Addiction can be harder to identify than it might seem. There are countless forms of substance and behavioral addictions that can manifest in a variety of ways. Addiction affects the way a person behaves and interacts with the world around them. Because it changes the brain’s motivation, reward system, and functions, it can cause them to engage in behaviors or activities that supports their cravings. This can lead to detrimental effects on their livelihood, relationships with others, and personal health.
While the signs of addiction can vary greatly from person to person based off individual factors, there are several overarching themes that often present themselves. In many cases, addiction causes:
- An inability to control or stay away from the substance or behavior
- Changes in relationships including increased withdrawal, abandoning commitments, or hanging out with a different group of substance-abusing peers
- A disregard for risks, such as sharing needles or driving under the influence
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as withdrawal symptoms or increased tolerance
The severity of these symptoms often depends on the type of addiction a person has and its duration. Even when a person is aware of the consequences of their addiction, they may be unable to stop, and may even try to find ways to justify its continuation. Addiction is not easy to overcome, especially alone, making it imperative for loved ones to be aware of the signs and symptoms of addiction. Physical, mental, and emotional changes may be present and highlight the need for professional treatment and help.
Identifying Addiction Early
Addiction is most commonly associated with substance abuse, but behavioral addictions can be just as damaging and problematic. A person may have an addiction to multiple substances or have co-occurring behavioral addictions as well. Some of these addictions may include:
- Illicit drugs
- Inhalants, including household products, such as spray paint, cleaners, and other aerosol products
Some forms of addiction may be harder to identify than others, especially if they are normalized by society or engaged in socially. This makes it especially important to be aware of signs that may indicate it has evolved into something more troubling.
In many cases, a person does not intend to develop an addiction. It may start as a form of self-medication for stress or pain or as a curiosity and interest in experimenting. Over time, continued engagement in the behavior or use of the substance can change and become a habit they are unable to regulate.
Changes in Health and Behavior
Once an addiction has developed, a person may go to great lengths in order to hide it from loved ones. The changes in their health and behavior may be sporadic initially, making it imperative to remain observant. You may notice behavioral changes that include:
- Increased alienation or changes in social groups
- Decreased interest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed
- Frequently missing obligations in work or school
- Increased secrecy or lying
- Distinct changes in their sleep patterns
- Increased risk-taking behaviors despite being aware of the consequences
- Neglecting responsibilities and relationships
Addiction always takes a toll on a person’s health. While it may not be apparent initially, over time, the symptoms of addiction become more evident. Physical and mental health are dramatically altered by addiction and may manifest in the following ways:
- Memory problems
- Abrupt changes in weight
- Negligence towards hygiene or personal appearance
- Changes in speech patterns
- Frequent illness
- Changes in the appearance of their eyes including bloodshot, glazed, and pinpoint or dilated pupils
- Physical withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, vomiting, or profuse sweating
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased irritability
- Suicidal thoughts
While some of these symptoms may be attributed to other medical conditions or illnesses, a person with an addiction can also exhibit many of these symptoms. If there is no other cause for these symptoms, there is a significant probability that addiction is at the root of it.
The Long-Term Consequences of Addiction
As addiction progresses, the signs and symptoms become more dramatic and life-threatening. In some cases, these symptoms can become permanent and ignoring the signs can lead to life-changing outcomes. Addiction can put a person at risk for:
- Contagious diseases
- Damaged relationships
- Trouble with the law
- Loss of employment
- Loss of housing
- Loss of parental rights
While these experiences can happen to anyone, an addiction can increase the likelihood of these events occurring. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with addiction, it is important to intervene as soon as possible in order to minimize the risk of long-term consequences developing. Addiction can negatively impact every aspect of a person’s life and more often than not, professional help is required to adequately address their needs.
The signs and symptoms of addiction vary from person to person based off numerous individual factors such as family history, biological differences, and the types of substances abused. Many symptoms of addiction overlap making it vital to address them simultaneously. A comprehensive approach improves recovery outcomes and can help reduce the likelihood of relapse in the future.
Intervention and treatment must be highly individualized in order to most effectively address addiction. If your loved one is exhibiting many of these symptoms, seeking treatment quickly is imperative. The sooner they are able to begin receiving care, the better it is for their overall wellbeing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.