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Understanding the Comorbidities of Substance Addiction and Process Addictions

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It is not uncommon for substance addictions to co-occur. For example, many people who struggle with alcohol addiction also struggle with some other form of substance addiction like stimulant addiction. It is also not uncommon for substance addictions and process addictions to co-occur. Yet, many people are much more unfamiliar with these types of co-occurring addictions.

What Exactly Are Process Addictions?

Perhaps the best way to define process addictions is that they are addictions to behaviors rather than addictions to substances. In fact, many people refer to process addictions as behavioral addictions.

According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, “Behavioral addiction [process addiction] such as Internet addiction is similar to drug addiction except that in the former, the individual is not addicted to a substance but the behavior or the feeling brought about by the relevant action. In addition, the physical signs of drug addiction, are absent in behavioral addiction. Others have stated that behaviorally addicted individuals have certain symptoms and will undergo the same consequences brought about by addiction to alcohol and drugs as well as other obsessive behaviors.” Now, Internet addiction is just one of the many types of process addictions.

What Are Some of the More Common Types of Process Addictions?

Perhaps the most common process addictions are eating disorders and disordered eating. However, many people categorize them on their own as there are so many other specific factors that make eating disorders unique.

Other common types of process addictions are gambling addiction, sex addiction, exercise addiction (though this can also veer into the realm of eating disorders, and shopping addiction. There are also online process addictions which are becoming more and more prevalent.

Types of online addictions include the aforementioned Internet addiction (which includes “doom scrolling”), online shopping addiction, online gambling addiction, online gaming addiction, online pornography addiction, and the fastest-growing online addiction; social media addiction.

The Prevalence of Co-occurring Process Addictions and Substance Addictions

Many people now struggle with both substance and process addictions. According to the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, “Addictions do not always occur singly. Clinicians have noted that addictions frequently co-occur in the same individual and that there might be a systematic progression from having difficulties with one excessive behavior to struggling with another.”

It is important to note that many people utilize either substances or processes to try to neutralize the other. For example, someone who is struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD), may struggle with depression as a result. They may then try to treat this depression by engaging in a process unhealthily, such as spending an exorbitant amount of time on social media. 

On the other side, someone who is struggling with a process addiction such as sex addiction may try to self-medicate away any guilt or shame they feel by using substances. The two become wholly entwined and mutually toxic. This is why they must also be treated at the same time.

Treating Comorbidities at the Same Time

The Journal of Behavioral Addictions also states that “compared with people experiencing only a single problematic addictive behavior, individuals with co-occurring addictions are at increased risk for negative outcomes – including victimization, poorer physical health status, or even suicide. Furthermore, when addictions co-occur, they can interact with each other, complicating both accurate assessment and effective treatment; for instance, one excessive behavior might mask another addiction or addictions may alternate with each other.” This last “masking” aspect is crucial to understand when it comes to treating co-occurring addictions.

If an individual is struggling with both a substance and process addiction, they must be dual-diagnosed as soon as possible. This is because both addictions must be treated if either of them is going to be brought under control, and the individual is going to find an optimal state of recovery.

The reason for this is that if one addiction goes untreated, there is a good chance that this addiction will eventually trigger the one that was once thought treated. For example, if a stimulant addiction is treated but an online gaming addiction is not. It will most likely be the excessive gaming that causes the person to think that their gaming was both more efficient and “fun” with substances. Then a substance addiction relapse will not be far behind. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Our Primary Purpose at Lantana Recovery

It is our primary purpose to heal at all costs here at Lantana Recovery. This includes healing from all forms of substance addiction and process addiction.

Here at Lantana Recovery, we understand the importance of diagnosing and treating all disorders as soon as possible. Recovery is about living life to the fullest, and that cannot be accomplished if only half of the issues are addressed. We are all whole beings, so we all deserve a whole recovery.

Process addictions like social media addiction, gambling addiction, and sex addiction commonly co-occur with alcohol and substance addictions. It can be very helpful to have a better understanding of what process addictions are, how they often manifest alongside substance use disorder (SUD), and why they must be treated in tandem with addiction. Also, process addictions can easily pop up while in recovery. So it is important to be careful not to replace one addiction with another. If you feel like you may be struggling with a process addiction, a substance addiction, or both, we can help. For more information on the best treatment options for addiction comorbidities, please reach out to Lantana Recovery today at (866) 997-2870.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.