Process Addiction

How to find a treatment center for process addictions.

It’s pretty obvious when someone you know is addicted to drugs or alcohol, but there are other addictions that can cause equal devastation but don’t involve imbibing a particular substance. These addictions, called process addictions, can rob a person of  their health and happiness just as alcohol and  drugs do, but may be more difficult to identify and treat. Loss of control is a key component of these addictions and though you’re not ingesting anything (with the exception of eating disorders), withdrawal and other addiction characteristics still apply.

What is a Process Addiction ?

Specifically defined, a process addiction is a compulsion to engage to excess in an action that may create reward, but also cause serious negative consequences to one’s physical, mental, social and financial states. One of the most common process addictions familiar to many is gambling, but the list goes well beyond that. People may also become addicted to video gaming (and the internet), shopping, exercising, porn, sex, cutting and eating disorders, which include overeating, anorexia and bulimia. While some of these behaviors are a normal part of life, for those who cross the line into addiction, these areas have overgrown the scope of normalcy and  moved into the realm of compulsiveness.

Like substance addictions, process addictions provide a way to escape the stressors of everyday life by elevating mood and activating the reward centers of the brain. Some of these mechanisms include:
  • mood alteration
  • compulsions
  • craving
  • tolerance (the need to have more and more of the stimulation to achieve the same reward)
  • loss of control over behavior in spite of consequences
  • the need to hide, mask, control or justify the behavior
  • psychological rewards such as heightened well being and elevated self-esteem
  • withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression and anger

It’s not Rocket Science, but…

If one wants to doubt the fact that process addictions are “real” addictions, one needs only to look at the brain’s involvement. Studies have shown that even though the exact pathogenic mechanisms of the behavior patterns aren’t exactly know,  it is known that the same physiological mechanisms behind drug and alcoholic addictions are also involved in process addictions. The brain’s amygdala is involved with the emotional significance of learned behaviors associated with the dopamine reward system. When the addict accesses the behavior, a flood of dopamine is triggered.

The fast firing of these neurons activates the ”reward” system, creating in the brain a capacity to predict reward. The anticipation of reward then, happens at the earliest detection of the behavior itself. In a substance abuser, this phenomenon coupled with the body’s physical craving is the precursor of using. In the instance of process addiction, it’s the same, minus the physical effect of the drug of choice. In other words, both chemical and process addictions involve the same neuro-chemical reward/gratification system.

Like Pavlov’s dog drooling at the idea of food, ones’ brain chemicals robustly anticipate the gratification of a need, and relief comes only when the behavior is accessed. This complex process is influenced by genetics, social status, childhood and life experiences.  Just as with substances, that need becomes a necessity to feel “right.” Addicted people’s brains are abnormally over-excited at the prospect of receiving the reward.

Are Process Addictions Dangerous?

Even though process addictions can carry much the same devastation as chemical addiction, there is still so much more to be known, so inpatient treatment is not often covered by insurance. The exceptions are eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and overeating), since these may be life threatening.  Many insurance providers will address process addictions with outpatient treatment, however.  There are facilities that recognize the dangers these addictions carry and have created specific inpatient therapies tailored to these specific addictions. A gambling or shopping addiction may not destroy one’s liver, but it can destroy families and eat up retirements. Jobs and homes have been lost, savings have been drained, children may be neglected and the guilt/shame factors can wreak havoc on relationships and self-esteem.

It has even been reported on more than one occasion that video gamers have died from sitting and playing extensively for hours on end. Failure to eat and sleep properly are common consequences. A British Psychological Society reported a Korean man, sitting the same place for hours, died of  an exhaustion related heart attack sitting in a public place playing video games! Hours on end of inactivity can cause blood clots to form that can break free with sudden movement, triggering a stroke or heart attack. These may be extreme examples, but these are real consequences. The degree of developmental damage and effects on interpersonal relationships in young people is another area of concern.

How can I find Help?

With access to hundreds of treatment Centers, our trained professionals are skilled at finding the right fit for your specific addiction. Often, process addictions co-exist with substance abuse, but those addictions don’t come to light until the initial substance of abuse is eliminated. Sometimes a substance addiction can replace a process addiction, (a bulimic may stop the binge/purge cycle, for example,) because the psychological motives are assuaged by the calming effect of the substance.

Upon abstinence, however, the process addiction may again become active to fill the void left by the addictive substance; -another reason professional treatment is the best option. More and more there are treatment centers equipped to deal with both. A thorough intake specialist should be able to assess if both process and substance abuse should be treated concurrently, in which financing may be less of an obstacle.Our trained staff of professionals are qualified to help you assess what type of treatment will be the best fit to ensure you or your loved one gets the help you need.

But how does one go about finding the right program?

If this all looks very overwhelming… it is! But that’s what we are here for. Call us at 877-696-0843 and we can help make this process much easier. We will narrow down all of these aspects and find the best program for you or your loved one with all your concerns considered. It’s as simple as making that first call. And the best part is that we are a free service. The road to recovery starts here!

877-696-0843We are a free service



Whatever path to recovery you choose, our staff has access to hundreds of treatment centers to assure the best personalized treatment for you, then with continued follow up to help you make the transition to sober living as seamless as possible.

Our trained staff of professionals are qualified to help you assess what type of treatment will be the best fit to ensure you or your loved one gets the help you need.

But how does one go about finding the right program?

If this all looks very overwhelming....it is! But that's what we are here for. Call us at 888-205-8608 and we can help make this process much easier. We will narrow down all of these aspects and find the best program for you or your loved one with all your concerns considered. It's as simple as making that first call. And the best part is that we are a free service. The road to recovery starts here!

888-205-8608
We are a free service

contact us today