Process Addiction

Process Addiction is the term commonly used to describe an addiction to an activity, or a process, that does not involve taking brain-affecting substances such as drugs or alcohol. A process addiction refers to any compulsive behaviour involving an action that, on its own, is not physically addictive. The lack of a physical addiction separates this condition from substance addiction.

Physical addiction relates to the specific effects that the substance has on the body and the withdrawals experienced when the substance use is ceased. Physical withdrawals commonly include flu-like symptoms, seizures and tremors depending on the substance of choice.

The list of process addictions is wide-ranging and can include any day-to-day activity that has become overpowering and destructive in an individual’s life. Common process addictions are compulsive gambling, Internet addiction and shopping addition.

Process addictions typically involve the following characteristics:

• An obsessive need to participate and plan the activity
• An inability to control participation in the activity in question
• Negative consequences as a result of the activity (e.g. being late to work due to gambling late the night before)
• Behaviour that interferes with relationships (e.g. infidelity, neglect of children or a loss of friendships)
• Engaging in illegal activities to satisfy the addiction (e.g. illegal gambling, shoplifting or prostitution)
• Preoccupation with the activity while doing other things
• Use of the activity as a means of escaping unpleasant feelings or situations
• Continued participation in the activity despite highly negative outcomes