7 Frequently Asked Questions About Process Addictions

What are process addictions?

Process addictions are also known as behavioral addictions because of the need to continually repeat a certain behavior or string of behaviors without the impulse control to stop. Eventually, the process has damaging effects on their physical and emotional health. Process addictions can include gambling, shopping, sex/love, video games, exercise, tanning, overeating, and more.

What characteristics are most common with process addictions?

Process addictions share several distinguishing characteristics with drug or alcohol addiction. Like substance abuse, process addictions are characterized by the compulsion to continue engaging in an activity even when mental and/or physical health is negatively impacted. Also, the person of concern is unable to stop engaging in harmful activity. Often, the person feels temporary relief while partaking in the activity, followed by overwhelming remorse. Another typical symptom is denial when confronted by others.

What are the differences between drug or alcohol addiction and process addictions?

As the name “substance abuse” implies, substance addictions connect to specific substances. Process addictions are specific to behavior. Yet, researchers have found that process addictions often occur in those struggling with drugs or alcohol, or can lead to drug or alcohol addiction if not treated. One of the primary examples of this is gambling addiction—a recent study found addictive gamblers 3.8 times more likely to have an alcohol addiction.

How do I distinguish between an addiction and a hobby?

It’s easy to joke about a loved one’s addiction to an activity, like video games. However, very serious signs become apparent when someone is struggling with a process addiction:

  1. The person’s mental and/or physical health is negatively impacted by engaging in the activity or an inability to stop, such as increased irritability or sleep deprivation.
  2. Strained relationships with their friends and family as a result of their addictive behavior. Also, their work relationships suffer.
  3. Negative repercussions directly associated with their continued, extreme, or chronic behavior because of their addiction. This could include losing a job, going bankrupt, or serious illness.
  4. The person is unable to stop engaging in the behavior, despite negative consequences and repeated pleas to discontinue.

When does a hobby become an addiction?

When someone starts showing all of the above characteristics, it’s time to think of their problem as an addiction. For example, many people enjoy playing video games on their TVs, computers, and phones. People who play video games on a regular basis do not have video game addiction. However, if someone is unable to stop playing after days of continuous gaming, becomes combative when asked by loved ones to take a break, or loses their job because all they do is play video games, they might have a process addiction. The same goes for other process addictions as well—if they’re repeatedly crossing a line directly because of their dedication to the activity, no matter the consequences, it’s time to seek help.

At the same time, it’s important to consider how long their addictive behavior lasts. If someone buys a new video game and spends most of their weekend playing it, they don’t have a process addiction. Even if they buy a new game and spend all weekend and every night after work for a week playing, they don’t have a process addiction. If they buy a game and are staying up all night, skipping work for days on end, and continuously buying new games even as their bank account drains, they might have a process addiction.

Why are certain behaviors, such as gambling or shopping, linked to process addictions?

This question has puzzled researchers and addiction professionals for years—why do some people become addicted to a behavior, such as gambling, while others do not? Scientists believe a combination of factors, including personality, history of addiction, and genetics, contribute to someone developing a process addiction. At the same time, scientists still grapple with why certain behaviors can lead to addiction while others don’t.

I’m pretty sure my loved one has a process addiction. What can I do?

Treatment for process addictions can be challenging because oftentimes, abstinence isn’t an option. If someone is addicted to online shopping, they probably won’t be able to stop going online, particularly if their job requires computers. However, recovery is always possible, no matter how serious the situation.

Many of the same methods used for substance addictions work for treating process addictions, often because the two occur together. Inpatient or out-patient treatment options provide counseling, individual or group therapy, and other coping methods. In rare instances, certain medications are used, although treatment is usually more successful when focusing on therapy.

At Feinberg Consulting, we use a holistic approach when working with those struggling with addiction, whether it’s a process addiction or another form. Contact us at 877.538.5425 for a confidential conversation today.


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