Process addictions, also known as behavioral addictions, are addictions which are focused on a certain activity, behavior, or process, rather than a substance such as alcohol.
Behavioral addictions affect the brain in a very similar manner to substance addictions, by interfering with the neurotransmitters responsible for the release of dopamine and serotonin. However, behavioral addictions may impact these receptors indirectly, rather than directly. Those with process addictions may go through mood withdrawals in response to removal of the activity, but they do not undergo the basic physical withdrawal symptoms that sudden abstinence, from say drugs or alcohol, may cause.
Many experts believe that any activity which causes stimulation may become addictive. Ergo, this includes a wide range of activities, and addictive tendencies will ultimately depend on biological and genetic nuances present in each individual. Whereas heroin is highly addictive physically and mentally across the board, certain processes, gambling for example, are not. They are more likely to be hit and miss, although some obsessive behaviors and processes seem to be more addictive than others. Following is a brief overview of some common process addictions.
Gambling is a very common addictive behavior, as it is directly tied to money. Money, is our society, is a highly-sought out reward, and is often necessary for maintaining a comfortable life. In the part, gamblers were confined to card games and casinos, but in recent years the Internet has opened up a whole new world for gamblers. Gamblers will frequently go to great extents to obtain money with which to gamble, even in the face of massive losses, including family, friends, livelihood, or self-respect. Persons with gambling addictions often feel strongly that the next bet will be the one to put them back in the black. To fuel the addiction, overdrawing bank accounts, maxing out credit cards, and even taking out second mortgages are possible.
Persons with eating disorders are addicted to the process of eating, starvation, binging and purging, or some unhealthy form of food consumption. They exhibit ritualistic behavior in an effort to maintain or change something about their body. This may include eating strange foods, or odd behaviors such as chewing and spitting. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, body/muscular dysmorphia, and pica. Sufferers typically obsess over some aspect of their body. This can include everything from weight, fat ratio, and breast size to teeth, hair, skin, or just about any particular body part. They often exhibit depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem.
Internet addiction is a very new behavioral problem. However, it is already a far-flung addiction, and affects and interferes with the daily activities and social lives of millions of persons worldwide. Persons with severe Internet addictions will avoid places where they cannot access the Internet, or continue to use cell phones or computers during personal interactions.
In addition, they may be addicted to pornography, gaming, or some other Internet-based activity that is highly available. With so many people plugged in, it’s hard to know exactly where normal Internet use ends and addiction begins. It is only considered a problem when the person’s life is negatively impacted socially, financially, or emotionally due to a compulsive need to engage in Internet activities.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has a behavioral addiction, please seek help immediately.