How to spot the signs of addiction
An estimated two million people who live in the UK are battling an addiction. Despite advances in awareness and support available, misconceptions remain regarding addictions.
There is an assumption that the signs are easy to spot and if someone close, a friend or family member for example, were struggling with an addiction it would become obvious quickly.
Another prevalent myth to dismiss is that only ‘certain types of people’ become hooked on drugs and alcohol when the truth is, addictions can affect people from all walks of life. Enough exposure to something can cause anyone to descend into addiction, whether it be, amongst others: drugs, alcohol, food, sex or gambling.
The signs of addiction aren’t always unmistakable. There are people who have hit rock bottom, in which case, changes in their behaviour and possibly appearance, will manifest clearly. However, many others give the appearance of control and stability, leading friends and families to be shocked when the addiction comes to light.
If you’re worried that you or someone you know could have an addiction, there are signs to look out for.
How to know if you have an addiction
- Can’t stop doing something – an activity or substance will become more prevalent in day-to-day life; something which was once a ‘take it or leave it’ thing is now a necessity. It becomes all a person thinks about, and arouses irritability if not done/taken. Avoiding social situations because of embarrassment about behaviour, or as it makes doing/taking something difficult or impossible, is another hallmark
- Affecting relationships – disruption in a person’s personal or work life because of an activity/substance is a strong indicator. Is drinking causing regular arguments with a partner? Or is gambling causing financial woes such as an inability to pay the bills? There may also be repeated absences from work because of drink or drugs-related ailments such as hangovers or withdrawal symptoms
- Taking bigger risks to satisfy urges – the more a person does something the brain considers pleasurable, the more of it they will need to satisfy themselves. For example, a sex addiction may start with a couple of harmless one night stands, but as the addiction takes hold, engaging in high risk and/or inappropriate behaviours such as prostitution becomes more likely
- Withdrawal symptoms – when a person goes too long between taking drugs or drinking alcohol, a number of symptoms can manifest. These can include nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking and anxiety. If these symptoms occur when trying to avoid drugs or alcohol, it may be due to addiction
What are the signs that someone you know has an addiction?
- They have become dependent on something – if it's difficult to recall the last time a friend or family member didn’t have a drink in their hand, or a day they didn’t gamble, it may be due to addiction.
There is such difficulty in distinguishing the difference between someone who enjoys something and does it regularly and someone who has an addiction, so close monitoring is required. Addicts cannot turn their problem on and off so it's likely that their vice will feature in their life every single day and will have done so for quite some time
- They have become more withdrawn – a person can often become more reserved and may actively try to avoid friends or family. It may be they feel embarrassed by their situation, or fear people may begin to notice the changes in them if they spend time with others
- Changes in their personality – once an addiction sets in, addicts lose interest in the things they used to care about as their desire concentrates on the one thing. They may quit or lose their job, stop socialising, become irresponsible, never have any money and stop fulfilling commitments to family and friends. They’re also likely to become more distant, irritable or cold towards you, or seem depressed. In addition, they may develop insomnia, lose weight or look generally unhealthy. While all of these are signs that an addiction could be present, they can also be symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, so bear that in mind when you approach the subject
If you think that you or someone you know could have an addiction, please feel free to visit our addiction treatment and rehabilitation page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available.