Behavioral Addiction (Process Addiction)

The term addiction has always been used to describe repeated use of any substance over a period of time, despite the negative consequences to a person’s well being. The repeated use of a substance may lead to some sort of psychological dependence. The term addict is generally used to refer to an individual who is dependent on drugs or alcohol.

However, psychologists and doctors suggest that addiction is not limited to substances. It can also include behaviors and activities. Such addiction is referred to as behavioral addiction or process addiction.

In most cases, behavioral addictions can have the same symptoms like alcoholism and drug addiction. Process addictions can alter your mood by creating a feeling of being high. This feeling is caused by adrenalin or serotonin released in your brain when you use alcohol or drugs or engage in an addictive activity.

The brain seeks to recreate such experience despite any sort of negative consequences. The person suffering from behavioral addiction has a need to repeatedly undergo this experience to get high. Due to this, the person is trapped in a compulsive process.

Signs and Symptoms of Behavioral Addiction

Although behavioral addiction has a vast scope, healthcare professionals focus on certain signs and symptoms related to this condition. The criteria is based on information provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). It’s used by most psychiatrists to diagnose all kinds of mental disorders. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Frequently engaging in the negative behavior to a great extent over a long period of time.
  • Persistent desire for such behavior or multiple unsuccessful efforts to control or reduce the behavior.
  • A lot of time is spent in activities essential for the behavior, recovering from its effects or engaging in the behavior.
  • Frequent preoccupation with preparatory or behavior activities.
  • Frequently engaging in the behavior when you’re expected to fulfill academic, occupational, social or domestic obligations.
  • Limiting or giving up important occupational, recreational or social activities because of the negative behavior.
  • Continuation of the negative behavior despite the knowledge of having a recurrent or persistent social, psychological, physical or financial problem that is exacerbated or caused by the behavior.
  • Need to enhance the frequency or intensity of the behavior to achieve some kind of desired effect or diminished effect with frequent behavior of the same intensity.
  • Irritability or restlessness if you’re unable to engage in the negative behavior.

According to health care professionals, a minimum of three criteria should be met for diagnosis. In addition to this, some symptoms of the problem must have persisted for over one month or occurred repeatedly over an extended period.

Effects of Behavioral Addiction (Process Addiction)

When a person is suffering from behavioral addiction (process addiction), he or she may experience cravings or urges to engage in the negative behavior. These cravings or urges can intensify until the person indulges in the behavior.

Once the person has carried out the behavior, he or she feels elation and relief. There may be a lot of negative consequences of the behavior. Behavioral addiction leads to problems in social and personal life. However, despite the negative consequences, the person persists with the behavior.

Behavioral Addiction Statistics

9 out of 10 psychologists agree that if some sort of negative behavior functions like some additive drug, there’s no doubt that the person is suffering from behavioral addiction. When it comes to behavioral addiction, gambling has been a major concern in the United States.

For gambling disorder, lifetime prevalence rates in the United States are slightly more than 2%. Gambling disorder is the only behavioral addiction that recently made to the new section on process addictions in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Compulsive eating has been a major problem in the United States. According to estimates, around 4% women and 2% men in the United States suffer from compulsive eating addiction. Estimates also state that less than half of the sufferers will ever receive appropriate treatment.

Around 5.5% men and 6% women are believed to shop compulsively. According to some scientists, addiction to shopping may be related to some kind of hoarding disorders. This has become a major problem in the United States.

There are also other kinds of behavioral addictions. It’s worth mentioning that behavior addictions can lead to severe consequences, and cause various social and personal problems in a person’s life.

For more information on other addiction types, visit our Addiction Treatment and Recovery Facts page.