Process addictions include activities such as gambling, shopping, watching porn, sex/love, Internet surfing and eating disorders. The overuse or dependence on these activities can be equally as debilitating, if not more so than, more common addictions such as alcohol and drugs. Evidence based practices suggest that it’s not enough to treat these addictions one at a time but rather simultaneously in order to provide an individual with stronger tools for longer lasting recovery.

Shopping addiction, commonly referred to as "shop-aholism," is a less common but equally as destructive addiction as drugs or alcohol.  Shopping addiction is a process addiction in which an individual cannot control his or her impulse to purchase things.  The process addictions differ from chemical addictions in that it is a behavior or set of behaviors, compulsive in nature that a person becomes addicted to.  Although there is no substance involved, behavioral addictions are very powerful due to the fact that engaging in the behaviors triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, causing one to feel compelled to repeat the behavior in order to get the "high."

Shopping addiction, like other process addictions such as sex and gambling, has been on the rise in the past two decades due to the internet.  Whereas previously one would need to leave the home during specific hours in order to shop, it is now possible to shop online, from home, 24 hours a day.  Sites such as ebay can be highly addictive because they combine the allure of both shopping and gambling.  Internet shopping, in particular, is detrimental in that the psychological connection to one's finances is so removed.  Many sites store credit card information so that one can make a purchase with the click of a button.  Like actual shopping, the high one gets from making the purchase is short-lived, so the behavior must be repeated again and again in order to feel good.

Warning signs of shopping addiction are:

  • Spending over budget.  (Spending more than planned or more than one can afford.)
  • Hiding purchases.  Similar to one addicted to drugs or alcohol, a shopping addict will often hide his/her purchases, lie about them, intercept mail/credit card bills and have online purchases shipped to another address such as work.
  • Progression of the behavior.  A shopping addiction can often start out as getting out of control once a year (i.e the holidays) but over time will progress to the point that one is shopping more days than not, and possibly daily.
  • Shopping behavior that is out of control.  The hallmark of any addiction is compulsivity.  Someone with a shopping addiction will be powerless to stop the behavior, even in the face of severe consequences.
  • Relationship difficulties.  A shopping addict will inevitably become highly preoccupied with fantasizing about, planning, and engaging in shopping.  As a result, his or her relationships with friends and family will deteriorate as the obsession grows.

The good news is that there is help for someone suffering from a shopping addiction.  Debtors Anonymous is a 12-Step oriented program based on the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous and is aimed at helping someone stop acting out this pattern of destructive behavior.   In addition, there is a lot of evidence suggesting that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective for the process addictions.  Finding a therapist who is knowledgeable about process addictions and fluent in CBT as well as attending a support group such as DA can provide the support necessary to help someone learn to get back the control over their lives that shopping has taken.

New Hope Recovery Center offers programs to address co-occuring process addictions such as shopping. If you have any questions, please contact us!

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

Compulsive Gambling Chicago RehabGambling can be defined as risking something of value on an activity or event in which the outcome is uncertain.  It comes with the hopes of winning something of material value. Approximately 81% of Americans view casino gambling as an acceptable form of entertainment.  In 2011, it was reported that 27% of Americans visited a casino within the past 12 months and 75% of all Americans consider casinos a good value.  Based on those percentages, gambling is prevalent in American society.  If the statistics of 1 in 4 families are affected by addiction, there’s a high likelihood that many of these families are impacted by a gambling addiction.

Process addictions are becoming more familiar to the public, although they still aren't as recognizable as a substance abuse disorder like alcoholism. A process addiction is an addiction to certain mood-altering behaviors, such as eating disorders, gambling, sexual activity, overwork, and shopping. Additionally, there are many similarities between drug and/or alcohol addiction and compulsive gambling.

Compulsive gambling euphoria does not involve the use of drugs or alcohol to reach the state of arousal.  However, the rush which compulsive gamblers long for is very similar to the high sought by drug users.  The rush is often distinguished by sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, and nausea, which are experienced during the period of anticipation.  The alcoholic and/or drug user develop an increased tolerance for their drug of choice, and then increases their use in order to feel the same affects (progression of addiction).  Likewise, compulsive gamblers develop tolerance for the action and must increase the amount of money, size of their bets or the odds against them to create the same amount of excitement.

What are some of the characteristics of a compulsive gambler?

  • Preoccupation with gambling.
  • Difficulty controlling gambling behavior with unsuccessful attempts to stop.
  • Negative consequences; including family conflicts, employment problems, and denying the extent of the gambling problem.
  • Substantial financial problems due to gambling.
  • Gambling with increasing amounts of money (money is the drug) to achieve a most wanted stimulation.
  • Chasing losses.
  • Stealing money and/or committing crimes to fund gambling.  Most common crimes committed by the compulsive gambler include hustling games of skills, bad checks, loan fraud, embezzlement, falsifying financial information, tax evasion and tax fraud.

What type of gamblers are there?

  • Casual social gambler - A person who rarely gambles but usually does so for entertainment.
  • Serious gambler - A person who gambles regularly and considers it a pleasurable activity.
  • Professional gambler – A person who makes a living from gambling.  They are highly skilled and in control.
  • Relief and escape gambler – Is typically women who use gambling mainly as a quick getaway from stressors.
  • Antisocial personality gambler – A career criminal who makes a living by illegal means, such as cheating, fixing games, etc.

While drug addicts and/or alcoholics can usually be recognized by the physical traits of addiction - needle marks, breath odor, slurred speech, weight loss, staggering gait - compulsive gamblers are more difficult to distinguish.  They usually are well groomed and less conspicuous.  Compulsive gamblers, much like anyone else struggling with an addiction, typically deny any problem until they hit rock bottom and are desperate for help.

New Hope Recovery Center has experience treating all forms of addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive gambling, please call New Hope Recovery Center at 773-883-3916 or contact us vie email at

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

Self-Exclusion Program for Problem Gamblers is a great way to hold a problem gambler accountable. The Illinois Gaming Board created the Self-Exclusion Program that allows persons who have determined they are problem gamblers to self-exclude themselves from all Illinois casinos. This program also removes the individual's name from all marketing materials from Illinois Casinos. For more information and frequently asked questions about the Self-Exclusion Program for Problem Gamblers click here.