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Process or behavioral addictions can be classified as behaviors that can become compulsive and create a dependency over time. Characterizations that could indicate an addiction might include an inability to stop the action even when it causes problems with relationships or your job. While process addictions may not take the same toll as drugs or alcohol, consequences can be quite devastating to a person’s quality of life.

The Chemistry of Addiction

Process addictions are different from substance use disorders, in that they stem from behaviors rather than drugs or alcohol. However, much of the physiology and the consequences are very similar. Like drugs and alcohol, process addictions affect the pleasure center of the brain, creating a “high” that the individual craves again and again. Instead of an actual substance, process addictions involve a behavior such as gambling or shopping. Even natural, healthy activities like sex and eating can become problematic if the individual develops an unhealthy response to the practices.

Like substance use disorders, behavioral addictions can be identified as continued behavior despite negative consequences. The person becomes unable to control the action, even if they feel guilt, shame or remorse after the activity. In fact, these feelings can exacerbate the issue in the long run. Some people even turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve these uncomfortable emotions, resulting in a co-occurring disorder that can be much more challenging to treat effectively.

Types of Behavior Addictions

Some examples of process addictions addressed at the Center for Professional Recovery include:

Gambling

This profitable industry is also a bane to those who become addicted to the act of gambling, resulting in financial devastation and other severe consequences in the most extreme cases. The introduction of online gambling in recent years has increased the problem exponentially as access can be a close as the nearest device. As many as five million men and women in the U.S. may meet the criteria for compulsive gambling, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Eating

Food is a necessity to our very existence, but for some people, eating can become an addiction that leads to substantial weight gain or loss, a host of medical issues and loss of self-esteem. In 2009, the Yale Food Addiction Scale was created to help identify potential eating addictions. A study out of Canada found that more than five percent of individuals may have an eating addiction and the percentage goes up to nearly eight percent of people that are classified as obese.

Sex and Love

Sex is a vital activity for healthy relationships, but when it becomes addictive, it can affect an individual’s ability to bond with a significant other and even prevent them from fulfilling daily obligations. People addicted to sexual encounters may put themselves at higher risk for sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Anywhere from 12 to 30 million men and women in the U.S. may struggle with sex addiction, according to HealthResearchFunding.org.

Shopping

Retail has become a lucrative industry, and more people choose shopping as an enjoyable pastime as well as a necessity. When shopping crosses the line to addiction, the act of purchasing items becomes less about enjoyment and more about attempting to escape from negative emotions or fill a void in a person’s life. Shopping addiction can lead to severe financial consequences and loss of relationships in some cases. Up to six percent of women and five percent of men may fall under the umbrella of compulsive shoppers, according to a Stanford University study.

Pornography

The Internet has accelerated pornography use at unprecedented rates today, which has also increased the number of people suffering the shattering effects of pornography addiction. Those that become addicted to porn may have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and can develop sexual dysfunction issues as a result. Common estimates show that as many as 40 million people may visit pornographic websites daily in the U.S.

Process Addiction and Substance Abuse

While process addictions can be exceedingly damaging on their own, the addition of drugs or alcohol to the mix can create an even greater challenge. People struggling with compulsive behaviors may turn to substances to deal with the negative feelings associated with the behaviors, which can compound the addiction issues quickly and exponentially. When behavior addiction is combined with substance abuse, it is known as a co-occurring disorder. Treatment becomes more complex as the conditions need to be addressed simultaneously to overcome both additions. Not all treatment facilities are adequately equipped to handle co-occurring disorders successfully.

Doctors, lawyers, pilots and other in high-profile professions may feel even more intense shame over their behavior addictions, fearing that if the condition came to light, they could lose everything they have worked so hard to gain in their lives. Fortunately, both compulsive behaviors and substance abuse can be successfully treated simultaneously, allowing individuals to restore their personal and professional lives in most cases. The Center for Professional Recovery specializes in treating professionals with co-occurring addictions from a wide range of industries, providing comfortable, confidential care in an environment surrounded by peers. To learn more about our program, contact the Center for Professional Recovery today at 855.422.4129.

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