Are Process Addictions Medically Recognized?

A process addiction means someone is hooked to a behavior rather than a chemical substance; compulsive gambling, sex and shopping are some of the more well-known process addictions, but many behaviors can be problematic. Medical recognition of behavioral addictions varies, but they involve the same symptoms, origins, effects and treatment as drug addictions.

How to Get a Process Addiction Diagnosed

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a publication by the American Psychiatric Association—it is often considered the standard when it comes to defining and diagnosing mental health issues. This manual has long included entries on substance abuse and addiction, and the fifth (most recent) edition now includes a category for behavioral addictions. Gambling addiction is the only process addiction included at this time, but definitions and inclusions are likely to change. The DSM is not without flaws, as suggested by its regular updates and changes, and its definitions may have errors and exceptions. For instance, the DSM is famous for once listing homosexuality as a mental illness, and many of the current diagnostics are still considered subjective or based on social norms. However, each new edition of the DSM attempts to be more complete and scientific, so as knowledge about addiction and mental health continues to increase, definitions will likely broaden to become more inclusive.

Process Addictions and the ASAM

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) was founded in the 1950s, and it continues to be a influential force in addiction education, research and treatment. The physicians and other health professionals that comprise the society have developed their own definition of addiction that encompasses any behavior that involves an “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” (“Definition of Addiction,” April 2011). Years before the DSM added gambling addiction to its pages, the ASAM already considered it and other process addiction to be real and supported by medical and scientific findings.

Medical Help for Process Addictions

Process addictions are common, but so is treatment. Many addiction treatment programs and professionals realize the social, personal and biological underpinnings of process addictions, so they offer the integrated support needed for long-term recovery. Call our toll-free helpline right now to speak with an admissions coordinator about treatment options. Our staff are here 24 hours a day, and all calls are confidential, so please pick up the phone now to begin recovery.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email