Addictions that do not involve addictive chemicals such as drugs or alcohol are called “process addictions.” Although they may not pose immediate dangers such as drunk-driving accidents or overdoses, they can nevertheless create devastating consequences in the user’s life. Common process addictions include the following:
Internet addiction is another common process addiction. Symptoms include the following:
- Losing track of time while surfing
- Neglecting relationships and responsibilities while spending time online
- Heightened sense of euphoria while online
- Inability to control behavior
- Withdrawal from other activities
- Lying about your usage
- Craving more time on your computer
- Feeling restless while away your computer
Internet addiction shares the same characteristics as drug and alcohol addictions. Several shared characteristics include the following:
- Early stages are marked by growing preoccupation with computer use
- Tolerance develops as individuals require more time online to achieve the same “high”
- Deepening addiction leads to loss of other interests
- Attempts to quit are unsuccessful
- The computer is used to improve or escape dysphoric moods
Brain Chemistry and Addiction
While most people can experience pleasure without craving it, individuals who are prone to addiction become preoccupied by attaining the euphoria and well being an addictive substance or behavior brings. The biochemical basis for this cycle is found in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells that lies beneath the cerebral hemispheres. When a person performs an action that satisfies a need or fulfills a desire, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens and produces pleasure. This creates a reward pathway. Each time we do something that provides this reward, the brain records the experience, making it likely that we will repeat the behavior.
People who struggle with painful emotional or psychological issues such as trauma, anxiety, and depression subconsciously cope with stress and difficult emotions by tricking the brain’s dopamine response. Repeated use of a substance or behavior teaches the brain that the best way to feel better is to take more of the substance or engage in more of that behavior. Eventually, the brain becomes hardwired for a drug or process addiction.
Negative consequences of process addictions can include the following:
- Extreme fatigue
- Financial ruin
- Broken relationships
- Legal problems
- Poor health
- Loss of life
Because total abstinence is not possible for many process addictions, overcoming them often requires close monitoring and relapse prevention strategies. The best way to regain balance and achieve sobriety is to seek professional treatment.
Treatment for Process Addictions
If you or a loved one suffers from a process addiction, we can help. Admissions coordinators are available at our toll free, 24-hour helpline to guide you to wellness and affordable solutions. Please call today, and take the first step toward a life of health and wholeness.