This year MPHP encountered our first physician with a process addiction involving video gaming. What is process addiction? It can be defined as a compulsion to engage in a pattern of behaviors (sex/pornography, eating, internet, video games, gambling, compulsive shopping/spending, etc.) and to continue in the pattern despite adverse consequences. Although most people associate addiction with substance abuse, a growing number of people have found themselves dealing with a new kind of addiction.
The problem with these kinds of addictions is that many people don’t yet recognize these behaviors as harmful. They are not harmful when used in moderation. They become a problem when you have the urgent need to continue the activity despite the consequences. That is when they turn into full-blown addictions. In the case of computer addiction, family members see their loved one just as much as they otherwise would, and they know they are home safe and not out doing drugs or drinking, but the problem is that the person can’t pull themselves away to interact with their family. Another problem with these behaviors is that they gradually become addicting. A person can go and gamble for a while and be fine, or play a computer game occasionally. Then, for a reason that is still unclear, the person becomes addicted and what was once a fun past time becomes a trap that holds them. These addictions are sometimes called invisible addictions because it isn’t apparent from looking at a person that they are sick.
Evidence shows that these addicts thrive on the highs and lows they experience while doing these activities. The brain releases its own chemicals that give the person a high when doing certain things such as shopping or gaming. Just like the cocaine addict, these people live for their “high” and not much else may matter to them.
Adding to the problem is the fact that many people suffering from substance abuse are also addicted to another substance or behavior. They may also develop a process addiction as they try to resolve their drinking or drug issues. Many people in the early stages of recovery from chemical dependency begin to have problems with process addiction issues. When a person gets involved in a behavior with the purpose of masking pain or numbing feelings, that behavior can become addicting.
Arguments may result due to the volume of time spent on-line. Addicts may attempt to conceal the amount of time they are spending on-line, which results in distrust and disturbance of quality in once stable relationships. Financial problems may also result from the behavior as well, such as high credit card charges, bank overdrafts, etc., which can further contribute to relationship problems.
There are warning signs that someone you care about is becoming addicted and it is important to watch for them.
Just like substance addiction, process addictions can be treated, but catching the addiction early offers the best chance of success. The stronger the compulsion and the more a person’s lifestyle has been affected by the addiction, the harder it will be to get the person back to normal functioning. Process addictions have been on the rise in recent years and there are now treatment centers that specialize in this type of illness. It is important to first admit that there is a problem beyond one’s control and to then seek professional help. MPHP can provide guidance and resources in dealing with these behaviors.