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What is a process addiction?

There are many forms of repeated dysfunctional behaviours that are classified as process addictions or compulsive behaviours. These do not involve ingesting any addictive substances but can become as habit-forming as an addictive drug. It is referred to as a process addiction because there is an addiction to or dependence on a type of behaviour or process.

Common Process Addictions

Some of the most common behavioural addictions are socially acceptable, and can even include necessary behaviours such as sex and eating. This contributes to a lack of awareness that a problem is developing while negative consequences keep piling up. The following is a list of the most common process addictions recognised at this time:

  • Gambling

    Gambling addiction is the most researched and talked about of process addictions. Consequences faced by compulsive gamblers are severe, such as financial and relationship difficulties which can frequently lead to death by suicide. Rates of suicide by compulsive gamblers is higher than that of alcohol or drug addicts.

  • Sex

    Sex addiction has also recently received the attention of researchers and practitioners. Sex addiction occurs when people become preoccupied with sex and act on sexual compulsions without concern for the negative consequences.

  • Eating

    Food addiction is a process addiction in which someone becomes addicted to the act of eating and the feelings they get from eating certain foods. A food addiction is emotionally, physically, and socially detrimental as it can cause extreme guilt, health problems, and interfere with relationships.

  • Internet

    Internet addiction has become a serious concern worldwide. While most of us use the internet daily, there is a certain point in which the process is considered addiction. When internet use is more important that real life relationships or activities, or causes problems in a person’s ability to function in daily life, they are likely suffering from internet addiction.

  • Shopping

    While the term shopping addiction is thrown around lightly, compulsive spending is a form of process addiction that is serious and results in similar feelings of guilt and shame, loss of control, and financial, social, and emotional consequences as other addictions.

These are only some of the most common and researched process addictions, but a process addiction can occur when someone loses control over any process to the point where it causes problems in daily life. Process addictions lack the physical attributes that often alert people to problems with drug and alcohol abuse, such as visible intoxication, which makes them fly under the radar more easily. However, despite their relative invisibility, process addictions can lead to serious problems in a person’s life and well-being.

Symptoms of Process Addictions

Process addictions share many of the same symptoms as drug addiction:

  • Cravings and inability to resist impulse
  • Narrowed interest
  • Irritability when access to process is limited (withdrawal)
  • Decreased pleasure in activity over time (tolerance)
  • Denail
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lying
  • Hiding behaviour
  • Family, work, financial problems due to indulgence in the process

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