Process Addictions

Behavioral addictions with all the negative consequences of addiction to drugs and alcohol, but without the physical issues typically associated with addiction

What is a Process Addiction? Most people can enjoy a piece of chocolate cake, partake in a night of gambling at the casino without losing an entire paycheck, go to the gym a few times a week, or even go on a shopping spree for a new summer wardrobe. However, for some people these enjoyable tasks turn into activities that bring an immediate “high”, but later cause negative consequences and feelings of guilt, remorse and shame. While most people can choose whether they engage in some of the aforementioned activities; people with process addictions feel compelled to eat large amounts of food, avoid paying bills to shop or gamble instead, and can’t stop themselves even when they know it is causing issues in their lives. Process addictions include video gaming, food, internet, sex, porn, shopping, exercise, gambling, and love. Though almost everyone engages in some form of these behaviors, and typically enjoys them, they don’t become addictions unless: -the person has physical or mental issues due to not stopping the behavior -the person has difficulties in one or more facets of their lives, including work, school, or significant relationships, due to their behaviors being disrupting -the person experiences negative consequences directly related to repeated engagement in the behavior -the person is unable to stop engaging in the behavior despite the negative consequences How Can Behaviors Be Addictive? There are debates about whether a behavior can be considered an addiction or not. Some people believe that if a little self-control were implemented, things such as eating and playing video games wouldn’t be a problem. However, someone with a video game addiction plays a game for 10-12 hours a day, only leaving the game to sleep and possibly go to work. This individual consciously knows that he is neglecting his health by not exercising and only eating fast food, as to dedicate as much time as possible to his game, but continues to play during almost every waking hour. He finds that escaping to another reality in the game and isolating himself from everyone, allows him to ignore how dysfunctional his family is and how low he feels about his weight, appearance, and life goals. Our brains are hard wired to seek pleasure and escape pain. For some people, they have become programmed to believe that the small amount of joy they are able to instantly obtain from these behaviors is worth neglecting other parts of their lives. Even more so, initially, some people are unable to see the negative consequences of these behaviors until something remarkable happens. Once a person realizes that their behaviors have gone too far and they want to stop engaging in the behavior, but can’t, that is when it is time to seek help.

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