Addiction can show itself in various forms. At times, people who are seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, drug addiction or another substance abuse also struggle with other behavioral addictions, known as Process Addictions. Process addictions are related to “reward” or “feel-good” behaviors. At a neurological level it works very similarly to drugs. When someone exhibits a behavior, like gambling, they will experience a rush of dopamine in their pleasure centers. Repeating this behavior to an unhealthy degree is similar to “chasing the high” with drug abuse. In fact, many process addictions are by products of co-occurring substance abuse problems. The codependent nature of each addiction requires carefully designed treatment to eliminate the behaviors concurrently.
Behavioral addictions, or process addictions, can be associated with physical addictions but also can result from negative aspects of a person’s life. Examples of behavioral addictions include:
- Shopping addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Food addiction
- Exercise addiction
- Love and sex addiction
- Pornography addiction
- Video game addiction
- Internet addiction
What Causes Behavioral Addictions?
When is it a problem?
Most behaviors that become addictions are normal activities, like shopping and eating, but it’s important to be able to recognize when that behavior is repeated so frequently it’s become a problem. The following criteria will help you determine if you have a process addiction:
1) Interpersonal relationships at home, work and/or school have suffered because priority has been placed on the behavior.
2) The behavior leads to mental or physical health problems as a result of the behavior
3) The behavior has directly resulted in negative consequences for them and the people around them. For example, a gambling addict may gamble away their family’s life savings.
4) Regardless of negative consequences, the person cannot stop engaging in the behavior.
When financial, legal and relationship problems begin to manifest as a result of engaging in the behavior, seeking help is crucial. The behaviors become so impulsive that it can be near impossible to stop. People tend to isolate themselves due to shame and guilt, which ultimately makes them engage in the behavior to temporarily experience the rush of pleasure. This vicious cycle is very challenging to overcome without the support of a professional behavioral addiction treatment program.
Behavioral Addiction Treatment
There are many types of addictive behaviors, and because every addiction is unique, there are many different forms of treatment. The following are some common examples of process addictions treatments that are used alone or in combination:
Detoxing: Whether or not drugs are part of your process addiction, detoxing may be necessary. Physical dependence is still possible, even without a substance. People can experience anxiety, insomnia, panic, headaches, mood swings and other withdrawal symptoms when they are not engaging in the behavior. Professionally led detox offers the greatest chance of successfully eradicating the behavior.
Diagnosis: Properly evaluating the variables and causes of each addiction are very important towards growth. Sometimes behavioral addictions are the result of underlying mental disorders, substance abuse or other negative elements in one’s life.
. Personal therapy: This involves discovering personal issues that motivate negative behaviors, and learning coping mechanisms to take control of your addiction and prevent future relapse.
Family support: Most people feel alone and ashamed of their addiction, but having family support with open lines of communication is a hallmark of successful treatment. Loved ones provide the most powerful support net. Being open with you addiction allows them to be there for you in times of need. Also, if any relationships have been damaged as a result of your addiction, family support therapy helps mend those connections by re-establishing trust.
Support Groups: Finding a group of peers who also suffer from behavioral addictions allows people to be vulnerable and connect, rather than isolating themselves and giving into their addiction. Sharing episodes of struggle and coping methods are powerful reminders that you’re not alone.
Shopping addiction, gambling addiction, and sex & love addiction are all examples of a “behavior addiction.” At Haven House, behavior addictions, or process additions, are treated in tandem with substance abuse, and your clinical team will carve out a unique program of process addiction treatment modalities, effective in addressing any co-occurring disorders.