When people think of addiction, they normally associate it with substances such as alcohol and drugs. However, some individuals are addicted to a certain behaviour or activity – such as gambling, sex, shopping, or the internet. These are called process or behavioural addictions and they are characterised by obsessive feelings and compulsive behaviours.
Process addictions are not generally measured in quantity, but instead by the negative consequences created by repeatedly engaging in the behaviour or activity and how it impacts on the individual, and all those around them – family, loved ones and colleagues.
A behaviour or activity that quite often starts as a way for someone to feel better about themselves or their situation, can turn into a life-altering habit, which damages their relationships, their finances and even their health.
There is still some question around whether any behaviour that is harmful to a person’s ability to function should be called an addiction, and research is ongoing; what is known, is that common process addictions tend to focus on high-reward or high-risk actions.
Here are some of the most common behavioural addictions.
Gambling addiction, also called gambling disorder or compulsive gambling, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite negative financial and emotional consequences. This could be betting on the horses, online, at the casino, on slot machines or even playing the lottery.
Video game addiction is the problematic and compulsive use of video or internet games, which over a prolonged period results in significant damage to other areas of an individual’s life.
Shopping addiction or oniomania is the preoccupation with continually making purchases, often not needed, to avoid feelings of anxiety and depression, or to get a fix from doing so.
Social media addiction is a behavioural addiction characterised by the constant and repeated overuse of social networking sites – platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder. Users will be driven by an uncontrollable desire to log on and check their accounts or posts. Feelings of validation and acceptance will become linked and determined by the number of likes or responses they receive.
Internet addiction, also sometimes referred to as compulsive or problematic internet use, is when the excessive and unnecessary use of a computer interferes with an individual’s daily life affecting their mental health and general well-being. It can also impact relationships, work, and social skills.
Sex and love addiction are emotional intimacy disorders. Sex addiction is characterised by a fixation with sexual activities, and a compulsive desire to obtain arousal. In the pursuit of fulfilling this need an individual can be driven to engage in risky sexual practices and put themselves in dangerous situations.
Love addiction is often described as the overwhelming need to feel loved. It is common for those affected to be obsessed with the idea of being in love and being in a relationship. They may have numerous relationships or stay in a destructive or toxic one to avoid being alone. They will go to extraordinary lengths to find a partner and will feel worthless if they are not in a relationship.
Porn addiction is a compulsive behaviour where the individual spends an undue amount of time watching pornography. The behaviour can result in damage to interpersonal relationships and have an impact on other areas of a person’s life.
Work addiction, sometimes referred to as workaholism, is the uncontrollable need to work incessantly, experiencing feelings of guilt or apprehension when not at work or dealing with work issues. It often stems from underlying psychological needs, to escape emotional stress or a compulsive need to achieve status and success.
Food addiction is an eating disorder that occurs when a person loses control over their eating behaviour. Eating triggers feel-good chemicals in the brain which encourage a person to keep eating despite no longer being hungry, leading to obesity and other negative consequences. Along with other eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating – food addiction can have serious health complications – both physical and mental.
Exercise addiction is characterised by an obsession with health, fitness, and training. With the individual using ever increasingly intense exercise and workout regimes to obtain a high or achieve a sense of accomplishment. Side effects can include extreme weight loss and injury.
Process addiction shares similarities with substance addiction except that the person is not addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the behaviour and feelings brought about by engaging in the activity.
In addition, the physical symptoms of substance addiction are removed, however, some will experience consequences related to the lack of care and attention to their body and its health welfare (because of a reduction in sleep, healthy food, and regular exercise).
If you suspect a family member or loved one has a process addiction there are several signs you can look out for. Or it could be yourself you are concerned about – see if any of these symptoms raise a warning flag.
• An excessive amount of time spent engaging in, or thinking about, the behaviour or activity.
• Negative consequences as a result (finances, relationships, health).
• Lies, secrecy and defensiveness about participation.
• Reduced ability to control the behaviour.
• Neglect of responsibilities because of preoccupation in activity.
• Increasing disregard of other hobbies and friends.
• Decline in personal hygiene and care for health – poor sleeping and eating habits.
• Using the activity to escape from challenging situations or difficult feelings and emotions.
• Failed attempts to try and limit, control, or stop involvement in the behaviour.
• A need to increase the frequency or intensity of the behaviour to continue to achieve pleasure and satisfaction from it.
• Moodiness, irritability, and restlessness when access to the activity is restricted.
• An increase in mental health problems such as anxiety or depression – especially if access to the behaviour is denied.
Treatment for process addictions is similar to treatment for substance use disorders. Some of the options that are available include –
Talk therapy and counselling
Used independently, or in conjunction with other treatment methods, counselling and talk therapy have proved hugely successful when dealing with all types of mental health issues, which often leave sufferers isolated and lonely. Giving someone a safe space to connect and talk about their feelings, whether it is in a group or on a one-to-one basis, is a key factor in resolving any underlying emotional problems.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic practice that teaches people to identify their unhelpful, inaccurate, and destructive thought patterns which lead them to negative emotions and behaviours. Once identified individuals then learn to use coping mechanisms and problem-solving to change these thoughts and how they act on them, thus improving how they feel and behave.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
TMS is a non-invasive form of brain stimulation therapy that has proved effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety, substance, and compulsive addiction. TMS treatment is performed in outpatient clinics and rehabilitation centres. There are minimal side effects and patients function normally immediately following each session.
Equine facilitated therapy
In equine-assisted therapy, looking after the horses encourages growth. It helps build trust, confidence, and self-control and individuals learn about responsibility, boundaries and how to focus. At the same time, the equine psychotherapist can assess a client’s state of mind and wellbeing through their interaction with the animal and how the horse responds.
Daycare and drop-in clinics
Daycare courses and out-patient drop-in centres provide a protected and secure environment for many to attend weekly or daily counselling sessions and enable participation in peer-group fellowship meetings.
Residential rehab is a good way for someone suffering from an addiction or disorder to get away from their daily life and all the distractions that go with it, giving them time to focus fully on their recovery. A well-established private rehab centre, or specialised addiction clinic will use a combination of therapy models to treat an individual’s primary and co-occurring conditions.
Rehab in Spain
Here at our luxury rehabilitation centre, set on the beautiful Spanish island of Ibiza, we have a highly qualified team experienced in a range of therapies for the treatment of process and substance addiction. We also treat anxiety, depression, trauma, and other conditions affecting mental health.
Alongside the more traditional methods of individual and group counselling, we use transcranial magnetic stimulation and equine-facilitated psychotherapy.
For any information about the rehab centre, including details on admissions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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