What is a Process Addiction?

What is a Process Addiction?

Process addiction, also known as behavioral addiction, is defined by a strong desire to participate in a certain action despite the negative consequences. The individual has an enhanced mood while engaging in the action. Once the behavior is over, it is generally followed by a feeling of shame or guilt.

Instead of using addictive substances, a process addiction involves a behavior such as sex, gambling, gaming, eating, work or another ritual. Any behavior that is overused in exchange for stimulating pleasure can be described as a process addiction or behavioral addiction. Their primary instinct is to deal with their negative as well as positive circumstances by becoming reliant on a process that they perceive as enjoyable to keep their suffering to a minimum. The problem is that their dependence on these behaviors becomes their normal coping mechanism instead of dealing with their issues head on.

What are the types of addiction?

Substance addiction and process addiction are the two types of addiction. Process addictions differ from substance addictions in that they do not include a physical dependency on a substance such as alcohol or heroin. Withdrawal symptoms are the most visible manifestation of physical dependency caused by drug abuse. People who are addicted to alcohol, for example, feel tremors, a racing pulse, and perspiration within hours of quitting drinking.

Process addictions, on the other hand, are purely psychological in nature. That is, ceasing the addiction-related behavior does not result in bodily withdrawal symptoms. Process addictions, like drug addictions, remodel the brain's reward system. Attempting to cease a process of addiction-related action generates mental upheaval, prompting people to participate in the behavior in order to calm their minds. As a result of this disruption, a variety of treatment approaches are required for recovery.

Regardless of whether you are addicted to substances or behaviors, the reward center in the brain becomes stimulated with the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. To continue to receive satisfaction from these neurotransmitters, a person will pursue the behaviors that cause them gratification over and over. This is when compulsivity to obtain the same feelings may begin and the decline of being able to get the same comfort starts to ensue.

The main difference between substance addiction and process addiction is the physical way that drugs and alcohol deteriorate the brain at a fast pace. The brain can be severely affected by substance abuse because the brain’s neurotransmitters are depleted by the mind-altering impact that drugs and alcohol have. The brain is still influenced by process addiction because once someone becomes addicted to a behavior, the obsession of the mind takes over to do whatever it takes to carry out some of these common process addictions.


Sex addicts want sex in the same obsessive way that those with substance use disorders seek their drug of choice. Uncontrollable desires and cravings to participate in sexual activities are said to be similar to drug cravings. The tension reduction and psychological high experienced when a person has a sexual release is another resemblance to drug addiction when intimacy is not the goal. Addiction to the act of sex will compel someone to think about or perform sex all the time, possibly with multiple partners and no protection.


People who suffer from food addiction are unable to control their compulsive eating behaviors, even though we all need to eat and many people are prone to overeating on occasion or eating out of boredom or pure delight. They frequently claim feeling "high" when participating in the activity and seek meals heavy in fat, sugar, and/or salt. Furthermore, much like those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, people who are addicted to food may acquire a tolerance for food. To put it another way, individuals need more and more of their favorite meals to get the "high" they desire. People with food addiction might be obese, but they can also have a normal BMI and suffer from the illness. Relationships may be harmed, as well as self-esteem difficulties and other health issues.


Gambling addiction, also known as problem gambling or gaming disorder, is a condition in which a person's life, work, or family are jeopardized or jeopardized by any sort of gambling or gambling-related decisions. A person may start gambling for the enjoyment of the game, but the thrill of winning can make someone continue to gamble even though the odds are against them, starting a never-ending cycle of losing. Whether it's traveling to a casino and playing slot machines, staying up late for overnight poker games, gambling online, or sports betting, if the decision is defined by the following, it's referred to as a gambling addiction:

  • More and more bets are being placed
  • Putting more money on the table than was initially planned
  • Losses are "chased" by betting beyond one's ability to pay
  • When you are unable to gamble or when you lose, you may get impatient or violent
  • Preoccupation with gambling

Internet, Gaming and Pornography

Extreme internet use that interferes with a person's everyday functioning is classified as internet addiction. Internet addiction impairs time management and can lead to physical and mental health issues such as obesity, sleep loss, depression, and social skills impairment. Pornography and gaming are readily available, especially online and the results can be devastating.

Gaming addiction is mostly caused by online gaming. Although players frequently laud video games for being "addictive," there is a distinction to be made between using the phrase to describe a game that is difficult to put down because it is so enjoyable and detecting a true addiction. Gamer culture encourages people to play games for lengthy periods of time. Many individuals manage gaming in a healthy way by either finishing the game, losing interest in it, or substituting other activities for gaming time. Some individuals have trouble keeping track of their playing time. People with gaming or pornography process addictions may stop going to school or work if the ritual and believed reward becomes their primary interest. Some people may refuse to eat or bathe.


People who acquire shopping and spending addictions often have co-occurring mental health issues and shop compulsively to relieve anxiety or enhance their mood. The loop of compulsive spending, like other addictions, tends to make people feel worse over time. Anxiety and despair can be exacerbated by financial and interpersonal issues. Shopping addiction, fortunately, responds to treatment and may be overcome. Using shopping to escape can heighten anxiety through searching for the "perfect" item or using the buy and return method to keep someone distracted. Many times, substance abuse and behavioral abuse will go hand in hand. There is help for all addictions, including process addiction, to get back on track for a bigger purpose.

Screen Time

Gaming, social media, streaming television, scrolling mindlessly, or pornography all have one thing in common: the habit or ritual.

The result: Isolation, anger, sadness, helplessness, overconfidence, despair, control, loss of control, chronic medical illness, danger, grief, loss. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the brain structure and function changes in addiction. Insight, impulse control and judgment change as we rely addictively on a process.

Substances and processes are equal opportunity burdens because our brain is made up of pathways defined by behaviors and thoughts. Whatever we do and whatever we think about are direct power lines into how we feel and what we want to do or think next. As connected beings, we need a treatment plan and a co-pilot (counselor, coach, therapist, advocate, specialist clinician) who can see the integrated wiring of our brain and body. Connections on the inside have a lot to do with the connections we manifest on the outside. From deciding this sunrise is majestic and life-giving then sharing it the next week with a loved one, to the blood carrying oxygen to our brain and feet, keeping us alive and full of potential, connections are intricate. Screen stress can dysregulate those connections.

When does a normal behavior evolve into an addiction?

There are four factors to consider when determining if one of the behaviors mentioned above is an addiction. When the following conditions are met, someone's conduct can be classified as a process addiction:

  • As a result of the activity or their inability to stop it, they develop mental or physical health problems
  • Due to the behavior's dominance in someone's life, relationship or job troubles arise
  • Negative repercussions arise as a result of the conduct, such as a shopping addiction driving a person to build up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, putting them in financial danger
  • Despite the growing unfavorable effects, stopping or avoiding the conduct has become impossible

Get Help for Process Addiction

Process addiction treatment frequently entails professional involvement, since many people are unable to overcome them on their own. If not addressed, process addictions can have disastrous consequences in a person's personal, intellectual, professional, financial, and social lives.

For people recovering from a process addiction, individual counseling is a crucial intervention. Intensive, one-on-one sessions that explicitly address behavioral difficulties are prioritized in this strategy. Our skilled therapists will listen to you and offer you nonjudgmental assistance to help you get back to your best self. If you are interested in more of our treatment approaches for process addiction, do not hesitate to contact us through our website or via phone call at (949) 200-7929. You may also complete this quick assessment and verify your insurance to help us get to know you better.

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