Process Addictions- Can you spot your warning signs?

Process Addiction

When the word addiction is mentioned, most people automatically think of addiction in terms of Drugs or Alcohol, but Process addiction can be just as detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health as drugs and alcohol.

There are many forms of process addiction which include food, internet, gaming and shopping. If the addictive activity is carried out on a regular basis, the individual may begin to build a tolerance to the reward state, and riskier behaviour becomes intensified to reach a higher state of reward/euphoria leading to increased levels of dopamine.

Unidentified Process addictions can cause the individual to have compulsive thoughts and behaviours, they may cause the individual to become irrational and take risks that would seem dangerous or insane to other people.

In the coming weeks I will be covering eating disorders and other process addictions, however, the most prevalent forms of Process Addictions that have received most media coverage of late seem to be gambling and sex addictions

Gambling Addiction/disorder develops into the uncontrollable urge/need take negative risks to gain reward, be it online, or physically walking into a casino or betting shop. The individual gets to a point where gambling is the one thought that overrides all others, the individual seeks to raise their endorphin levels, and just as with drug and alcohol can lead to chaos in the person’s life and the people around them. It can cause financial ruin, leading to severe financial insecurity, loss of assets and employment. This can lead to the breakdown in their relationships and the very real risk of committing crime to continue to fund their addiction.

Sex addiction is a persistent urge/need to partake in acts of a sexual nature and similarly to gambling the individual’s behaviour escalates. An individual who is in this process will engage with multiple strangers that they may meet with through the internet and the many apps that are being developed promising instant gratification and “no strings” they will risk arrest by kerb crawling and meeting with other individuals in public conveniences they also risk contracting sexually transmitted diseases. They will engage in excessive masturbation whilst watching pornography for hours at a time. Other forms can include voyeurism, fetishes and exhibitionism. These all carry risks, the individual may find themselves dissatisfied with the material they use and look for a greater high, the individual may look for images that involve minors, violence or humiliation. The fetishes may lead to injury or death and exhibitionism may lead to arrest for indecent exposure.

Process addictions can be hard to identify, and a good treatment centre will work with the individual to look at their negative patterns of behaviour to work on the process. As more and more of us spend much of our time online and on mobile devices these negative patterns of behaviour may sit beneath the radar for longer periods of time as the effects, and it may not be well into recovery that these traits will be identified.

Until recently drug and alcohol Addictions were the only addictions that were recognised by the medical profession in general, however due to the links to mental health issues, more and more it is been readdressed.

Many individuals in long term alcohol and drug addiction treatment suffer from one or more process addiction. Once abstinent from drugs and alcohol there is sometimes a void felt, and in order to fill it the individual may look to other mood altering behaviours. At this time it is an idea to maybe address the issues they face through re-entering treatment or to seek help from a therapist who can help identify the triggers and support the individual to overcome them, leading to a hopefully, a more manageable, secure existence and stronger recovery.

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