What is a “Process Addiction”?
Process addictions are behavioral addictions that are compulsive in nature and can either be independent or accompany substance addictions. They can also signify that more therapeutic work needs to be done once a person has achieved abstinence from substances. A process addiction can be debilitating for both the user and the family. They also hijack the same parts of the brain that are involved in substance use disorders. Because of this, many of the behaviors can be similar – obsession with the behavior, deflection and minimization, dishonesty, stealing, emotional instability, and guilt and shame. Process addictions often are overlooked. But they can be just as (if not more!) damaging to the addicted and their loved ones.
The list of process addictions is exhaustive, but here are some of the common ones:
Eating disorders involve compulsive and damaging patterns around food and exercise. They can present in many different ways, but the negative impact on the individual engaged in eating disorder behaviors is the same.
Eating disorders can show up through extreme restriction of food intake, overuse of foods for purposes of self-soothing, ingesting substances to help get rid of foods such as laxatives, cycles of binging and purging, over-exercising and being obsessive about workout routines, eliminating entire food groups altogether, being overly fixated on eating “healthy,” or use of stimulants or steroids to aid in achieving their perfect body.
On the outside, eating disorders often get overlooked because they can appear as though a person is making healthy food choices or taking care of their body at the gym.
Our culture openly accepts dieting obsessively and this idea of a “perfect” figure. This is made worse by filters and photo-shopping on social media and unrealistic ideals from celebrities and other influencers. The individual struggling with an eating disorder is hyper-fixated on their next meal, their next gym session, and what their body looks like at all times. They struggle with shame and emotional regulation.
A calorie deficit robs the brain of performing in the way that is intended. It is very difficult to ask for help for this disorder. These behaviors are compulsive and all-consuming and can lead to major medical issues. In fact, eating disorders are the number one cause of death of all mental health conditions, including substance use.
The mental health community is seeing more and more damage done to individuals and their families by gambling disorders. Gambling and other high-risk financial behaviors are being moved from casinos to virtual platforms. Thus, the devastation from these behaviors has become much more far-reaching. Gambling is showing up in our population via casinos, online poker, sports betting, card trading, fantasy sports, and obsession with scratch-offs and lottery tickets.
Just like all process addictions, these problematic behaviors become all-consuming for the person who is addicted.
Individuals become hooked on the highs and lows of gambling. This feeling mimics the rush of drugs and becomes quite addictive. While these behaviors provide a sense of entertainment and recreation for the average person, a gambling addict (otherwise known as a “compulsive gambler”) experiences problematic symptoms such as a loss of control regarding the output of financial resources, obsessive thought patterns, justifying and minimizing behaviors, shame about the gambling, and financial deception with their families and loved ones. Gamblers are at an increased risk of depression and suicide.
The world has become a place where people are compulsively tied to their phones, computers, social media platforms, and gaming devices at all times. Similar to substance use disorders, for a person struggling with a digital addiction, these devices become a way to check out of the world. Everything in life becomes secondary to the digital world. Real interactions with other humans, employment, family relations, school, finances, and a person’s sleep cycle are disrupted by this obsession. For this digital addict, social interaction and self-esteem are derived almost entirely from a fantasy world found inside an electronic device. They often become emotionally dysregulated and struggle with real-life interactions with those around them and otherworldly obligations of daily living.
Codependency is another example of a process addiction that can be very destructive. Fixating all of your energy on another person’s emotions or well-being can be entirely debilitating. Often these individuals have very deep work of their own to be done. Being a chronic “fixer” of others can and often does become extremely intoxicating.
The codependent can appear to be very caring. And a lot of people will have empathy for the anxiety that they are feeling. However, there is a secondary gain of focusing so much attention on another individual. In doing so, this person is able to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy and shame. Fixation on friendships, romantic relationships, or their children’s behaviors, can completely override all other obligations in a person’s life. This can have major emotional, medical, and financial repercussions.
Of note, codependency is also a huge barrier in the recovery process for the individual who is struggling with addiction. It can enable the process for this person, which is ultimately destructive to all parties involved.
More about Process Addictions
Process addictions rob people of serenity and the relationships that are the most important to them. Almost any behavior can become problematic if it is used compulsively over a period of time. People also become addicted to shopping, stealing, hoarding, romantic relationships, OCD behaviors, sex, pornography, and shopping. Any behavior that is engaged compulsively, can be accompanied by shame and guilt or involves deception, minimization, or the need to hide it. These behaviors are worthwhile to investigate or seek treatment for. The goal of sobriety or real recovery is not simply putting down the drug or the drink (or behavior in this case); rather, the goal is to be a person who feels at peace in themselves as a human being and operates with integrity in all of their affairs.
Begin Working With An Addiction Therapist in Palm Beach, FL
Mangrove Therapy Group clinicians specialize in all aspects of addiction, substance use disorders, and trauma recovery. Our team helps clients dig deep and find lasting serenity in their daily lives, and this includes examining and treating all existing trauma, family disruptions, unhealthy thought patterns, and maladaptive behaviors.
- Contact our office to make an appointment for help with your process addiction
- Check out our page on EMDR Therapy
- Get help with anger management, self-esteem, or body image concerns
- Start regaining control of your life!
Other Services Offered With Mangrove Therapy Group
Addiction treatment isn’t the only service Mangrove Counseling offers. Our therapists are experts in treating trauma, EMDR, and PTSD/C-PTSD, eating disorders, body image issues, anger management, anxiety, low self-esteem, and much more. Please feel free to learn more about how we can support you by giving us a call or visiting our blog page today!