Addiction comes in all sorts of forms. A common misconception is the over physical reliance on substances, in which an individual would often fall in physical, emotional, and mental pitfalls.
But this reliance on substances is just the tip of the iceberg. Process addiction, otherwise known as behavioral addiction, deals with the compulsive nature connected to the actual act of abuse on substances and other triggers that cause addiction. In effect, the actual thought of engaging in addictive activities, regardless of actual knowledge of the negative effects, is addiction itself.
It has only been fairly recently that process addiction has been accepted as a new class of addiction, yet snippets of the actual psychological or behavioral impact of this addiction have been seen in early studies. Formally, though, the proposal to include process addiction as a distinct form of addiction has been pushed for by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) in a study pushed in 2011. Additionally, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), proposed that process addiction should also be a new class in 2013. Considering the many behaviours and activities that may stimulate addiction (gaming addiction and social media addiction can be considered as one of the most recent forms of addiction), the study of process addiction is an evolving field that is expected to vastly grow throughout the years.
Early snippets on the connection of behavioral and compulsive nature of activities resulting in addiction can be seen in a study that was released before the 2011 ASAM proposal. The Scripps Research Institute, in a study connected to food addiction, recorded a correlation of substance abuse among humans and compulsive eating among rats. This 2009 study proved dopamine, a neurotransmitter connected to the satisfaction of anticipating a form of reward, is released in both eating and drug abuse activities.
Additionally, another early study that may point towards process addiction is one published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal in 2008. The study showed that there seems to be a direct link among individuals who engage in binge eating, substance abuse, and gambling. When compared, the study revealed that respondents from these varied activities all have a sense of urgency, that most do not consider the consequences of their selected activities.
The ASAM study in 2011 may very well be the trigger that set process addiction as a unique form of addiction. Further studies are being conducted in the correlation of compulsion and various forms of activities, in which addiction is the common denominator among the different activities.
Regardless of the type of activity, the trigger of engaging in an addictive activity is similar to addictions in the actual compulsive behavior. Generally, some common process addiction symptoms can be filtered to the following:
- A deep craving for the addicting activity.
- Having that rewarding sensation (or thrill) of the anticipation of getting something out of an addicting activity.
- Going through a “ritual” that will lead to the actual addicting activity (booting up a computer before a gaming session, preparing food to eat, contacting possible sex partners, setting up drug paraphernalia before the actual consumption of the substance, etc.).
- Experiencing the sensation one feels after indulging in the addicting activity (the “high” one gets from drugs, the feeling of being full after a meal, even living out destructive behavior after a one night stand or taking drugs, etc.).
- Associating the obsessive-compulsive behavior related to engaging in an addicting activity as an equal or even more powerful form of addiction.
To place process addiction in an even more focused perspective, here are some specific addiction symptoms that relate to behavioral addiction triggers:
The feeling of getting “hooked” in a game, regardless of what’s at stake, is a common link to behavioral addiction. The pleasure of getting a reward, no matter if the afflicted has already lost in terms of relationships, finances, and even health, is a major symptom of being addicted to compulsive behavior.
Getting addicted to purchases is a prime example of how one can trick him or herself on why there is a need to buy something. Sometimes, justifying purchases mainly because of a bargain or the promo attached to a product can be a form of addiction.
Social Media Addiction
Spending an immense amount of time in social media is a recent form of addiction. Updating one’s profile or simply scrolling on a feed can be damaging, especially if relationships, work or school commitments, and one’s health, are all directly affected because of the medium.
Indulging in consuming an immense amount of food also has a direct correlation on compulsive behavior. Individuals suffering from this condition are prone not only to physical health disorders but to mental ones as well, connected to obesity issues.
Treating process addiction depends on the type of addicting activity the individual is engaged with. Generally speaking, several treatment programs are available to help treat compulsive behavior related to this form of addiction. Here are some of these programs and strategies:
Given the deep connection to the nature of the mind, psychotherapy is a highly-recommended form of treatment to address process addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be a good choice, considering the identification and direct treatment to the emotions attached to the different forms of addicting activities the afflicted may be engaged in.
Given the high chance of dual diagnosis, a treatment plan that addresses both mental and substance (or whatever addicting activity) the afflicted are engaged in is a sound approach on how to treat this form of addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment will also help in offering treatment plans that will not aggravate the different disorders the individual is currently suffering from.
Seeking out and interacting with like-minded individuals is considered an excellent way to treat process addiction. In some cases, the afflicted may also need to deal with the negative stigma connected to his or her addiction. By having a support network, the individual may open up and be more receptive to possible treatment plans offered from his or her peers. Additionally, peer support is considered to be one of the best treatment strategies in dealing with process addiction – recent forms of addiction may still need some time for a proper treatment plan to be developed, and as such, a network is highly considered to help engage the individual towards a better alternative.
In what may be connected to all of the treatment strategies above, an intentional push towards a different approach in tackling activities may be a great way to address process addiction. In cases where process addiction is a routine, shifting towards a healthier alternative to replace the damaging activity may help the individual. Sober living homes are especially helpful when it comes to lifestyle changes.
Although the field is constantly evolving, process addiction can still be treated. As similar to other types of addiction, help is always available for the individual. Identifying the problem, addressing the different triggers, and creating solid treatment strategies are some of the best ways to help with this disorder. Behavioral addiction is best treated once the individual accepts the disorder.
Treating sex addiction is possible when the right steps are administered. Intentionally acknowledging that some routines are damaging will allow an individual to also see the possible repercussions he or she may experience when engaging in addicting activities.
Also, knowing the importance of psychotherapy is needed when dealing with sex addiction. This disorder mainly deals with the mind – the power of suggestion needs to be implemented, for an individual to accept that his or her actions will lead to negative effects.