Minimizing the Risk of Developing Process Addictions in Recovery

Prevent Process Addictions Replacing One Addiction With Another - Fight Addiction Now

Overcoming substance use disorder is only one step in the process of addiction recovery. When a recovering addict can’t get their fix through the use of drugs and alcohol, they’ll often turn to pleasurable yet destructive behaviors to satisfy their addictive urges, leading to bad habits in sobriety. When done in excess, these behaviors and activities can become what are known as process addictions.

Let’s take a closer look at the unique dangers that recovering addicts face when it comes to developing process addictions, as well as strategies for minimizing the risks and ensuring complete addiction recovery.

What Is a Process Addiction?

Process addiction – also known as behavioral addiction – refers to a class of mental health disorders in which a person compulsively engages in certain activities or behaviors, regardless of the negative consequences.

Unlike an alcoholic or drug addict, a person with a process addiction doesn’t rely on a substance to get high. However, this doesn’t mean that breaking a process addiction is easy. In fact, process addictions can be just as strong as any other type of addiction.

What Are Some Common Process Addictions?

Almost any activity or behavior that causes the brain to release dopamine can become the source of addiction. Some of the most common process addictions include:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Video game addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Kleptomania
  • Pornography addiction
  • Internet addiction

What Are the Causes of Process Addiction?

You’ve probably heard many people describe themselves as having an “addictive personality,” but what exactly do they mean? Why are some people able to keep their gambling habit limited to a monthly game of poker, while others pour money into slot machines until their bank account is completely empty?

Three of the biggest factors associated with the development of process addictions are personality type, genetics and history of substance abuse.

Personality Type

Behavioral addictions are more commonly seen in people with specific personality traits. For example, people who score high on tests for impulsiveness often engage in harmful addictive behaviors because they don’t stop to think about the consequences. People high in the personality trait neuroticism will often turn to addictive behaviors to soothe their frequent feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt and depression.

These personality traits can pose problems even in sobriety. People high in the personality trait sensation seeking, for instance, are at risk of developing sex addiction in recovery to satisfy the rush drugs once provided.


If you have a parent or sibling who struggles with a behavioral addiction, then you are at an increased risk of developing one yourself. In fact, research performed on both identical and fraternal twins has shown that a person’s genetics account for between 12 and 20 percent of the risk of developing an addiction to gambling.

It’s also been shown that genetics account for more than 60 percent of the risk of developing a dual addiction to both alcohol and gambling.

Substance Abuse

There is strong evidence that substance abuse and process addiction often go hand in hand. For example, a recent study found that 71 percent of male sex addicts also suffer from substance use disorder. Gambling addicts are also almost 4 times as likely to abuse alcohol.

It’s hard to tell whether drug and alcohol abuse leads to process addictions, or if certain people are drawn to addictions of all kinds. Regardless, understanding that these two types of addiction are strongly linked is important when trying to achieve recovery.

The Risk of Replacing One Addiction with Another

Fight Addiction Now Addiction Is A Disease QuoteIndividuals who are recovering from substance use disorder frequently end up channeling their addictive urges into other activities. These can either be healthy activates like personal hobbies and exercise, or they can be destructive activities like binge eating and gambling.

When you think about it, has someone really recovered if they jump right into an unhealthy sugar addiction after drug and alcohol addiction, for example? Even though a process addiction may look like a healthier alternative to drug and alcohol use, addiction of any kind can have the same disastrous consequences.

Some signs that a recovering addict has developed a behavioral addiction include:

  • Giving up sleep in favor of the new activity
  • Damaged relationships caused by the activity
  • Prioritizing the activity over financial and social obligations
  • Stress or anger when they can’t engage in the activity
  • The inability to think about anything other than the activity

Healthier Ways to Replace Addiction

After overcoming the initial pain of quitting drugs and alcohol, recovering addicts are frequently hit with the terrifying question, “What do I do now?” Drugs and alcohol had consumed so much of the addict’s time and energy that their absence leaves a massive void.

In the first few months or years of recovery, it’s very easy to fall back on old, addictive habits and pick up a sex, food or gambling addiction when sober. However, there is a better path.

Remember What Your Passions Are

Think back to a time before addiction. What hobbies and activities did you abandon to make time for drugs and alcohol? What were you passionate about? What brought you joy?

Perhaps you used to love dancing, writing or painting. Recognize that your struggles with addiction do not define you, and that those things that used to bring you happiness likely still can.

Discover a New Hobby

It’s possible that as you’ve grown and changed throughout your life, so too have your interests and passions. Making a fresh start in your life is the perfect time to find out what you really care about. This process can seem daunting, but you can start by asking yourself a few questions.

Do you love art? Consider taking a few classes, or just buy some supplies to blow off steam at the end of the day.

Does helping others make you feel fulfilled? If that’s the case, there are likely plenty of volunteer opportunities in your community.

Go Forth

Remember, you are not alone in the struggle to achieve addiction recovery. Others have been there before and can help you on your journey. If you would like to share your experiences with addiction replacement or a process addiction, come and join us on our forum here at Fight Addiction Now!

Read Our Process Addiction Fact Sheet and Then Find Treatment

Process Addiction Treatment Resource

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