Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC

There are TWO fundamental types of addiction: chemical addictions and process addictions.

Chemical addiction refers to any type of drug or alcohol addictions. This is what most of us think about when we think about addiction. I have posted lots of articles about this type of addiction already so I am going to spend most of this posts talking about PROCESS ADDICTIONS.

A process addiction is an addictive behavioral pattern such as gambling, sex, spending, pornography, and lots more.

Basically anything that triggers the dopamine (desire system) into action can trigger an addiction. Not everyone does drugs, but most of us have gambled, had sex, spent money, and have even looked at pornography in our life time. So, why aren’t we all addicted to those things?

A lot of it has to do with the circumstances in which these behaviors take place. Because of science we now know that we are most vulnerable to addictions when we are low in serotonin, oxytocin, have ADHD, Anxiety, or Trauma. When we have any of these conditions, the behaviors that trigger dopamine (and other feel good chemicals) can become compulsive.

The reason is because these conditions cause a deficit or an inconsistency in these “feel good” brain chemicals and the behaviors can trigger the release of the “missing chemicals.” This then changes the way the brain processes these chemical releases. It begins to feel like we need to shop/have sex/or get a big win to “feel better.”

The trick is this… Dopamine is a desire chemical. So that means that it’s the chasing of the thing that actually produces the desired effect rather than getting/having the thing. In short, the person gets stuck in the “process” or behavioral pattern.

Our brain makes us think, we will get a reward if we achieve a desired outcome, but it’s actually the desire that gives us the brain reward.

It always goes back to rats in cages! Remember those old experiments about rats in cages that were given cocaine? Well, we use to think the rat’s brain would release the dopamine when they got the cocaine, but now we know that their brains release the dopamine when they see the lever.

TRANSLATION: “the thought of getting high” is better than actually getting high! It feels like an itch and the more you scratch it, the more it will itch!

EVEN SCARIER! Science has now shown that teenagers actually get 2 releases of dopamine. Once when they anticipate using, and another when actually ingesting the drug. This is just one of the many reason’s teenagers are more prone to addiction.  

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