The term “process addictions”, or what is sometimes referred to as “behavioral addictions”, are behaviors that can be obsessive-compulsive in nature and stimulate the individual to the point that it can be considered an addiction or an addictive behavior. Although different from drug or alcohol addiction or substance use disorder, process addictions have many similarities with drug addiction, one of the most prevalent being that engaging in the behavior causes negative consequences.  Process addictions, while not as life threatening as drug addiction, alcoholism, or substance use disorder, can be harmful to the health, wellness, and quality of life of the individual engaging in the behavior. They can also negatively impact family members and loved ones of the afflicted individual.


Some examples of process addictions or behavioral addictions are:


Sex and Love Addictions

Sex addiction and love addiction are process addictions characterized by an impaired ability to engage in health emotional intimacy.  Sex and love addictions are not diagnosed in terms of quantity (the amount of sex a person has or the number of relationships a person has), but rather by the negative impact and negative consequences associated with the behavior. People that have sex and love addiction are not engaging in these behaviors necessarily for the physical or emotional acts, but rather because there is an internal issue with the individual that they believe that the sex and love addictive behaviors can fix. Some examples of behaviors of someone with a sex and/or love addiction are craving attention from different relationships and partners, returning repeatedly to an abusive relationship, excessive sexual behaviors such as masturbation, interactions with prostitutes, and use of pornography, and an inability to let go of an idealized worldview of relationships, despite evidence to a contrary reality.



Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction, or problem gambling or gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite negative consequences. These consequences often are related to finances and strained relationships. The reward systems of the brains of individuals with gambling addiction are stimulated, similarly to those with a drug or alcohol addiction, by the act of gambling. This can take many forms, including sports betting, bets on horse racing, or gambling at a casino. People with a gambling addiction continue to gamble despite financial hardships, deplete savings, accumulate debt, hide their behaviors from loved ones, or even turn to illegal means like theft and fraud in order to continue the addictive behavior.


Shopping or Spending Addiction

Shopping addiction is defined as the deficiency of impulse control with appears as the eagerness for constantly making new purchases of unnecessary or superfluous things. This is also similar to spending addiction, where the individual will continue to spend money they do not have on things they don’t need. Exacerbating many people’s issues with spending or shopping addiction is the ease of which people can now shop and spend based on the accessibility to online shopping. The ability to quickly find items, purchase them, and have them show up to their front door within a day is only increasing the amount of shopping and spending addiction for many people. People with a shopping or spending addiction often shop or spend money during emotional distress or purchase items they don’t need when on sale to justify spending money they may not have. Like other process addiction, shopping and spending addiction can create financial hardship, patterns of lying about behaviors, or hiding behaviors from family and significant others.



Technology Addiction

Technology is a vital part of everyone’s everyday lives now. There is almost nothing we do daily (communicating, shopping, education, work, exercising, daily planning) that doesn’t include technology, which doesn’t even account for the large role that social media plays in everyone’s lives. However, for some people, due to the overwhelming amount of technology they use on a daily basis, the use of technology can become an addiction. The use of technology can impact an individual’s brain similarly to drugs and alcohol, and when the use of technology becomes an addiction, it can have similar consequences. Becoming withdrawn, putting strain on family and friend relationships, retreating to using technology with emotionally distressed- all of these can occur with technology addiction. Technology addiction is defined as frequent and obsessive technology-related behavior that is continued despite negative consequences. Probably the most well-known technology addiction is gaming addiction.



Gaming Addiction

Gaming addiction is a type of technology addiction reserved specifically for individuals that have an addiction to video games. While many people spend a lot of time playing video games, when the behavior begins to create negative consequences in someone’s life, it can become a gaming addiction. Gaming addiction is considered a type of impulse control disorder, where individuals begin to suffer negative consequences in order to play video games. Individuals with gaming addiction begin to stop socializing or seeing family and friends in order to play video games, often don’t leave their bedroom or basement for long periods of time, stop meeting life obligations and responsibilities, develop negative sleeping patterns and habits, and/or begin to develop poor hygiene.



Food Addiction

Food addiction is a process addiction where an individual loses control over their eating behaviors. This can include spending excessive amounts of time involved with or eating food, overeating, or anticipating the emotional effects of compulsive overeating. According to ScienceDirect, the definition of food addiction is loosely defined as “hedonic eating behaviors involving the consumption of highly palatable foods (ie, foods high in salt, fat, and sugar) in quantities beyond homeostatic energy requirements. Like other process addictions, individuals with food addiction deal with a compulsive or uncontrollable urge to engage in a behavior in response to an emotion, such as stress, sadness, anger, loneliness, or boredom. Also like other process addictions, individuals suffering from food addiction continue the behavior despite negative consequences. Physically, food addiction can also be extremely dangerous to an individual’s health and can cause medical complications and consequences.



Exercise Addiction

Another example of a process addiction, exercise addiction is a behavioral addiction that occurs when an individual has an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise. Many individuals with an exercise addiction often also suffer from some form of body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder in which the person can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. While fitness, working out, and exercising are both important and vital to an individual’s overall health and wellness, exercise addiction becomes an obsessive-compulsive behavior that can include consequences. This can include medical complications, health complications, or stress on emotional and mental health. A common occurrence for individuals that have found recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is that they begin to obsessively and compulsively tuns to fitness and exercise in recovery, often in an effort to fill the void left by previous addictive behavior.


Here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, many patients that admit for addiction, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders also suffer from one or more process addictions. It is important in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction that any and all process addictions are identified, diagnosed, and included in the ongoing treatment plan. In an effort to approach the complexity of addiction, MARC creates ongoing treatment plans to support overcoming any process addiction that a patient may also be dealing with concurrently, so that in recovery patients are armed with the necessary healthy coping mechanism to not only stay sober, but achieve a high quality of life, health, and wellness.


If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at