How to Spot and Understand the Various Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Identifying addiction in a loved one is no easy task, and sometimes people avoid offering help because they don’t want to offend or insult their friend or family member. Often, however, that help can mean the difference between sobriety and a life of unhappiness, or between health and a dangerous lifestyle. It’s time to find out when to help someone, as well as how to spot and understand some of the signs and symptoms of an addiction.

Problems at School or Work

Many individuals have a daily routine that involves a job or attendance at school. One sign of drug or alcohol use, or abuse, is evident when problems suddenly arise in either environment.

Among teens and young adults, falling grades can be a remarkable indicator of addiction. When grades begin to slip in a drastic fashion, or if teachers and classmates begin to note a change in behavior, then it can be a sign pointing directly to changes that are a result of addiction.

An addiction to drugs or alcohol can become all-consuming, preventing adults from focusing on their jobs. This could manifest itself in late starts at the office, problems finishing projects or flimsy excuses about why deadlines couldn’t be met. Although there are certainly many other issues that can create these same signs, such as romantic issues or a mental illness like depression, these symptoms can also point to the development of an addiction.

Societal and Relationship Issues

Another of the key signs of an addiction has to do with the way that individuals handle current relationships and connections. When an addiction begins to develop, individuals can become overwhelmed with this new dependence. Things like family connections and romantic relationships can change, and they can do so in a hurry.

Young adults and teens who live at home with their parents may begin to retreat, spending more and more time on their own and less time in shared living spaces. This may be a result of a disrupted or abnormal sleep schedule, it may be a way to avoid revealing any side effects of drug or alcohol abuse or it could be a result of fluctuating moods that create anger, hostility or even depression.

Adults with romantic partners, roommates or even children can begin to display the same uncharacteristic behavioral markers. They may become more solitary, or they may even display outbursts of energy and enthusiasm followed by periods of anxiety, insomnia or depression. While there is no one single change that can indicate addiction, any drastic changes may signify a problem that needs to be addressed.

Recognizing Impulsive Behavior

Behavioral changes in terms of interactions with friends and family are important, but just as indicative of addictive may be impulsive behavior that wasn’t noticeable before. For instance, young women with drug or alcohol addictions may resort to more impulsive sexual behavior, or men may turn to extreme gambling. Speeding, shopping and other impulsive, risky behaviors can be a marker, a symptom and a clear sign of a developing addiction.

Drastic Changes in Appearance

Appearance won’t necessarily change in individuals with an addiction. In fact, many people with serious, dangerous addictions can have no outward signs of any health problems for many years. However, many individuals begin to display drastic changes in appearance as their addiction develops.

For many individuals, addiction becomes the main daily priority, and things like wearing makeup, choosing stylish outfits and blow-drying hair are relegated to a list of unnecessary or unimportant activities. While these things are certainly not mandatory for any person, if individuals formerly took pride in their appearance and now do not, an addiction could be the culprit.

Moving From Recreational Use to Substance Abuse

It’s not unusual for friends, family members and neighbors to be at least vaguely aware that a person is involved with drugs or alcohol. For instance, someone at work may regularly come in on Monday mornings and share stories about the wild weekend, fun parties and hilarious stories involving a few drinks. Or, one half of a romantic couple may know that their significant other has used drugs for recreational purposes in the past.

Simply using drugs or alcohol isn’t necessarily an addiction, but ongoing and persistent use can very easily move from use to abuse and eventually to addiction. If you have known someone for a significant period of time, and his or her use of either recreational drugs or alcohol has increased noticeably, then you might be witnessing the development of a serious addiction.

Admission of Dependence

A common misunderstanding is that individuals who struggle with an addiction are oblivious to it. The reality is often that they are well aware of their addiction, but may not know how to proceed or respond in order to combat that addiction.

For that reason, friends and family members may be able to identify an addiction just by listening. Some of the things that a person struggling with addiction might discuss could include the following issues:

  • Financial problems because of the cost of drugs or alcohol
  • Revealing hidden stashes of certain substances to ensure never running out
  • Acknowledgement of dependence or increased usage
  • Admission of lack of control or memory surrounding certain events
  • Craving certain substances

When to Intervene for a Loved One

At the end of the day, it may not be enough just to know that a loved one, a friend or a colleague is struggling with addiction. In order to make a true difference, action is necessary.

Just as importantly, it’s important not to accuse someone of an addiction to drugs or alcohol based on a tentative assumption. A teenager who is moody on occasion, or a woman who goes through a breakup and makes drastic physical changes, isn’t necessarily addicted.

Communication, compassion and understanding can be the keys to helping someone you love get the help he or she needs. By recognizing and understanding the signs and symptoms of addiction, you will be better equipped to spot, identify and help a friend or family member achieve the healthy, happiness and sobriety he or she deserves.