Five Things You Might Not Know About Process Addictions

Most of us have been there. We check the time and notice we've been playing Call of Duty for much longer than we planned. Or, maybe, we go shopping and spend a significant amount more than we had budgeted. Anybody who has been to a casino can attest to the sinking feeling when you lose at the poker table or the slot machine. Most of us can relate to engaging in a behavioral compulsion every now and then. This begs the question: When does a behavioral compulsion turn into an "addiction"?

1. Only one process addiction is currently included in the DSM-V

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental and Emotional Disorders (DSM) is a very large, currently purple book that is released by the American Psychiatric Association once every five or six  years. The fifth addition (DSM-V) was released in 2013 and was the first edition to include Gambling Disorder. This is huge in the world of process addictions because there is a skepticism among many professionals around the legitimacy of behavioral addictions. 

Essentially, this means that you cannot be diagnosed with Internet addiction or shopping addiction. The only process addiction that an individual can officially be diagnosed with is Gambling Disorder.

2. What does it mean to be "addicted"?

Using the word "addicted" in regards to behavioral compulsions can be viewed as controversial. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (2011): 

“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. 

Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death."

This definition provides an insight into the legitimacy of process addictions.  A lack of control, intense urges or cravings, and increased problems in relationships are characteristic of individuals who struggle with process addictions.

3. Process Addictions Defined

A process addiction is a behavior that produces short-term rewards that may engender persistent behavior despite knowledge of adverse consequences. It is characterized by diminished control over that behavior (Grant, Potenza, Weinstein, & Gorelick, 2011). 

Process addictions can be more difficult to identify, have more subtle consequences, and warrant less societal attention.. Most of us can play a video game or play a slot machine for an hour or two and walk away. This may cause increased frustration in those who struggle with process addictions as thoughts of "Why can't I be like everybody else?" enter their minds.

4. Types of Process Addictions 


-Video games





-Food (may be related to Binge Eating Disorder in some cases)

These are the main process addictions that researchers have focused on in recent years. Other proposed process addictions include: love and intimacy, television, and cellular phone use.

5. Treating Process Addictions

When working with individuals struggling with a process addiction, I typically utilize a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach. I work with the client to identify patterns in the behavior. For example, somebody who struggles with video game addiction may go to work, come home, eat dinner, and play video games for the rest of the evening. My job would be to assist the client in disrupting that routine and implementing other activities to engage in. I also work with the client to examine the emotional part that process addictions play in their lives. 

Additionally, I use the Stages of Change Model (for more information, click here: ) when working with process addictions. How ready are you to change? If you're still unsure, I work closely with the client to explore their thoughts around changing their behaviors. 

Bonus Content

Full disclosure: This is not an academic source of information, nor is it research-backed. However, it is an open, anonymous forum written by real people who struggle with an addiction to World of Warcraft, a popular, Internet-based role playing game. In my research of process addictions, I found this page to be very striking: 


Emily Teegarden