Many people only think of addictions in the context of drugs or alcohol. However, process (or behavioural) addictions, such as sex addiction or gambling addiction, can be just as devastating. They involve people repeatedly engaging in a behaviour despite it having harmful consequences to their well-being, relationships, and even health.
At Revoke by Animo Healthcare, we offer customised treatment packages at our Central London location to help clients overcome process addictions. Our bespoke approach includes one-to-one and group therapy, carried out by our highly trained experts. The Revoke Programme takes place around your daily schedule – you won’t have to miss work or personal commitments to focus on your recovery.
Process addictions don’t need to control your life any longer – our team help you find freedom.
Understanding Process Addictions
All addictions centre on our reward system, in particular the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical causes us to enjoy the activity we’re doing. People feel the pleasurable effects of dopamine when they engage in beneficial activities such as socialising or exercising. However, for some, addictive behaviours cause a massive dopamine release which is hugely enjoyable and alters the way we feel, much like using drugs or alcohol. This leads us to want to repeat these behaviours to chase the euphoric feeling.
People with process addictions will continue these behaviours regardless of the harm it’s causing and the shame and remorse that follows. They typically fixate on these behaviours and will make huge sacrifices to avoid the uncomfortable feeling caused by stopping.
Different Types of Process Addictions
The only process addiction currently recognised as a medical condition by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is gambling addiction, with many others falling under mental health disorders.
Despite this, there is clear evidence that addiction to any of these behaviours can be just as destructive as substance addiction. They have the same negative effects and consequences on interpersonal relationships and employment, as these are neglected in favour of the addiction. This has a cyclical effect as the person retreats further into the familiar comfort of their behaviour to avoid facing their reality.
While people can develop addictions around anything that changes the way they feel, some behaviours are more common than others. The most typical are:
Exercise addiction is a general obsession with fitness, exercise, and health. It can be caused by body image or eating disorders and could be related to the post-workout endorphin rush we get when we stop working out. People with exercise addiction risk losing excessive amounts of weight, and their compulsive behaviour may lead them to train despite being injured.
Food addiction can be a process addiction as well as an eating disorder. People with food addiction typically cannot stop eating despite the fact that is harming them. They may experience cravings and sugar tolerance and withdrawal and may eat to cope with negative thoughts.
People with gambling addiction have the desire to gamble despite the fact that it has a range of negative consequences. Whether it’s horses, football, slot machines or online games, compulsive gamblers get caught up in a vicious cycle of euphoric highs and lows as they chase their next win, while accruing massive debts that can ultimately cost them everything.
Most of us use the internet without it interfering in our daily lives. However, internet addiction is different – it affects our sleep and time management, resulting in an increased risk of mental health conditions and diminished social skills.
People with this addiction spend an inordinate amount of time looking at pornography and will prioritise this over their essential daily activities. People often feel a great deal of shame about this habit, which can prevent them from reaching out for treatment.
Sex and Love Addiction
Sex addiction is compulsively pursuing sex and sexual arousal. It can cause people to engage in practices such as unsafe sex and infidelity and as such, can seriously harm romantic relationships.
People with love addiction typically believe that the right relationship will solve all of their problems and will attach all of their self-worth and security to it. This can result in unhealthy relationships with unbalanced power dynamics.
This addiction results in impulsive spending habits where people get a euphoric high from shopping, often to boost poor self-esteem or counter mental health symptoms. People usually feel regret after a spending spree, keep their shopping habits secret, and live beyond their means.
Video Game Addiction
People with gaming addiction usually have poor impulse control around video games. They may prioritise playing over other important aspects of their lives, including sleep, work, and romantic relationships.
People with work addiction are often highly dedicated to their careers, often at the expense of their emotional and physical well-being. They might be extremely loyal to their employer, be anxious about being laid off, and have unrealistic expectations about the level of success they should be achieving.
Causes of Process Addictions
As with all compulsive behaviours, process addictions can have many causes. There is evidence that genes can make you more susceptible to developing addictions, as can living with addicted family members.
Other factors that increase the risk of process addiction include:
- Undiagnosed mental health conditions
- Childhood trauma including bullying, abuse, and neglect
- A chaotic home environment
- Spending time with others with process addictions
Symptoms of a Process Addiction
While many of us will engage in the behaviours listed above, not everyone will develop an addiction. Understanding the warning signs of a process addiction can help us know when to reach out for help. It’s important to remember that not all problematic behaviours are necessarily addictions.
Some of the most common symptoms of a process addiction are:
- Repeatedly engaging in a behaviour even though you’re aware it’s harmful
- Obsessively thinking about a behaviour
- Having difficulty stopping a behaviour, despite your best attempts
- Ignoring other life responsibilities to focus on the behaviour
- Using the behaviour to distract yourself from difficult thoughts or emotions
- Lying to others about the behaviour
- Spending more than you can afford on the behaviour
- Experiencing emotional distress if you can’t engage in the behaviour
Process Addiction and Substance Addictions
Process addictions and substance addictions often co-occur. The urges originate in the same parts of the brain, work on the same neurotransmitters, and are often unhealthy ways of coping with the way we feel.
There are links between different substances and behaviours, for example, people with a gambling addiction are much more likely to drink problematically and people who use stimulants are more likely to become addicted to sex.
It is possible to switch between process addictions and substance addictions independently as people attempt to manage one by turning to another. Ultimately, this just prolongs the addiction and effective treatment should address the root cause of the problem rather than the symptomatic behaviour.
Treatment for Process Addiction
Treating process addictions can be incredibly difficult to do alone, and left untreated they can have devastating consequences on our personal, financial, and social lives. Professional intervention can help people understand their motives for pursuing a behaviour and can also educate them on how to manage their addiction.
At Revoke by Animo Healthcare, we combine an in-depth assessment to deliver a thorough diagnosis, followed by a bespoke therapy plan tailored to your exact needs.
We use traditional talking-based psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy to help you reframe any negative beliefs you might have and strengthen your stress tolerance, which is critical for successful recovery.
We also use group therapy where you can share your challenges and triumphs and listen to how others have overcome their particular problems. Process addictions can leave us feeling alienated and alone. Being part of a group and being able to share in a controlled and caring environment helps us remember that this is not the case.
If your process addiction co-occurs with another condition, such as a substance use disorder, we offer combined treatment. Our experts will work with you to develop a therapeutic treatment plan that addresses each area in detail and gives you the best chance for a successful recovery.
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Revoke by Animo Healthcare offers specialist behavioural rehabilitation treatment plans to ensure you can recover and can lead a positive, fulfilling life.
If you have been struggling with compulsive behaviours, help starts here. Revoke by Animo Healthcare can provide the therapeutic support you need to escape process addiction. Please call us for more details, to ask any questions, or to schedule an assessment and start to reclaim your life today.
We are here to help
You are not alone. Reach out to us today if you would like to find out more about The Revoke Programme by Animo Healthcare.
The Revoke Programme by Animo Healthcare is a leading outpatient treatment programme and is part of the Animo & Associates Group.