The deformation of rocks is commonly intimately associated with metamorphic reactions. This paper is a step towards understanding the behaviour of fully coupled, deforming, chemically reacting systems by considering a simple example of the problem comprising a single layer system with elastic-power law viscous constitutive behaviour where the deformation is controlled by the diffusion of a single chemical component that is produced during a metamorphic reaction. Analysis of the problem using the principles of non-equilibrium thermodynamics allows the energy dissipated by the chemical reaction-diffusion processes to be coupled with the energy dissipated during deformation of the layers. This leads to strain-rate softening behaviour and the resultant development of localised deformation which in turn nucleates buckles in the layer. All such diffusion processes, in leading to Herring-Nabarro, Coble or “pressure solution” behaviour, are capable of producing mechanical weakening through the development of a “chemical viscosity”, with the potential for instability in the deformation. For geologically realistic strain rates these chemical feed-back instabilities occur at the centimetre to micron scales, and so produce structures at these scales, as opposed to thermal feed-back instabilities that become important at the 100–1000 m scales.