A process addiction refers to compulsive behavior, such as compulsive gambling, sexual addiction, eating disorders and spending addictions. As defined by faqs.org it is “A condition in which a person is dependent on some type of behavior, such as gambling, shopping, or sexual activity.” This term is often used as a blanket for any behavioral addiction which does not involve an addictive chemical. This is ironic as there are actual chemical processes which occur during the behavior which are very similar to the chemical changes which take place during substance abuse. .. More on that later.
Process addictions are an often overlooked addiction. They are often overshadowed by substance addictions. This is unfortunate as the suffering, loss of life and family, and debilitating consequences are no less. Process addictions require psychological treatment to be overcome. Even though process addiction is often coupled with drug addiction each addiction needs to be tackled in order for a full recovery to take place.
The reasons that these addictions are often overlooked lie in a combination of shame, guilt and lack of understanding. It is somewhat easy to comprehend the chemical addiction of a person who abuses substances while the strong psychological compulsions of the process addict are often ignored. It is not as simple as “just stopping” or “willpower”. There are real chemical and biological changes which occur in the brain of someone who has a process addiction.
This addictive process is complex, and has several influencing factors. An individual’s mental state, genetics, social status and past experiences all influence the addict and the timeline of their
addiction. However it is well known both for substance and process addictions that a person’s reward center in their brain is stimulated causing release of chemicals into the body and brain which drive addictive behaviors. Put simply, this chemical charge feels good. So the addict keeps chasing the “high” whether it be the up and down roller coaster of gambling or the highs and lows of cocaine addiction.
Most people enjoy this type of “natural high” in one way or another. Many people gamble for fun, or push their sports car on the freeway. Often we enjoy very large meals or go on a little spending spree when we get a nice bonus at work. This is how it can begin for the process addict however for unknown reasons some individuals keep doing the same “feel good behavior” over and over. This can have very damaging consequences. Obvious side effects of gambling addiction are debt, bankruptcy job and family disruptions. Compulsive eating can lead to health problems and psychological issues.
Whatever the addiction or compulsion is, treatment is often necessary to completely abstain. Treatment methods vary but the most effective include identification and cessation of the behavior with a strong and long term commitment to keep it stopped. This long term commitment is the stumbling block. It can be difficult and include long term therapies, medications and other techniques.
Treatment models and success vary but the most important step is to have a sincere desire to stop the behavior. Nothing can be completed without the crucial first step.