What Is a Process Addiction?

A process addiction is a compulsion or dependency on a rewarding behavior, such as sex, gambling, food, shopping, exercising or video gaming. A person with a process addiction continues to engage in the excessive behavior, despite the negative financial, social, mental or physical consequences.

Even without ingesting chemical substances, the person with a process addiction undergoes physiological brain structure changes in a similar fashion to those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Process addictions involve an obsessive need to be involved in or planning one’s activity of choice — to the neglect of his or her responsibilities. Often, process addicts’ lives revolve around their compulsion, even when they don’t want to be doing their compulsion but can’t stop.

Also called behavioral addictions or impulse control disorders, process addictions are increasingly recognized as treatable forms of addiction. Currently, the only behavioral addiction recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in its latest manual is gambling addiction.

However, internet gaming addiction is mentioned as being under review for further study. Many process addictions continue to be studied today for further understanding of their impact on affected individuals.

Types of Process Addictions

Here’s a list of the most common types of process addiction. Click on any of the following items to learn more about that specific process addiction:

Gambling Addiction

Gambling is the most researched of the process addictions. It is the most potentially devastating. Compulsive gamblers play all their money away, lose their homes, go bankrupt and commit illegal acts to obtain more and more money to play. Those suffering from gambling addiction commit suicide more than all other process addictions combined.

Sex Addiction

Limited control of excessive and problematic sexual urges, fantasies and behaviors describes a sex addiction. A person with sex addiction will compulsively seek out sexual acts despite negative consequences to him/herself or others. Sex addicts will sometimes engage in illegal acts such as exhibitionism (public exposure) and rape.

Food Addiction

Food addiction can be detrimental to a person’s physical, social and emotional well-being. An individual addicted to food will eat uncontrollably, especially certain foods, for the pleasurable feeling they receive while eating. Guilt ensues after eating, physical health declines and personal relationships are affected.

Internet/Video-Gaming Addiction

Three times as many men as women are reported to have an addiction to video gaming and/or the internet. It is an isolating addiction that impairs the person’s ability to function in daily life, and renders its victim inept at establishing any real-life activities or relationships.

Shopping Addiction

Compulsive shopping is a serious condition that results in shame, loss of control, and devastating financial and relationship problems. More and more money is required to shop excessively as time goes on. The items the shopping addict buys are often not needed; it’s the thrill of shopping that is needed.

*Other Process Addictions Still Being Studied

The following list features compulsory behaviors that are still being studied to see if they qualify as their own distinct type of process addiction:

  • Porn Addiction (as separate from sex addiction)
  • Love Addiction
  • Social Media Addiction (separate from internet addiction)
  • Risky Behavior Addiction
  • Plastic Surgery Addiction
  • Exercise Addiction