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What are Substance Abuse and Process Addictions?

The brain and body are wired to gravitate toward actions that produce feelings of pleasure, happiness, comfort or reward. These positive emotions are conceived when the brain releases certain chemicals in response to stimuli — but the particular things that trigger the production of these chemicals can vary greatly from person to person, and can be changed over time with conditioning. For example, eating a favorite food might be something that produces a feeling of happiness; as preferences change, however, that same type of food may no longer elicit the same pleasurable reaction, while a new type of food does. Naturally, each person will prefer to do the things — eat certain foods, spend time with certain people, engage in certain hobbies — that make them feel good, even as these preferences change over time. This system is at work to the extreme as addiction to a substance or process develops.

Substances like drugs or alcohol are highly addictive because they artificially stimulate positive reactions in the brain. The feeling of being drunk or high is undoubtedly pleasant, which is part of the reason that so many people seek intoxication in the first place — drugs and alcohol produce feelings of euphoria, contentment, relaxation and the like. An individual may continue to use or abuse drugs or alcohol as they enjoy the experience and seek to repeat the sensations of pleasure. But this comes with two main pitfalls: first, when produced by drugs or alcohol, these sensations are short-lived; and second, with continued use, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to produce positive reactions at all. Addiction develops when cravings become dependence, and dependence leads to a compulsive habit of substance abuse. When this point is reached, an individual cannot control their substance abuse because they need drugs or alcohol to feel happy on a daily basis or because they turn to drugs or alcohol as the only solution for negative emotions.

Process addiction is the term for addiction to certain actions, such as gambling, video games, sex or shopping. For those who struggle with process addictions, the act of engaging in the habit to which they are addicted elicits positive feelings of pleasure and reward. Process addictions may develop as a person begins to rely on a behavior as a source of happiness, particularly when it is a coping mechanism for dealing with unaddressed emotional pain, grief or trauma. Over time, repeating these behaviors causes the brain to develop a pattern that results in an individual feeling pulled toward the addictive habit. Similarly to substance abuse, these addictions become compulsions — those who struggle with process addiction continue to engage in destructive behaviors in order to feel good, despite knowing that there are consequences.

Treating Substance Abuse and Process Addictions at The Guest House Ocala

The Guest House Ocala is a treatment and recovery center for men and women struggling with addictions or mental health concerns, from drug abuse to burnout. We specialize in assisting those whose self-destructive behaviors or psychological ills have arisen as a result of trauma, including abuse, disaster or loss. Substance abuse and process addictions are unfortunately incredibly common responses to trauma, as the positive feelings and sensations that drugs, alcohol or addictive behaviors produce serve as a form of self-medication against the deep-seated sadness, anger or fear that result from traumatic experiences. Whether you can identify your trauma or whether you aren’t yet sure why you have developed a substance or process addiction, the team at The Guest House is here to help you discover the root of your addiction and begin your healing at the core of the problem.

We would be happy to work with you to find out which type of treatment makes the most sense for you or your loved one. Our signature residential program is our most comprehensive treatment plan, but we offer a variety of levels of intensiveness to meet the needs of those who require a more flexible treatment schedule. Our admissions team can help you determine which level of care is right for you.