Process Addictions: Definitions, Examples, and Treatments

People like to have fun. They like to eat, gamble, be intimate with one another, shop, use the internet, and play video games. These behaviors are not out of the ordinary. The problem is that, for some people, these behaviours aren’t just recreational; they’re the top priority.

While most people think of addicted individuals as people who need drugs or alcohol, a person can become addicted to specific behaviors. 

At Luxe Recovery LA, we offer people treatment for a variety of concerns, including substance use disorders, mental health challenges, and process addictions.

What is Process Addiction?

A process addiction, sometimes called a behavioral addiction, is when a person is addicted to a specific process or behavior. It’s a type of addiction that is characterized by compulsive engagement in addictive behaviors despite adverse consequences. Process addiction revolves around behaviors that trigger a release of dopamine in the brain, creating a cycle of reward and craving.

Different Types of Process Addiction

There are different types of process addiction, much in the same way that there are different kinds of substance addiction. Some examples of process addictions include:

Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is a kind of process addiction in which a person gambles compulsively. A person can win a fortune or suffer negative consequences, but they’ll want to keep gambling. This is because, for people who gamble, it’s not about whether or not they win or lose; they get a high from playing.

Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction is a kind of process addiction wherein a person is addicted to shopping. They may not necessarily want or need the items that they are buying, but the very act of shopping is enough to give them the rush of dopamine that they want.

Internet Addiction

A person with an internet addiction will spend excessive amounts of time on the internet. This can lead to negative impacts on an individual’s personal, social, and professional life. This condition is sometimes referred to as problematic internet use (PIU) or internet use disorder (IUD).

Sex and Porn Addiction

Porn and sex addiction are process addictions in which people continually seek out porn and sexual gratification. These behaviors can cause significant distress in daily life. These process addictions involve a persistent and escalating pattern of behavior that individuals find difficult to control despite negative consequences.

Sex and porn addiction can also impact a person’s romantic relationships as porn may give them unrealistic expectations of what to expect with intimacy, and they may exhibit unscrupulous behavior during intimacy.

Food Addiction

Food addiction is a kind of process addiction wherein a person is addicted to eating food. Often, this results in people eating far more food than they would need to survive. Food addiction can often result in health complications, especially those that are related to diet, such as diabetes and gout. 

For many food addicts, the food itself is secondary. Eating is how they deal with some emotional disturbance.

Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction is a process addiction where individuals compulsively play video games, neglecting personal, social, and professional responsibilities.

This addiction may lead to significant distress and impairment in daily functioning, requiring professional treatment and support.

Exercise Addiction

Exercise addiction is a type of addiction wherein a person is addicted to exercising, even if it gets to the point where they may be injuring themselves or suffering pain as a result of working out.

How is Behavioral Addiction Different from Substance Use Disorder?

The main difference between process addiction and substance use disorders is that these behaviors do not cause the same physical effects that many substances do. While food addiction and sex addiction can have physical consequences, compulsive gambling, shopping, gaming, or internet usage will not degrade a person’s health the same way that illicit substances do.

Behavioural addictions primarily involve psychological dependence, where the person feels compelled to continue the behaviour to achieve emotional or mental satisfaction without the physical dependence, though a person may still go through withdrawal, as they would with substance use disorder.

What Causes Process Addiction?

Process addiction, or behavioral addiction, is caused by a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors. On the psychological front, these compulsive behaviors may be used as a coping mechanism for stress, trauma, or mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Biologically, these behaviors trigger the brain’s reward system, giving a person a rush of dopamine and creating feelings of pleasure that reinforce the compulsive behavior. Much like substance abuse, tolerance develops over time, requiring more frequent engagement to achieve the same level of satisfaction. 

Environmental factors can also play a significant role. Having easy access to activities like gambling, the internet, or shopping can increase a person’s vulnerability to these process addictions.

Furthermore, social and cultural influences can normalize or even encourage these behaviors.

Individual traits such as impulsivity and low self-esteem further increase a person’s susceptibility to process addictions.

Being able to understand these myriad causes is crucial for effectively treating and managing process addictions through comprehensive therapeutic approaches and support systems.

What Is the Treatment For Process Addiction?

Addiction treatment programs for process addiction need to be multifaceted to help individuals regain control over their behaviors, address underlying issues, and may include interventions to address co-occurring mental health conditions or substance use, as many people who have behavioral addictions may also indulge in drugs or alcohol.

Treating behavioral addictions requires personalized treatment plans to properly address a patient’s needs. Some of the treatment options for addressing behavior include:


One of the most common ways to treat process addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This helps identify and change destructive thought patterns and behaviors. CBT is effective in treating various behavioral addictions by addressing the root causes and developing healthier coping mechanisms.

Another way to treat certain behaviors is through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This type of therapy focuses on emotional regulation and distress tolerance, helping individuals manage urges and reduce compulsive behaviors.

Group Therapy

People who have process addictions can turn to support groups like Gamblers Anonymous or Sex Addicts Anonymous to find a supportive community and a 12-step program to promote recovery.

A treatment plan can also employ family therapy to involve loved ones in the recovery process to address relational issues and provide recovering addicts with a support network.


Some addicts may be prescribed to manage co-occurring mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or ADHD. Process addictions are often rooted in mental health conditions.

Residential Treatment

In some cases, a person’s addiction may be severe enough to require intensive care and support. This is especially the case if a person is struggling with both process addiction and substance addiction at the same time.

We’ll Help You With Your Compulsive Behavior

People need to engage in recreational activities. Not having these avenues can lead to chronic stress, which can cause a myriad of physical and mental health concerns. 

The problem is that some people can become too enamored with their recreational activities and keep doing them even if they’re no longer fun. They may no longer enjoy themselves, but they’re compelled to keep doing them.

At Luxe Recovery, we’ll help you stop. Our luxury facility offers treatment options to help overcome addiction. Contact us now to see how we can assess your problem and look into the treatments available to start your recovery.

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