Most people are acquainted with the concept of substance addictions and the idea of a process addiction may sound less familiar. With substance addictions, elements are introduced into your body to alter your reality in some manner. Process addictions are behaviors you engage in for the same outcome. With both, the user builds up a tolerance to the addiction and must increase the frequency and level of use to achieve the desired effect. The user or addict then becomes dependent on the addiction to regulate their moods, the addiction eventually becomes their primary need, and, even after negative consequences or attempts to stop on their own, the addict often returns to using.
Some common examples of process addictions include: internet/gaming, gambling, eating, exercise, shopping, working, sex/pornography. None of these behaviors are necessarily bad for you. Utilized in moderation and in a healthy way, they are part of our normal everyday living.
The hidden danger of process addictions is that they can be developed and flourish in plain sight. Sometimes they can be masked as healthy behaviors; for example, exercise. Recovery can be difficult because, with many of these addictions, they cannot be given up completely. The addict must curb his addiction while developing a healthy relationship with his addiction of choice.
All addictions can be over-simplified into “really lousy coping skills” and serve at least, if not all, of the flowing purposes: numbing, fantasy, deprivation, and arousal. Eating is a good example of a process addiction that meets all four of the needs (fantasy/arousal – there are entire television networks and websites dedicated to the arousal and fantasy of food; deprivation – eating disorders/restricted eating, numbing – mindless eating). The need to numb, escape to fantasy, experience arousal, or even feel shame are normal and healthy ways to manage stress and everyday life. For most people, the return to reality is more than they can manage.
Roughly 40% of addicts have more than one co-occurring addiction. Oftentimes, it is a substance along with a process. The addict seeks treatment for the substance and minimizes the process. Even though one addiction may no longer be present, the addiction remains. The addict is using another means for numbing, arousal, fantasy, or deprivation. There is a high likelihood of relapse when the cause/purpose is not addressed. There is also the chance that, in addressing the substance addiction, that the core addiction, the process addiction, is missed completely.
We are specifically trained to treat process addictions. We can help you identify how your negative coping developed, understand its purpose, create positive coping skills, and develop a healthy living plan. Clients will understand and identify their addictive cycles and will address the underlying trauma and negative thinking that drives your addiction.
If you’ve found that the tools you’ve used are no longer serving you, give us a call or email us at [email protected], we’re here to help guide you and to stand beside you as you start your recovery journey.