Process addictions are addictions to an activity or process, such as gambling, eating, spending, sex, and work. But are process addictions real? Many of the symptoms are similar to those of substance use disorders.
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Types of Process Addictions
While you may still be questioning, “are process addictions real?” the following disorders have genuine symptoms.
People diagnosed with this disorder are frequently highly competitive, prone to other addictive-type disorders, and overly concerned with others’ approval. The symptoms of pathological gambling include persistent gambling despite mounting difficulties and problems with financial, vocational, and interpersonal functioning. The most effective treatment is professional counseling and an adaptation of the Alcoholics Anonymous model for alcohol and drug addictions.
The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health defines sexual addiction as a persistent and escalating pattern (or patterns) of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. Sexual addiction is a very real—and very serious—problem affecting an estimated three to six percent of adults in the United States. Behaviors associated with sexual addiction include out-of-control, repetitive actions such as:
- Simultaneous or sequential repetitive affairs
- Multiple anonymous partners
- Unsafe sexual activity
- Visits to strip clubs and adult bookstores
- Cyber sex, phone sex
- Objectification, partner sexualization
- Sexual aversion
Treatment for sexual addiction, unlike treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, does not have the goal of abstinence. Rather, the goal is the elimination of compulsive, unhealthy sexual behavior. Since many individuals with a sexual addiction also have other types of addiction (alcohol, drugs), many addiction treatment centers have components in their treatment programs to simultaneously address/treat sexual addiction.
Workaholics are those obsessed with work, striving to work longer and harder than others, constantly bringing work home, working while on vacation, and tied to their cell phones and computers. Symptoms of work addiction include:
- Low self-esteem
- Approval seeking
- Control and authority issues
- Preoccupation with work
Treatment for work addiction may be offered in conjunction with a co-occurring substance abuse problem or through individual and group therapy. Individuals may also get help by attending Workaholics Anonymous, a 12-step fellowship group that operates under principles established by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Spending addiction is not a single instance of out-of-control shopping. When a person is a compulsive spender, they cannot get enough spending. Instead, the individual is consumed with an insatiable desire to spend, despite a lack of money in the bank, maxed-out credit cards, and inability to pay bills and other household expenses. Like other addictions, someone struggling with spending may experience:
They might constantly lie to cover up the addiction, deny there is a problem, and seek to shift blame to others. To numb themselves, they engage in non-stop spending, which, for a brief period, makes them forget about their underlying issues. Treatment for spending addiction involves individual and group therapy and attendance at 12-step fellowship groups such as Spenders Anonymous.
Process Addiction Treatment
So, are process addictions real? Now that you know more about them, you can make your own decision. If you struggle with a process addiction, you know it can be difficult to stop that behavior.
The first step in treating a process addiction is to get rid of anything associated with the addiction. This may mean quitting a job, getting rid of credit cards, or breaking up with a romantic partner. Once the individual is no longer involved in the addictive behavior, they can begin to work on the underlying issues that led to the addiction. Some of the evidence-based therapies used for substance use disorders can also effectively relieve process addiction symptoms.
Common treatments include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy helps patients identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their addiction.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – DBT is a form of CBT that emphasizes mindfulness and acceptance. It can be particularly helpful for people who have trouble with impulsivity and emotional regulation.
- Group therapy – Groups provide support and accountability as well as an opportunity to share experiences and coping strategies.
- Family therapy – Addictions often impact the whole family. Family therapy can help repair relationships and improve communication.