Process addictions may seem minor compared to substance addictions, however, statistics show that these behaviors require proper treatment to prevent long-term consequences.

Addiction can come in many forms beyond drugs and alcohol. Although the public often thinks first of substance addiction, addiction to certain behaviors, such as gambling or working, is also common. Process addiction — also known as behavioral addiction — involves the intense drive to perform a specific non-substance-related rewarding act or behavior despite knowledge of its negative consequences. Behavioral addiction statistics and research show that these conditions are no less serious than substance addictions. On the contrary, process addictions involve similar chemical processes, co-occurring conditions and response to treatment. Being aware of facts about process addiction can help those who experience these conditions identify the need for treatment and seek recovery sooner.

Prevalence of Behavioral Addictions

Studies show that the occurrence of process addiction can be quite high. Some behavior addictions are more common than others, and some are related to new developments in technology; for example, screen addiction is rampant in children growing up in an age of readily available tablets and smartphones.

While one can theoretically become addicted to almost any behavior, common behavioral addictions tend to focus on high-reward or high-risk actions. Behavior addiction rates vary depending on the specific behavior in question.

Gambling Addiction

At first glance, gambling addiction seems to be an obviously addictive behavior; casinos are specifically designed to encourage patrons to spend money for as long as possible. Due to the invention of mobile technology, gambling addiction statistics have changed. Online betting and fantasy sports have become very popular, making it easier than ever to gamble. More than ever, there is a need to carefully monitor young people for problematic gambling behaviors before they become an addiction.

According to the World Health Organization, gambling addiction rates vary from 0.1% to 6% and young adults are among the most susceptible; up to 14% of college students report problem gambling.

Porn Addiction

2019 study gives some initial insight into porn addiction statistics:

  • Of 1557 Spanish college students, addiction-related pornography use was 0.7%
  • Of 20,094 Australian subjects surveyed, 1.2% of women and 4.4% of men considered themselves addicted to internet porn
  • A Swedish study with 1913 subjects reported porn addiction rates of 4.5%
  • Porn addiction is correlated with decreased sexual development and function

Sex and Love Addiction

Otherwise known as compulsive sexual behavior disorder, sex addiction statistics reveal that:

Internet and Technology Addiction

The digital revolution has created new avenues for addiction. Internet addiction statistics cover a wide range of addictions. For example, 4% of sampled college students from two U.S. universities were considered addicted to the internet.

Video game use is high, with 59% of Americans playing recreationally. While recreational use may not be harmful, video game addiction can cause many adverse consequences, including increased stress, anxiety and isolation. The National Population Registry of Norway found that 1.4% of the country’s gamers were addicted.

As technology use increases, social media addiction becomes more prevalent. Statistics show that nearly 18% of social media users experience addiction and. Young, single females are among the most likely to live with this type of addiction.

Exercise Addiction

Doctors and scientists have espoused the mood-altering benefits of exercise, but in excess, even this healthy behavior can be harmful. Exercise addiction is statistically measured by scientists via the Exercise Addiction Inventory, which has found exercise addiction to be:

  • 3% of regular gym-goers
  • 7% of sports science university students
  • 50% in marathon runners

Shopping and Spending Addiction

Most people have felt guilty about overspending from time to time, but chronic purchasing to soothe stress or get a mood boost can be costly. Statistics on shopping addiction show that compulsive buying behaviors did not differ within or outside the United States and that:

  • General shopping addiction in adults is 4.9%
  • Shopping addiction was higher in university students at 8.3%
  • In avid shoppers, 16.2% of shoppers reported addiction
  • Young, female shoppers tended more toward shopping addiction

Work Addiction

Work addiction is difficult to define and researchers have struggled to identify the clearest data on this addiction. Depending on the study cited, 5–25% of the population lives with work addiction, with 23–25% of female professionals having the condition.

Food Addiction

Food addiction is complex as it involves both a substance and behavioral component. While food addiction is controversial, researchers are beginning to see eating addiction as a behavioral condition rather than an addiction to food. Statistics on food and eating addiction show the prevalence to be 11.1% in normal-weight populations and about 25% in obese populations.

Diagnosing Behavioral Addictions

Until the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, or DSM-V, behavioral or process addictions were not seen as mental health conditions in the same way as substance addictions. Some researchers see the inclusion of behavioral addictions as too general a category that may broaden the definition of addiction. Nonetheless, applying proper criteria to behavior addictions can lead to better treatment options.

The DSM-V has shown how to diagnose gambling addiction. Many of these criteria can be applied to other behavioral addictions as well:

  • Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money for the same excitement
  • Restlessness/irritability when cutting down
  • Repeated/unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop the behavior
  • Preoccupied with gambling
  • Gambles to soothe or improve mood
  • Returns on following days to recoup lost money
  • Lies to conceal gambling addiction
  • Has lost or jeopardized a relationship or opportunity due to gambling
  • Relies on others to relieve financial situations caused by gambling

With proper diagnosis of addictive behaviors, people are more likely to access treatment for recovery.

Process Addiction and Co-occurring Disorders

The nature of co-occurring disorders largely depends on the behavior and its associated environments. Eating disorders and exercise dependence were both associated with increased compulsive buying and sexual addiction in one study. Process addiction and substance abuse commonly occur together. A study of 2453 college students showed those with internet addiction were more likely to engage in harmful alcohol use.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and behavioral addiction may also be linked. Scientists are exploring the connections between behavior, compulsions —which are related to shopping, gambling, and other addictive behaviors — and obsessive thoughts involved in OCD.

Since people suffering from behavioral addictions are often attempting to relieve uncomfortable emotions, there are parallels between behavioral addiction and mental illness. Of the studied patients attending Community Mental Health Centres, 5.3% took part in at-risk gambling, and in 52% of cases, risky gambling practices preceded a psychiatric illness. Treating behavioral addiction successfully may also involve treating any associated mental health conditions concurrently.

Impact of Behavioral Addictions

Many of the addictive behaviors mentioned have a significant cost associated with them. People can lose their life savings as a result of gambling or shopping addictions. One scholar estimates that one person with a gambling addiction costs society at large $9,393 per year due to bankruptcy and physical illness, for example.

Researchers also associate behavioral addictions with the following negative consequences:

  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Social relationship decline
  • Issues in school or work
  • Deteriorated relationships
  • Mental health issues

When comparing the cost of treatment and recovery to the amount lost if the addiction continues, treatment costs seem minor.

Statistics on Process Addiction Treatment

Treatment for process addictions is similar to treatment for substance use disorders. Twelve-step programscognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement and medications, among other methods, have all been used successfully to treat both substance and process addictions.

Recovery from behavioral addiction needs expert care. If you are suffering from a co-occurring process and substance addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Call today to discuss comprehensive treatment plans.

Megan Hull
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
Navin Ramchandani
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Navin Ramchandani, MD, MBBS
Dr. Navin Ramchandani is a Medical Doctor, Diagnostician and Owner of R&R Medical Centre in Barbados. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.