While many folks understand the idea of being addicted or dependent upon a substance-alcohol and drugs, there is some confusion over what exactly is a “process addiction”.
To put it simply, a process addiction is marked by growing feeling of dependency on a ‘process’ (eating, sex, love, work, gambling) to deal with uncomfortable emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, guilt or shame.
Many people have habits in the form of processes or behaviors that they are aware make them feel better. A habit of excessive tennis playing for example, might be somewhat detrimental to a person’s life in terms of time spent on the court, or wear on the body. That said, the positive side of playing tennis often outweighs the negative.
With processes such as sex, romance, work, shopping, and gambling, there are likely to be more adverse consequences to excessive engagement in the same. Healthy sex, that doesn’t cause harm to any area of the person’s life, is wonderful!
However, there are people that suffer great emotional, physical, relational, spiritual, and even legal consequences from their problematic sexual behavior.
While there is still controversy whether sexual behaviors can be considered “addictive”, more and more research is illuminating how sexual activities or behaviors can show neuro-biological similarities to substance addictions.
Over the last 20 years in this field, I have seen patterns of sex and love behaviors that become problematic to the individual when s/he “can’t stop”. This individual will report similar attempts to stop or curtail the behaviors as would someone with a substance addiction.
Some clues as to whether you might be dealing with a process addiction are:
1. Needing an increase in the behavior to reach a previous level of pleasure.
2. Promising yourself or others to stop or decrease the behavior. (Loss of control).
3. Increasing amounts of time spent in procuring or engaging in the behavior.
4. Other activities and relationships, that used to be important, being scheduled around the behavior.
5. Intense or very uncomfortable emotional (and even physical) feelings when the behavior is stopped or decreased.
If you would like to know whether you have a process addiction, make an appointment today at 512-415-5735. We’ll have a conversation and go from there.