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What Is a Process Addiction?

A process addiction is an addiction driven by a behavior rather than a substance. These two types of addiction heavily relate to one another in their brain mechanisms. This article will explain how process addictions work and what signs to look for when identifying one.

How Process Addictions Work

Substances alter the level of neurotransmitters present in the brain. Every time a person takes the substance, it causes a strong chemical release. Process addictions, also called behavioral addictions, work in a very similar way. Every time a person performs a behavior, they receive a rush of “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins. These chemical releases become addictive.

Over time, it takes more risky versions or more frequent occurrences of the behavior to cause the same impact. The brain compels the person to continue even when it causes interpersonal or emotional issues. They cannot stop thinking about the behavior. They crave its effect. Addiction occurs when the person cannot control the behavior anymore; the behavior controls them.

The most common process addictions include gambling, sex, shopping, exercise, gaming, the internet, kleptomania (compulsive theft), and mythomania (compulsive lying). Many times, process addiction goes hand-in-hand with substance addiction. They occur at the same time, or a person transfers from one to the other.

Signs of Process Addiction

After learning what process addictions are, it is important to learn how to recognize them. Since it is a relatively new concept in the psychological world, there is not one standard model for identifying process addictions. Demonstrated in one study, psychiatrist Aviel Goodman and psychologists Mark Griffiths and Iain Brown each created a model of process addiction.

The process addiction symptoms to watch for include:

  • Inability to control behavior
  • Compulsively thinking about performing the behavior
  • Rewarding feelings (e.g., high, buzz) caused by behavior
  • Increased frequency of behavior necessary to achieve the same effect
  • Negative physical or emotional effects when not engaging in behavior
  • Bad financial, work, social, or emotional consequences caused by behavior
  • Overpowering desire to go back to behavior after stopping

If a person experiences most of these symptoms, they should seek out help for their process addiction. Many rehabilitation programs are willing to enroll clients with process addictions.

When people discuss addiction, they usually refer to substance addiction. There’s another type of addiction that’s just as serious, though—process (behavioral) addiction. People addicted to a behavior get a chemical release in much the same way as a person consuming substances. For this reason, discontinuing process addictions can feel difficult or impossible. The Guest House offers process addiction treatment that addresses the compulsive behaviors as well as their underlying cause. If you or someone you love is struggling with a process addiction, call The Guest House at (855) 483-7800.