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What are Process Addictions?

Process addictions are also referred to as behavioral addictions and involve being addicted to a certain behavior or action. Oftentimes, these addictions are misunderstood and thought to be less damaging than substance use disorders. Unfortunately, addictions to behaviors like shopping, gambling, or sex can be just as dangerous as drug and alcohol addictions.

When someone has an addiction to a behavior, they are unable to stop engaging in that behavior no matter the consequences. For example, someone might continue gambling even while they are facing significant financial distress, including bankruptcy or even losing their house. Additionally, these addictions can negatively impact a person’s family members and friends.

About 11% of the population suffers from some type of behavioral addiction.[1]

If you or a loved one is suffering from a process or behavioral addiction, it’s time to seek help. Addiction treatment programs like Mandala Healing Center can offer the tools and support you need to regain control over your life and stop the behaviors once and for all.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What a process addiction is
  • The different types of behavioral addictions
  • What signs to look out for
  • The causes and risk factors for process addictions

Understanding Process Addictions

While most people associate addiction with drug and alcohol abuse, you can develop an addiction to a behavior.

First, it’s important to understand what compulsive behaviors are. Compulsive behaviors are actions a person takes repeatedly even if the behavior is causing negative consequences. Additionally, the person might not want to continue engaging in the behavior but cannot stop.

Research states that “compulsive behavior consists of repetitive acts that are characterized by the feeling that one ‘has to’ perform them while one is aware that these acts are not in line with one’s overall goal.”[2]

When someone is suffering from a process addiction, it is also considered a form of compulsive behavior. Behavioral addictions are similar to substance use disorders, as the individual is unable to stop or control their behavior, uses the behavior to deal with uncomfortable emotions, and experiences urges or cravings to engage in the behavior.

Types of Process Addictions

There are several types of behavioral or process addictions. While it is possible to become addicted to any type of behavior, there are specific behavioral acts that are more common to become addicted to. For example, you have probably heard of shopping addiction, internet addiction, or gambling addiction before.

The main types of process addictions include:

  • Shopping – shopping addiction occurs when an individual continues to compulsively buy things they do not need or want, simply for the feeling that purchasing items gives them.
  • Gambling – gambling addiction is characterized by feeling a need to continue placing bets or engaging in gambling despite facing financial consequences
  • Internet – internet addiction involves an individual being obsessed with something online, which could include video game addiction, social media addiction, or more.
  • Sex and Pornography – some people suffer from sex or pornography addiction, which is characterized by experiencing compulsions to engage in sex or watch porn in a manner that is destructive to one’s physical and mental health
  • Food – food addiction can also be considered an eating disorder, where a person continues to eat due to urges and cravings that they cannot control
  • Exercise – exercise addiction involves engaging in frequent exercise to cope with uncomfortable emotions to the point that exercise becomes damaging
  • Work – work addiction is a compulsion or uncontrollable need to work incessantly, causing other areas of the person’s life to suffer as a result

It is possible to become addicted to other behaviors that are not mentioned above. If you believe someone you love suffers from a behavioral or process addiction, it’s time to seek professional help.

Signs of Behavioral Addictions

If you are worried that you or someone you love is struggling with a process addiction, being aware of the signs and symptoms can help you determine whether professional treatment is necessary.

The main signs of a behavioral addiction include:

  • Spending a lot of time thinking about or partaking in a behavior
  • Being unable to control or limit the behavior
  • Continuing to engage in a behavior despite facing mental or physical health consequences
  • Experiencing unsuccessful attempts to stop the behavior
  • Ignoring responsibilities at home, school, or work to partake in the behavior
  • Using the behavior to cope with uncomfortable feelings or symptoms of a mental health disorder
  • Diminishing or downplaying the issues that arise because of the behavior
  • Experiencing emotional withdrawal when you cannot partake in the behavior

Thankfully, process addictions can be treated with the help of an addiction treatment center. Treatment plans often include a combination of evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications to treat underlying mental health conditions that may have contributed to the behavior.

What are the Causes or Risk Factors?

Behavioral addictions are often caused by the same factors as substance use disorders. For example, if addictive behaviors run in your family, you might be more likely to experience a process addiction. Even further, past traumas or mental health conditions increase your chances of engaging in compulsive behaviors.

The risk factors for behavioral addictions may include:[3]

  • Family history of addiction
  • Having an untreated mental health condition
  • Experiencing childhood trauma
  • Having a lack of family support
  • Dealing with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or depression
  • Growing up in an unstable environment

It is also possible to develop a process addiction after recovering from a substance use disorder. If you have the risk factors for behavioral addictions, that does not necessarily mean you will develop one. It only means you need to be more careful about caring for your mental health, avoiding compulsive actions, and staying away from addictive substances.

Finding Help for Behavioral Addictions

If you or a loved one suffers from a process addiction, it’s time to seek professional help. At the Mandala Healing Center, we offer a combination of evidence-based and compassionate care. In other words, we will provide you with all of the support you need to regain control over your life.

Contact us today to learn more about our rehab program for behavioral addiction.


  1. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Estimation of Behavioral Addiction Prevalence During COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
  2. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Defining Compulsive Behavior
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Risk Factors for Addictive Behaviors