Because the chemical processes that occur during the activities of a process addiction are similar to the chemical processes that occur during substance abuse, it is challenging to differentiate between the two. Although there are similarities, there are also clearly defined differences. Substance addiction occurs from the abuse of alcohol, drugs, or any mind altering substance. Process addiction occurs from engaging in activities or behaviors and is not dependent upon substances.

A process addiction is a condition in which a person is dependent upon an activity or behavior, such as sexual activity, overeating, gambling, or shopping. The reward or relief a person gets from engaging in one of the activities listed above is what he compulsively pursues, despite negative consequences. Process addiction does not involve any addictive chemicals or substances. However, there are chemical processes which occur during the activity which are similar to chemical changes that take place during substance abuse. (Smith, 2012). Process addictions are often overlooked or overshadowed by substance addictions as not being “real” addictions. This is unfortunate as the negative consequences of process addictions are no less than the consequences of substance addictions. Negative consequences include everything from loss of significant other, home, or family to loss of self-esteem, confidence, job, or money.

Substance addiction is the repetitive use of mind-altering substances, despite negative consequences, which can produce a feeling of pleasure, relaxation, or relieve negative feelings. Mind-altering substances include alcohol, drugs, and any other substances that alter a person’s state of mind. As use and abuse continues to progress, the effects of using substances diminishes and more drugs or alcohol are needed to achieve the same feeling of pleasure, reward, or relief. Vulnerability to substance addiction depends upon the individual and his genes, the environment, and social factors. The more risk factors present is a person’s life, the more likely that substance use will result in addiction. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, genetic factors account for up to 60% of an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. (SUBSTANCE USE, ABUSE AND ADDICTION: PART 1 OF 2, 2012). According to Alcoholics Anonymous, substance addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease.