Top 3 Signs Of Addiction

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 1 minute

Addiction is demanding and exhausting – for you, your partner, your parents, your child, your close friends, and your loved ones. It’s even taxing for your co-workers. And, guess what? It’s impacting young adults at record speed. So what are the signs of addiction you should be aware of?

In 2017, approximately 5 million young adults (ages 18-25) struggled with substance use disorder or addiction, which is about 15% or 1 in 7 American adults. For adults who are 26-years-old and older, the percentage grappling with substance use disorder or addiction sharply rose to approximately 13 million (6%).

Also, in 2017, approximately 3 million American young adults (ages 18-25) struggled with alcohol use disorder or alcoholism, which is about 10% of young adults. For adults who are 26-years-old or older, the percentage experiencing alcohol use disorder or alcoholism spiked to a whopping 11 million (5%).

Young adults are particularly susceptible to illicit drug abuse

Approximately 2.5 million or 7% of Millennials and Generation Z’ers have an illicit drug problem. In fact, heroin use in adults, between the ages of 18 and 25, has doubled in the past 10 years.

Thus, addiction, regardless of its form, is serious and should be considered as such.

Addiction, left to fester, can wreak havoc on your life and destroy your dreams. It can ruin healthy relationships and stop job and career opportunities in their tracks. It can also damage your health and reduce you to a shell of your former self.

Addiction can also cause both short-term and long-term problems – problems that can require years of recovery. And if that isn’t scary enough, drug addiction and alcoholism can lead to overdoses and death. That’s why it is imperative to seek treatment if you are struggling with addiction. The good news is there are treatments for everyone regardless of preferences, schedules, health, and circumstances.

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Have drugs, alcohol, prescription medications, sex, or other vices taken over your life? Do you feel like you are at the whim of a substance or behavior? Have you tried to stop a substance or behavior, but have been unsuccessful? Do you think about engaging in a certain behavior or using a specific substance all day long?

Has your use of a substance or engagement in a behavior interfered with your health and well-being, friendships, romantic relationships, self-esteem, family dynamics, career opportunities and/or job productivity?

Do you want to stop using or engaging in a substance or behavior, but don’t know how? Do you use the substance or perform an action because it brings you joy? And, lastly, do you have to take more of the substance or perform the action more frequently to maintain the “high?”

If you answered, “yes” to two or more of these questions, you may have an addiction.

Identifying the signs of addiction can be challenging, primarily because addicts typically hide it from others. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines substance use disorder or addiction as a perplexing condition that involves an inability to stop using a particular substance or quit performing a certain action, despite a negative or unpleasant outcome.

Addiction is a Chronic Condition

Addiction is a chronic condition that affects your brain’s reward system, motivation, and even cognitive function (i.e. memory and impulse-control). But, contrary to popular belief, addiction doesn’t just involve drugs and alcohol; it can also involve food, gambling, sex, exercising, shopping, and even people.

When you’re addicted to a certain vice (i.e. alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, food, sex, etc.), you crave the substance or behavior. The addiction takes over your life until all you can think about is your next “score.” When you’re an addict, your goals, dreams, friends, family, partner, career plans, hygiene, personal development, and health no longer matter.

You’ll do whatever it takes to satisfy your urges, even if it means lying and stealing from the people you love. For an addict, admitting there is a problem is the hardest part, while for close friends and loved ones, recognizing the signs of addiction are the hardest part of addiction.

There Are Many Signs of Addiction

How can you tell if you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction? By knowing the signs.

Listed below are the general signs of addiction:

  • Feeling out-of-control or being unable to refrain from using a substance or engaging in a behavior
  • Withdrawing from friends and family and self-isolating at home
  • Ignoring risk factors even though there is possibility of harm or negative consequences
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or continuously increasing the amount or frequency to get the desired result

Note: The intensity and frequency of each general sign largely depends on the length of the addiction.

Even though addiction is normally associated with drug and alcohol abuse, behavioral addictions can be just as impactful. According to the APA, a person is addicted when he or she is unable to successfully abstain from the person, behavior, or substance. Still, the emotional and physical effects on the addict and his or her loved ones are often overlooked.

What are the most common addictions?

Most addicts turn to the normal culprits, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medications, however, nicotine, tobacco, and even inhalants like spray paints, gasoline, household cleaners, and aerosol sprays are also included in this category.

What are the most common behavioral addictions?

Sometimes, the addiction isn’t a substance. Sometimes, the addiction is behavioral, in nature, such as gambling, sex, playing video games, shopping, working too much, spending an exorbitant amount of time on the internet and social media sites, eating large quantities of food, excessively exercising, etc.

A healthy person can usually recognize “bad habits” and address them, but an addict is unable to do that. Rather, an addict will ignore or dismiss the signs and/or make excuses for his or her behavior. It is important to understand that addictions often go undiagnosed and untreated because people don’t know the mental, physical, and/or emotional symptoms of addiction, like noticeable weight loss or extreme mood swings.

Actionable Steps

Listed below are the top 3 signs that you have an addiction:


Insatiable cravings that you can’t block out

One of the hallmark signs of addiction is insatiable cravings that are impossible to block out. Once addiction overtakes your mind and body, you experience relentless urgings that “push” you to do whatever it takes to satisfy them or make them stop. It almost feels as if you no longer have freewill.

At this point, the addiction controls you. Although getting the substance or performing the action stops the non-stop cravings, this reprieve is only temporary. Eventually the “high” wears-off and the cravings return with a vengeance. The only way to stop them is to ingest the substance or engage in a specific behavior. Thus, begins the cycle of addiction.

As time goes on, the amount needed to satisfy your cravings increases, primarily because you become tolerant to the substance or behavior. If you “depend” on a specific substance or behavior to feel good, that could be a sign that you are either becoming addicted to or are already addicted to something.


Exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviors

Have your friends and family remarked about how your personality and/or behavior have recently changed? Are you angrier now than you were before the substance or behavior? Does not getting what you need or want make you feel depressed, anxious, or even terrified? Have you begun to steal from friends and loved ones to finance your “habit?” Have you begun to lie in an effort to cover up your uncharacteristic behaviors?

Do you recognize yourself when you look in the mirror? If not, who do you see? Have you lost friends, romantic partners, and/or job opportunities because of your addiction (i.e. tardiness and multiple call-outs at work, broken dates, ignored phone calls, texts, and IMs, etc.)? If the answer to any of the questions above is “yes,” there is a good chance you are exhibiting the signs of addiction.

Note: Life can cause changes in personality and behavior throughout the years
Most people, regardless of what they are dealing with typically remain unchanged at their cores – unless they are struggling with addiction. In this case, an addict may not resemble his or her form self at all. That is because the addiction is in control – the addict is simply the host.


Constantly needing money to fund your substance use or behavior

Does it feel like you are constantly running out of money to finance your “habit?” Have you been running out of money to pay your bills or buy food for your table? Have you resorted to stealing from friends and/or loved ones or selling your belongings so you can purchase or engage in your vice? Are you constantly asking others for money to purchase a substance or participate in an activity (like gambling)?

When you’re an addict all you can think about is your next “fix.” Nothing else really matters. Hardcore addicts rarely think about the future or even next week. Their main goal is to satisfy their cravings each day by begging for cash, stealing, selling their belongings at the pawn shop, or having sex for money, drugs, and/or alcohol.

Addicts don’t really think about or care about their bills, going to work, taking care of their kids, or even taking care of themselves. An addict may not bathe, eat, or sleep for days. So if you are always desperately in need of money for your vice, you are most likely in the throes of addiction.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
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