Process Addiction Treatment

Process Addictions - Gaming, Gambling, Sex and More

Understanding process addiction and being aware of its symptoms can help you to make informed choices regarding treatment for yourself or a loved one. Here at The Wave, we take a closer look at process addictions, who is affected, how to recognise the symptoms and where to look for help.

What are process addictions?

Process addictions typically occur when people are compelled to carry out certain behaviours, whatever the consequences. The most widely-known process addictions include sex, gaming, shopping, gambling, the Internet and food. Because these activities are legal, many people have difficulty in understanding how they can be so addictive.

Once, it was thought that in order to be classed as an addiction, a repetitive behaviour with ultimately harmful consequences should involve physical withdrawal symptoms such as those exhibited by drug addicts and alcoholics. In fact, although process addictions and substance addictions often go hand in hand, certain behaviours that we think of as legal activities can be just as addictive. Being dependent on a certain process can be as detrimental to brain function as substances like opioids and methamphetamines.  In fact, a 2010 paper from the American journal, Addiction states that process addictions create the same types of chemical imbalance in the brain and require serious treatment.

Pursuits like gaming, gambling or sex target the brain's 'reward system' producing feelings of euphoria that are brought on by the release of chemicals like dopamine. Over time, addicts are driven to replicate these behaviours resulting in even more exposure to the cause of their disorder and further changes in the brain. People can become so dependent on these processes that they see them as a way of dealing with life and are incapable of imagining a life without them. Process addictions may not have the physical withdrawal symptoms of substance addictions,  but they can be every bit as dangerous.

What are the most common process addictions?



Gambling addiction is possibly the best known of process addictions. Because gambling isn't a 'new' disorder like gaming or the Internet, it has been more widely researched and publicised. Today, however, gambling comes in many guises from the traditional race track or casino to online poker sites and slots. Those who are compelled to gamble face severe consequences including homelessness, financial ruin and breakdown of relationships, all of which can lead to depression, mental illness, suicidal feelings or death.

Gaming and Internet

Most of us are able to use the Internet in a responsible way and manage our time online well. Children, teens and young adults are particularly at risk of becoming addicted to gaming sites or the Internet in general, and the issue is now an international concern.  Relationships, education and social interaction are all seen as less important than staying online and, over time, Internet addicts become less able to relate to or engage with normal daily life.



Sex addiction hit the headlines back in the 1990s, but it has been an issue for many, many years.  This type of process addiction often stems from insecurity, underlying mental problems or abuse, although anyone can be affected.  When people are addicted to sex, they can seek it out in sometimes inappropriate ways, acting on their compulsions without considering the outcome or consequences. Again, all ages can be hooked on sex and it’s always worth seeking professional treatment.


Food disorder is one of the most difficult process addictions to deal with since food is necessary to sustain life. Addicts become addicted to certain foods or eating patterns and often struggle with extreme feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Food addictions can have a long-term effect on health, self-esteem, relationships and finances.  However, with a managed treatment programme such as those offered by The Wave Clinic, it's possible to manage your food consumption well and take back control.



It's easy to write off addiction to shopping as simply a product our times. Unfortunately, some people are unable to let go of the feelings of control that compulsive spending affords. It's a catch 22 situation since, eventually, the process will spiral out of control resulting in feelings of guilt, shame, loss and inability to cope.

These are just a few of the most-widely researched and treated process addictions but, the truth is, many other forms of repetitive behaviour can lead to lifelong addictions. If you're worried about ANY process addiction, do ask for help as quickly as possible.

What are the symptoms of process addiction?

How can you spot process addiction in someone close to you? Because most process addictions, with the possible exception of food, don't exhibit outwardly noticeable signs, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether someone is addicted or behaving fairly normally.  Unlike drugs and alcohol where the effects of intoxication are relatively easy to spot, process addictions can lurk under the surface. 

  • However, some of the symptoms of process addictions can be very similar to substance addiction symptoms and may include:

  • Disappearing for extended periods. For example, some addicts might spend hours in their bedrooms where they have a degree of privacy to indulge their cravings for gaming or online gambling. Likewise, food or sex addicts might go out in search of gratification.

  • Feelings of anger, irritability when access to the process is curtailed or limited.

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities such as sports, art, or music.

  • A need for ever more gratification as tolerance to the process builds. The amount of pleasure decreases and can compel people to repeat destructive behaviour patterns more often.

  • Lack of interest in everyday life. School, college and work can all suffer.

  • Deep feelings of shame and guilt. Can lead to lowered self-confidence, anxiety and depression.

  • Lying to family and friends

  • Taking steps to hide behaviours. This might be gaming during the night while the family sleeps, gambling during working hours or concealing food.

  • Financial problems may arise as a result of process addictions and the inability to work or carry out daily tasks can compound the problem.

  • Stealing from loved ones to fund the process.

  • Denial. Many of those addicted to various processes and/or substances deny that there is an issue. They may try to stress that their behaviour is normal or that it's something that they only do from time to time. Overcoming denial and addressing the issue is the first and possibly most important step on the path to recovery.

What's next?

Kuala Lumpur skyline

If you or a loved one is struggling with any type of process addiction, you should seek professional help right away. Because many process addictions involve things that are a necessary part of life such as the Internet or food, it's difficult to break the cycle at home. Residential care provided by fully-qualified counsellors, therapists and experts is proven to offer the best chance of success.

Since it opened in 2018, The Wave Clinic has swiftly established itself as one of Malaysia's leading addiction care centres. We offer age-appropriate residential treatment for all types of addiction in an idyllic setting on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Our peaceful location is far removed from the triggers that can thwart home treatment and provides teens, young adults and adults with the calm they need to rebuild their lives.

Our residential rehabilitation programme combines a range of methods and therapies with holistic remedies, counselling, education and activities.  We encourage family participation and address both the process addiction itself and underlying issues like substance addiction or abuse and mental and physical disorders.  If you're concerned about yourself or someone close to you, don't hesitate to contact us at the earliest opportunity.