What is a process addiction?
A process addiction is any disorder that does not involve chemical usage.  Process disorders can include compulsive gambling, sexual addiction, Internet addiction, or compulsive shopping.  These addictions are considered behavioral in nature such as visiting a local casino when feeling overwhelmed or when experiencing stress, or excessive shopping to alleviate anxiety or depression.  
The behaviors can cause significant impairment to daily functioning and can interfere with relationships or work interests.  
Even though a substance is not ingested, inhaled, smoked, or snorted, this does not diminish the severity of a process addiction.  There are still problems that can arise from participating in process-oriented behavior including legal trouble, lack of control, and relationship problems.  The addictive behavior can become such that the individual develops a compulsion to participate in the behavior.  This means that the individual may feel like they have to engage in the behavior and there are no choices except to visit the casino, engage in sexual encounters with multiple partners, or spend money that one does not have.  In addition, there are issues with obsessions related to process addictions.  An obsession means that the individual thinks about the problem behavior even when not engaged in the activity.  A person may find that the obsessions prevent them from concentrating at school or work, or may begin to cause problems in personal relationships. , the addiction controls the life of the addict and all behavior centers around where to find resources to engage in the behavior.  
A process addiction is just as complex as a drug or alcohol addiction and oftentimes, the genesis of the disorder is similar to an alcoholic or drug addict.  Genetics, psychological disorders, and personal experiences can all contribute to the development of a process disorder.  Process addictions do have a physical component.  When engaging in compulsive gambling behavior, for example, the gambler can experience the same heightened physical response to gambling as an alcoholic would experience with alcohol.  Over time, what begins as a social outing to gamble or a well-deserved shopping spree, process addictions can become problematic as the individual seeks to maintain the euphoria experienced.  
One concern related to process disorders is related to treatment.  As human beings, we need to eat, have appropriate sexual relationships with spouses and significant others and we do need to shop.  Treatment for process addictions should be specific to the disorder, as one will need to learn to stop engaging in the compulsive behavior while working through emotional, legal, and relational issues in order to eat, shop, and engage in appropriate, non-compulsive sexual activity.  Often, treatment involves individual therapy, group therapy, family systems therapy,
pharmacologic interventions, and 12-step programs.  The goal of treatment is abstinence from the problematic forms of the behavior and learning effective coping skills so that one can think about food, sex, shopping, and Internet use without the recurring obsessive thoughts and subsequent behavior manifestations.

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