Substance misuse is one form of addiction. However, many other addictive behaviors can interfere with an individual’s treatment and recovery.

The side effects of substance use disorder (SUD) often include physiological changes that impact the reward centers of the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance misuse “amplifies or disrupts the normal communication between neurons.” These brain changes can directly affect how individuals act and think. Changes to neurotransmitters can increase the risk of developing additional addictive behaviors. This can put people more at risk of developing process addictions.

Substance Misuse and Process Addictions

Process addictions involve compulsive behaviors that interfere with everyday life. The symptoms often impact an individual’s ability to function.

According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, habits that become obligations “can be considered an addiction.” In fact, almost any activity can form a behavioral addiction under the right circumstances. Substance misuse increases the risk of developing these maladaptive behaviors due to multiple factors, including:

  • Changes to brain chemistry 
  • Mental acceptance of maladaptive behaviors 
  • A desire to replace substance misuse with a “safer” source of comfort or pleasure
  • Difficulty achieving positive emotions in everyday life

Some people with SUD lack motivation during recovery and may try to find new ways to feel good. Unfortunately, sometimes these new methods of experiencing positive emotions also negatively impact their life.

Common Process Addictions

Compulsions can become attached to almost any behavior, thought, or action. In addition, individuals with a higher risk of addictive behaviors can become obsessive with even seemingly innocuous activities like phone games. The motivations for the compulsions vary from person to person but often involve a need to feel in control or escape reality for a bit.

Some of the most common process addictions involve:

  • Sex and/or pornography
  • Eating or dieting
  • Shopping
  • Gambling
  • Gaming
  • Internet or social media

Often these are activities people already do in their day-to-day lives. In many cases, they make people feel good or special in some way. The positive feeling experienced when someone engages in the activity can take the place of the pleasurable sensations from substance misuse.

In regards to process addictions, these behaviors are used to an unhealthy degree. Although they may seem less destructive than substance misuse, any addictive behaviors have the potential to significantly decrease someone’s quality of life.

Technology and Addiction

Modern life revolves around technology. Many disruptive or compulsive behaviors involve computers, phones, and other smart devices. In addition, the ease of access can make it difficult for individuals prone to addictive behaviors to avoid creating technology-related habits. Almost every process addiction has an online equivalent. Individuals who become obsessed with some facet of technology often experience mental health issues.

A few ways to avoid becoming addicted to technology include: 

  • Setting time limits for phones, computers, game systems, and other smart devices
  • Using apps to monitor how long the phone gets used each day
  • Putting a time lock on the phone, computer, or game system 

Technology in any form can contribute to compulsive behaviors if an individual becomes obsessive. One study cited in BMC Medicine reported that up to 4% of the people surveyed reported an internet addiction. Monitoring usage is essential to ensure you spot problematic routines before they become ingrained habits. Early intervention provides the best outcomes.

Risk Factors for Addictive Behavior

The following factors increase the risk of an individual developing a process addiction: 

  • Personal history of substance misuse or mental health issues 
  • Past trauma or abuse
  • Chronic or acute stress 
  • Family history of substance misuse or mental health disorders
  • Excessive free time and frequent boredom

Younger individuals are at a higher risk of certain process addictions, especially those involving internet, gaming, and other technology-related activities. 

A New Hope Recovery Can Help

For individuals who develop process addictions, rehab is especially important. Rehab provides essential tools and coping skills that can help people recover. Individuals with SUD or process addictions can find healthy ways to engage with others and the world around them through treatment.

Part of treatment involves learning to identify underlying issues causing compulsive behaviors. You can take preventative measures against compulsive behaviors once you understand what motivates them.

No matter how innocuous they appear, compulsive behaviors can have dangerous consequences. Individuals in recovery from SUD have an increased risk of relapse if they develop process addictions. Following through with treatment goals will make it easier to avoid obsessive behaviors. In some cases, activities that were once grounding can become compulsive if individuals do not continue to attend treatment, counseling, and support groups during the recovery process. According to survey results in Evaluation and the Health Professions, approximately 44% of adults will experience two or more addictive behaviors in their lifetime. A New Hope Recovery can help individuals and their families find healthy ways to overcome process addictions and other recovery challenges. We provide interventions, assessments, and case management services.

Families should educate themselves about the realities of addiction and how addictive behaviors can develop around certain activities. Individuals in treatment for substance use disorder have a higher risk of experiencing process addictions like gambling or gaming. In addition, seemingly innocent obsessions can become compulsions that lead to dependency. Symptoms exist along a spectrum, but untreated process addictions can cause significant emotional distress and interfere with healthy family dynamics. Early intervention and professional assessments provide the best outcome for individuals struggling with addictive behaviors. A New Hope Recovery assists families by providing essential support services, including interventions, counseling, and case management. We offer treatment recommendations and other resources to help families overcome issues related to all forms of addiction. To learn more about what we have to offer, call our office today at (407) 501-8490. We can help your loved one heal and recover.