person, but all will have a therapy focus. You will learn what triggers the addictive behavior, and how to regain control over it. If you or someone you know needs help with a process addiction, consider getting treatment at a professional recovery center like Haven House.

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