incredible-marketing Arrow

Drug and alcohol addictions are well-known for the damage they cause, but people can struggle with other addictions, too. Known as process addictions, this includes a compulsive need to engage in certain behaviors like gaming, shopping, or sex no matter the cost, with consequences that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. One of the most common and harmful process addictions is a gambling addiction, which can wreak havoc on a person’s finances, relationships, career and more.

At The Guest House, we know how serious a gambling addiction can be. In addition to the financial strain it can cause, compulsive gambling can cost you your mental, physical and emotional health as the stress takes a toll on your mind and body. And if you’ve borrowed money from friends or family to cover your losses, it can jeopardize your relationships, too. But if you feel like you’ve hit bottom and that all hope is lost, we can help. It’s never too late to break the cycle and build a better future by taking the first steps toward long-term recovery.

Gambling Addiction Treatment at The Guest House

A common misconception about gambling addiction is that it’s only a problem if you’re losing. In reality, gambling addiction is an emotional disorder that goes beyond financial losses. While most compulsive gamblers will experience financial difficulties as a result of their behavior, the amount of money lost doesn’t determine the severity of a gambling addiction — rather, it’s the overall negative impact on a person’s life and the inability to stop that indicates a need for help.

At The Guest House, we know that compulsive gambling is a complex and difficult behavior to overcome. The thrill of gambling is often used as a distraction to cope with stress or trauma, but can quickly spiral out of control as addiction takes hold. And since gambling addiction often co-occurs with mental health or substance use disorders, comprehensive treatment is needed to break the cycle and establish healthier behaviors.

That’s why we combine highly-personalized treatment plans with conventional and experiential therapies that address the mental, physical and emotional impact of problem gambling. Our holistic approach can provide the tools needed to implement new coping skills, better understand harmful behaviors and overcome the compulsive need to gamble. By looking at all aspects of a gambling disorder, we can help you or your loved one find lasting solutions for a life free from the highs and lows of a gambling addiction.

Learn More About Process Addictions

Unlike substance abuse, which is fairly straightforward and easy for others to understand, process addictions are more complicated. Rather than getting hooked on drugs or alcohol, an individual with a process addiction is addicted to the feeling they experience when performing a certain behavior or action. This includes addictions to gambling, sex, shopping or video games, as well as disordered eating and self-harm. With process addictions, the “substance” or “high” involved is actually a surge of feel-good chemicals released in the brain when engaging in a certain action or behavior. When we look at process addictions, we look for many of the same markers or signs that are present in substance use disorders, including:

  • Focusing more time and attention on certain things than you should
  • Wanting to cut back or stop but not managing to, despite repeated efforts
  • Experiencing cravings and the urge to engage in a behavior
  • Inability to manage duties and responsibilities at home, work or school
  • Unwilling to change a harmful habit or behavior regardless of the problems it causes
  • Giving up important social, occupational and recreational activities due to a process addiction
  • Sacrificing personal relationships to engage in certain behaviors
  • Increasing the intensity or frequency of a behavior to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • Being unable to abstain without discomfort, distress and other symptoms (withdrawal)

In a process addiction, these symptoms apply to any compulsive behavior that an individual cannot control. They’ll continue to engage in the activity even when it results in harmful consequences. As with any other addictive behavior, those with a process addiction often require professional, compassionate treatment and specialized interventions to stop.

Can Compulsive Behaviors Be Considered an Addiction?

For some people, linking the term “addiction” to a behavior instead of a substance is considered controversial. However, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes behavioral addictions under the umbrella of Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. Currently, gambling disorder is the first and only formally recognized behavioral addiction in this category, justified by the reward system pathways of the brain it triggers, which mimic that of substance abuse.

The DSM-5 describes the experience of strong cravings, attempts to stop and disruptions in normal functioning as part of the diagnostic criteria for process addictions. This reflects the symptoms seen in people who exhibit compulsive behaviors when it comes to gambling, shopping, sex, pornography, the internet, gaming or something else entirely. No matter what it is, to feel that something external from the self is needed to live is to experience addiction — therefore, almost any kind of behavior can become a process addiction.

Process Addictions & Trauma

Process addictions develop because people are after the pleasure and dopamine release that comes from engaging in a particular behavior. Much like addictive substances, certain activities such as shopping, gambling, sex or eating can be used to distract us from our problems and escape from strong emotions. First, the behavior becomes a habit, then compulsive, and before we know it, we’re addicted to whatever it is that helps us feel good.

Without realizing it, we seek out thrill and reward to cope with difficult situations instead of seeking help from others when something is wrong. Because of this, process addictions are a common response to trauma, as the positive feelings a behavior provides can serve as a type of self-medication. Unraveling this connection and learning new, healthier coping skills is often the first step to healing from the harm and disruption that process addictions can cause.

Examples of Process Addictions

While gambling addiction is one of the more well-known examples of a process addiction, some other examples include the following behaviors, listed below. However, there are a number of other examples of process addictions, and anything that fits the criteria mentioned above can be an addiction.

Disordered Eating

Healthy, non-disordered eating is when we mindfully consume food when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. Under that definition, many of us exhibit abnormal eating behaviors from time to time, such as snacking when we’re bored or overindulging during the holidays. We may also manipulate our food intake to lose weight, build muscle or reach some other goal.

When we take these unhealthy behaviors too far, it can lead to disordered eating patterns. This can include overeating, anorexia, restrictive eating, bulimia, purging, binge eating, using excessive exercise to burn calories and compulsive dieting. At the extreme end of the spectrum, this can lead to a clinical diagnosis of an eating disorder, a mental health condition that’s characterized by obsessive thoughts about food and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Sex Addiction

Sex addiction can include compulsive behaviors related to sex, such as seeking out affairs, excessive masturbation or pornography use, frequent anonymous sex and frequent urges to engage in risky sexual behavior. Some people also exhibit an avoidance of sex or intimacy as a symptom, often due to a fear of being vulnerable and a need to control their sexuality.

When sex becomes a compulsive behavior or is used in an addictive way, it can be considered a sex addiction. Some people also become addicted to love, where their compulsive thoughts and behaviors revolve around romantic relationships rather than specific sex acts. Both are considered intimacy disorders that can interfere with normal functioning and have a significant impact on our mental, physical and emotional well-being.


Self-harm is the deliberate use of cutting, burning, hair pulling and other injurious behaviors as a coping mechanism. Some people feel that when they self-harm, they’re escaping from or alleviating a sense of numbness and prefer the pain over what they’re feeling otherwise. Others use self-harm as a form of punishment or to express their internal pain.

Self-harm often develops as a response to trauma and can become a compulsive behavior. Even in the absence of triggers, the desire to self-harm can return with intense cravings. However, the urge is usually strongest when faced with overwhelmingly strong emotions, as those who engage in the behavior find it provides a form of short-term relief.

Video Game Addiction

Video gaming has been around for over 50 years and is a common hobby that provides entertainment, distraction and even an opportunity to socialize with other people. But when gaming becomes compulsive, excessive and harmful to normal functioning, it can be considered an addiction, especially when it continues despite these consequences.

People with a video game addiction often play for hours and lose long periods of time without realizing it. They also have trouble quitting or playing less and use gaming as a way to escape from unpleasant thoughts or feelings. Eventually, it can become all-consuming and interfere with other responsibilities, leading to significant problems at work, school or home.

Internet Addiction

An addiction to the internet is similar to compulsive gaming when use becomes harmful and begins to interfere with daily life. Problematic or compulsive internet usage can result in significant impairments in an individual’s ability to function, especially when it comes to work or school. Health consequences can also develop from a loss of sleep, as some people will stay up later to browse the internet, chat or check social media for updates.

Adolescents and young adults are particularly at risk of developing an internet or social media addiction disorder. Signs of internet addiction include needing to spend ever-increasing amounts of time online, ignoring other interests or activities, irritability when internet access is denied and neglecting other responsibilities at work, home or school to surf the net.