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Finding the Best Process Addiction Therapy Rehab

If you’ve been diagnosed with a process addiction, you may be filled with questions. First and foremost, you may wonder what in the world the term “process addiction” actually means. If heroin addicts are addicted to heroin, and alcoholics are addicted to alcohol, are process addicts addicted to processes? Don’t let the term confuse you. Process addiction is a medical term that’s used as an umbrella over many different addictions that have one basic thing in common: People with process addictions are addicted to a specific behavior or action.

A process addiction can go hand in hand with a substance addiction, and sometimes the line between a process addiction and a mental illness can be a bit blurry. But, knowing that you have a process addiction can be the first step in an incredibly healing process. By identifying your addiction, and learning more about what it does and does not mean, you’ll be able to take control of that addiction and move beyond it.

Understanding Addiction

In the past, people believed that addiction was essentially a disease of willpower. If people really wanted to stop behaving in a specific way, they would do so. Since they could not stop, they were somehow “weak” or “lazy.” Now, experts understand that addictions, whether to substances or to actions, begin with chemical changes in the brain, and lead to compulsive behavior that the person simply cannot control.

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According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addictions begin with a subtle tweak of the reward center of the brain. The substance the person takes in, or the action performed, caused pleasure. Specific chemicals were released, and this is interpreted as happiness or joy. When faced with a stress, such as disappointment, pressure or pain, the brain looks for solutions, and it responds with a craving for that same boost of happiness on a chemical level. Over time, the person’s brain may be completely rewired to feel joy only when the substance is taken in or the action is performed.

The ABCDE of Addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine uses this clever method to help explain what addiction is, and what it is not. People with addiction have:

  • Abstinence issues. They cannot abstain on a regular basis.
  • Behavior control impairment. They cannot stop behaving in a specific way.
  • Craving to take in, or do, the subject of their addiction.
  • Diminished ability to see how the addiction impacts others.
  • Emotional responses that are dysfunctional.

Specific Examples

While people can become addicted to almost anything, there are some behaviors that have been closely associated with process addiction. For example, some people develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise. When you’re running on the treadmill, you may feel powerful and strong, and when the workout ends, your body might be flooded with feel-good chemicals that help you forget the day’s stresses. Soon, you might start to crave those feelings, and you might start running every day. Then you might run twice per day. Then you might try running in the middle of the night, too. It’s easy to see how that behavior could quickly spin out of control. And this addiction is quite common, especially among college students. In fact, a study published in the journal Psychiatry Research found that 18.1 percent of college-age participants had an exercise addiction. Clearly it’s a big problem for a large number of people.

Some people find that work can be incredibly addictive. People with a work addiction might have challenging careers that require a significant amount of emotional investment, but they might also simply be addicted to the idea of working. As an article written by Career Builder suggests, these workers find that the stress and pressure of mounting deadlines and endless requests causes them to feel alert, awake and alive. They’ve accustomed their bodies to running on high amounts of adrenaline, and if they try to stop working, they may find it difficult to function normally.

If you have a work addiction or an exercise addiction, you might wonder why you’d need treatment for these issues. After all, staying in shape and working hard are values that Americans admire and our culture rewards. Shouldn’t you just keep engaging in these behaviors, no matter the cost? Experts would suggest that this isn’t the best idea.

Addictions like this can cause a serious amount of difficulty in your life. Working out too hard for too long can do severe damage to your body. You might develop stress fractures, tendonitis or muscle tears. You might also strain your relationships with your exclusive focus on exercise. Similarly, working too hard can put strain on your relationships. If you’re always at work, you might never have the time to build up a meaningful relationship with someone else. It might not even benefit you at work, Career Builder says, as your boss might view someone always at work as inefficient or unable to delegate.

A Quick Quiz

Workaholics Anonymous developed a list of questions, to help readers diagnose their own work addiction. Replace the word “work” with any other activity, and this could be a useful screening tool for almost any addiction. Multiple “yes” answers might indicate that you need help:

  1. Do you work more than 40 hours every week?
  2. Do you take your work with you on vacation?
  3. Do you get upset when people talk about how much you work?
  4. Do you like working more than you like doing anything else?
  5. Are you constantly late to social activities due to work?
  6. Do other people who don’t love their work seem strange and unusual to you?
  7. Has work disrupted your relationships?
  8. Do you work while eating, talking or driving?
  9. Do you get irritated when your work is interrupted?
  10. Are you competitive at work?

Other Addictions

There are some process addictions that aren’t associated with positive attributes. For example, some people become addicted to gambling. This might start innocently enough, with one online game or one spin of the roulette wheel, but soon, your gambling addiction might cause you to stop going to work, paying bills and seeing your family. Everything is subsumed to the addiction. Again, this addiction can be ascribed to chemical changes in the brain. When you gamble and win, your brain releases feel-good chemicals and those chemicals become hard for your brain to do without. Soon, your behavior is outside of your control. While a gambling addiction can strike anyone, a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that it was slightly more common in men than women. Men are also slightly more likely to develop compulsive addictions to videogames, developing elaborate online presences and forming strong attachments to their virtual friends and online communities.

These two addictions might be less tolerated by society as a whole. People who spend all their money on gambling might be seen as reckless at best or thieves at worst. And jokes abound about teen boys who spend hours on competitive videogames instead of spending time building up valuable social skills and meeting friends in real time. Don’t let this discrimination keep you from getting the help you need. These addictions are real, and they have a chemical basis. With the proper help, you truly can recover.

A Story of Recovery

“When I was young, my mother was really strict. She always demanded high grades, and while I wasn’t punished if I got poor grades, I only received praise if I brought home perfect grades each and every time. It was hard to live like that. When I got my first job, I thought that working hard would also help me make money and gain the acceptance I’d always wanted, so I put my nose to the grindstone and started working 10 hours a day, every day. I never took any vacation time, and I always volunteered for the complicated projects. I snapped at my coworkers because I thought they were silly and lazy, and I would pride myself on how hard I was working and how well I was doing. That all changed when I was fired two years ago. My boss said people didn’t like to work with me, and she had noticed that I’d made mistakes and that I didn’t take criticism well. I knew I had to get help. I worked with a counselor, and then I joined a support group full of other workaholics. It was hard to admit my problem, and I really hated being unemployed, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Now, I have a part-time job, and I am learning to go in when scheduled and go home when it’s time. I have a lot more balance, and I’m just happier.” – Mary

Getting Help

Some process disorders have strong links to other mental illnesses. If you exercise compulsively, for example, you might also have issues with your weight and your body image. Those thoughts could turn into anorexia or bulimia. If you clean compulsively or work compulsively, you might also have obsessive-compulsive disorder, a mental illness characterized by a need to perform an action to perfection, or repeat it until it’s “perfect.” That’s why your doctor will probably run a battery of tests when you are first dealing with a process addiction. Your doctor will want to ensure that there are no other issues that might also need treatment.

The treatment you’ll receive depends heavily on the issue you have, and how you’ve coped with it in the past. Some people find that therapy with a licensed counselor is quite helpful. In therapy, they can talk about how the problem began, and what they might be able to do to keep the habit in check. Other people find that participating in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or Workaholics Anonymous helps them keep their compulsions in check. Other people find that they need medications to help ease their minds and help them focus on their healing. There are a variety of avenues that therapy can take.

The takeaway message is clear, however: Process addictions are real and they’re caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. You won’t just “get over” them and they don’t make you weak or somehow defective. By asking for help, and participating in a therapy program made just for you, those addictions can ease and you can start to build up a healthy life. Seeing your doctor can be just the first step you’ll need to take in order to get well.

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