Addiction can occur in many forms. Often, it is assumed that physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms is required in order for someone to be diagnosed with an addiction disorder, but the fact is that behavioral addiction can occur with all the negative consequences in a person’s life minus the physical issues faced by people who compulsively engage in drug and alcohol abuse. It is the compulsive nature of the behavior that is often indicative of behavioral addiction, or process addiction, in an individual.
The compulsion to continually engage in an activity or behavior despite the negative impact on the person’s ability to remain mentally and/or physically healthy and functional in the home and community defines behavioral addiction. The person may find the behavior rewarding psychologically or get a “high” while engaged in the activity but may later feel guilt, remorse, or even overwhelmed by the consequences of that continued choice. Unfortunately, as is common for all who struggle with addiction, people living with behavioral addictions are unable to stop engaging in the behavior for any length of time without treatment and intervention.
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Chemical dependency is a primary disease in which a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. People with chemical dependency continue to use drugs or alcohol, even knowing that continued use causes damages to their bodies, families, finances, and all other aspects of life. This is not because they want to destroy their lives; most chemically dependent people want to stop using but simply cannot. Their bodies are chemically dependent on the drug to operate. Quitting their addictive substance drives them into withdrawal- the body’s reaction to not having the chemical it is now dependent on.
For this reason, the transition from active addiction/chemical dependency to addiction recovery is one of the hardest things to go through. Too many go through it more than once. Finding the best treatment and following a recovery plan is the best way to beat the disease.
Behavior / Process Addiction
Although most people associate addiction with substances, addictions can occur without the involvement of substances. These addictions are habitual and provide a person with an emotional high, which keeps the person engaging in that behavior. Process addictions are classified as compulsive and addictive behaviors that are detrimental to a person’s well-being. Despite the negative consequences, a person will continue to partake in the behavior and may feel shame and remorse after doing so. While process addictions don’t involve substances, they share similar characteristics with drug or alcohol addiction. Like substance addictions, people with process addictions are unable to control themselves and cannot stop themselves from engaging in certain behaviors.
Common Behavior Addictions
SEX AND LOVE ADDICTIONS
Though almost everyone engages in all of the activities listed above – shopping, gambling, and certainly eating and exercise – to a certain degree and may even enjoy the behavior very much, it is not termed an addiction until the following is true:
The person struggles with mental health or physical health issues as a consequence of the behavior and/or the inability to stop.
The person has difficulties in significant relationships at home and, in some cases, at work because the behavior is so disruptive.
The person experiences other negative consequences that are directly caused by continued, extreme, or chronic engagement in the behavior. For example, a person with a gambling addiction may gamble away the house, lose a job, and be forced into bankruptcy due to the extreme nature of the gambling.
The person is unable to stop engaging in the behavior despite these consequences.
If you believe that you, or someone you love, are struggling with a behavioral addiction, the good news is that treatment is a powerful tool. Learning how to manage the behavior and begin to address the issues caused by the long-term behaviors begins with intensive and integrated treatment.