Process Addictions

Treatment Options at White House Recovery

Process addiction is a preoccupation with repeating certain behaviors. Not everyone has a healthy relationship to specific tasks and pastimes. Problems occur when you become unable to control yourself. The compulsive need to repeat particular activities sometimes leads to addictive behavior. Process addiction can be passive or active and involves some kind of reward or reinforcement. 

What causes the condition is the primary difference between a substance use disorder (SUD) and process addiction. According to a 2012 study, “behavioral science experts believe that all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction.” The list of possible causes and risk factors is enormous due to the personal nature of process addictions. 

Different Types of Behavioral Addictions

Process addictions are sometimes called behavioral addictions because they involve repetitive and obsessive behaviors. The following have the potential to form addictive habits: 

  • Internet 
  • Social media
  • Video games 
  • Television 
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Exercise 
  • Eating
  • Sports
  • Shopping 
  • Volunteering
  • Work-related activities 
  • Self-harming

People with process addiction often get diagnosed with other disorders that feature similar compulsive behaviors, such as substance use disorder, gambling addiction, or eating disorders, to name a few. 


Substance Use Disorder and Compulsive Behaviors 

Substance use disorder (SUD) and compulsive behavioral disorders often co-occur. You must treat both for a successful recovery. A few of the ways process addiction is similar to substance use disorder include: 

  • Cravings 
  • Triggers 
  • Decrease in anxiety or stress when partaking in the activity
  • Severely preoccupied with the activity or thoughts of the activity 
  • Inability to stop the behavior 

Changes to the brain occur with both substance abuse and behavioral addiction. The pleasure and reward centers of the brain get rewired, causing impulsive and compulsive behavior. 


What Causes Process Addiction? 

Researchers do not know the precise cause of process addiction. Genetics sometimes play a role in developing addictive behaviors along with a range of other risk factors like age, family and personal medical history, mental health status, and others. Behavioral addictions, in particular, are difficult to predict because any activity that involves some form of reward has the potential to be addictive to certain people. 

These types of disorders are highly individualistic and develop for a variety of reasons. A 2011 research paper concluded, “growing evidence suggests that behavioral addictions resemble substance addictions in many domains, including natural history, phenomenology, tolerance, comorbidity, overlapping genetic contribution, neurobiological mechanisms, and response to treatment.” 

When Does Passion Become Addiction?

We all have passionate things, like sports, hobbies, work, or social events. However, passion becomes an addiction when you put those things above the health and well-being of yourself and others. If you neglect core personal and professional responsibilities to pursue something superficial or even detrimental, it is a problem. You might notice an inability to stop the behavior regardless of how much damage it causes to you or your loved ones. In those cases, treatment is necessary to prevent unwanted behavior. 


Symptoms of Process Addiction

The signs and symptoms of process addiction mimic those of substance use disorder in many ways. If you believe that yourself or a loved one may be showing addictive behaviors, you may notice the following signs and symptoms: 

  • Obsession with the behavior which interferes with personal and professional goals 
  • Change in sleep patterns 
  • Change in eating patterns 
  • Change in hygiene or personal care routines  
  • Secretive behavior or sneaking around to accomplish the activity 
  • Lying or stealing related to the activity 
  • Mood swings and irritability 
  • Unusual and unexplained change in energy levels 


How to Approach a Loved One

Addictive behaviors seem normal to the person experiencing them. If you are concerned for the well-being of a loved one and feel the need to approach them about their behavior, you may want to use the following steps.

  1. Educate yourself about the specific issue, interventions, and have a variety of resources you can share with your loved one, including information on facilities that treat addiction, support groups, and educational sites or programs. You may find it helpful to speak with an expert on addiction intervention to get a better idea of what to expect. 
  2. Approach your loved one in a neutral location where you can both feel comfortable.
  3. Be open and honest about your concern without blaming, shaming, or guilting them into agreeing with you. Stick with facts instead of focusing on how their actions make you feel. 
  4. Show your unconditional support, love, and encouragement. Be prepared for the worst but hope for the best. 


Treatment and Therapy Options

Due to the similarity between substance use disorders and process addiction, the treatments are often similar. Psychotherapy is the most common, and some people require medication-assisted therapy for severe cases to manage symptoms of anxiety or depression. Breaking the habit of repetition takes dedication and expert treatment. You can overcome process addiction using a personalized care plan provided by your doctor or the care team at a facility like White House Recovery and Detox. 

Your treatment may include a combination of psychotherapy, motivational steps, preventative education, and prescription medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common treatment for behavioral addictions. Other therapies include: 

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • 12-Step programs 
  • Contingency Management (CM)

We are here for you

You can form an addiction to almost any behavior, from gambling to dieting. Sometimes even seemingly innocuous activities like surfing the web can start to take over your life. You may feel overwhelmed, isolated and alone, but you have options. Community and private treatment programs exist to help you overcome your behavioral addiction. The White House Recovery and Detox staff understand how hard it can be to live with the effects of addiction. We want to help you build a healthy, happy, and safe future where compulsive behaviors do not control your life.