We also see that process addictions often contribute significantly to substance abuse relapse.
In other words, our brains are programmed to encourage these behaviors by making them highly pleasurable. Addictive drugs and alcohol trigger a similar neural response, but drugs induce pleasurable distraction simply by being ingested – no activity required.
- After leaving residential drug and alcohol treatment, Suzanne – who had never struggled with weight problems when she was active in her addictions to nicotine, alcohol, and prescription drugs – gains 40 pounds in less than a year by replacing her substance addiction with a process addiction, compulsive eating.
- While beginning to attend AA meetings following primary alcohol treatment, Jack, a married 35-year-old with a history of infidelity, finds himself “getting off” by “hitting on” women he meets in meetings. Over time he becomes so consumed by sexual affairs and casual relationships outside his marriage that he loses focus on the work of recovery and relapses.
- Jeff, a 28-year-old recovering addict, missing the rush that drugs used to provide, uses online gaming and gambling as a distraction from his desire to use. Unfortunately, he finds himself unable to stop gambling despite emptying his bank account, maxing out his credit cards, and depleting his child’s college fund in exchange for the compulsive highs he finds online.
- Loss of control
- Continuation despite negative consequences
- Failed attempts to curtail the behavior or quit the substance
- Preoccupation to the point of obsession with the behavior or substance
- Withdrawal symptoms