Addictions can take many forms, and alarmingly, are not just limited to substance abuse such as alcohol or drugs.
Process addiction, also most commonly referred to as behavioural addiction, is an impulse control disorder, and is on the rise in South Africa and the world over.
This type of addiction is categorized as a person’s compulsion to take part in specific behaviours, on a repeated basis, regardless of any and all negative consequences to that person’s well-being, health and financial stability, and relationships with others
Local studies have shown that the most common types of process addictions in the South Africa include:
- Gaming addiction
- Love and sex addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Food addiction and eating disorders
- Exercise addiction
- Shopping addiction
- Internet addiction
- Porn addiction
- Risk addiction
Regardless of the lack of a chemical substance that a person can become physically dependent on, the internal chemical effects seen in the brain, especially in the brain’s reward system, are very similar to those seen in substance abusers. Similarly, the impact on the lives, wellbeing and relationships of people suffering from process addictions is just as destructive.
Why are these behaviours seen as addictions?
Because behavioural addiction is still a fairly new concept, the phenomenon and its effects have been observed for centuries, and addictions like gambling addiction, in particular, has been witnessed and recognized as socially destructive behaviour for years. We’ve become more aware of these conditions, and we continue to learn more about them.
We know now that there are many different types of behavioural addictions, that can range from the seemingly innocuous activities such as gaming, shopping and exercising to activities that have long been seen as negative or dangerous, such as gambling, risk-taking, and certain types of sexual behaviours.
What makes even the most seemingly harmless of activities a process addiction is the way we behave around those activities and the effects they have on our lives.
There’s a marked difference between a student playing video games on the weekend and a student who neglects their responsibilities, health and relationships in pursuit of gameplay. We can see it in failing grades, the deterioration of health, lack of sleep, and aggressive withdrawal behaviours when their games are taken away from them.
And any repeated behaviour that is damaging to you and others, and that you find impossible to stop even when aware of the damaging potential, is considered an addiction. Like a sex addict pursuing affairs outside of their relationship, while knowing full well it will damage their relationship no matter how much that relationship means to them.
Underlying Conditions in Relation to Process Addictions
Theoretically, people can become addicted to any kind of activity, while others can potentially engage in addictive behaviours over and over again without actually becoming addicted. Process addiction is still actively being researched, but currently, it’s understood as the result of dysfunctions in the brain’s reward circuitry that may be preexisting or developed during the course of repeated engagement in these activities.
Treatment for Process Addiction
Behavioural addiction is treatable, often with therapy and certain medications. If you feel like you or someone you love suffers from a process addiction, no matter what subtype of addiction it is, we encourage you to reach out to us. The journey to process addiction recover starts the same as any other recovery journey; with getting in touch with an addiction specialist.
We are here to help.