Here are some things you need to know:
We have all heard and experienced addiction to various things, or you have someone in your life who is struggling with overcoming one. That does not mean it is easy to understand addiction – it remains one of the misunderstood occurrences when it happens.
What makes it even more challenging is spotting it, especially when the person in question does not overtly display behavior that points to it. They may be looking reasonable and smart all the time, yet they are trying to overcome the problem. That means you need to understand what addiction is in the first place and recognize that it can happen to anyone and involve any kind of substance – not just drugs.
What is an addiction?
According to the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine), addiction is a chronic disease, which changes the memory, reward and motivation areas of the brain. As long as you have an addiction, you will have cravings for the specific substance or habits that you are addicted to. What makes addictions compulsive is that it always comes at the cost of ignoring other important areas of your life – since you want to support the cravings and desires you have.
There are some general signs that someone is addicted to something, and they include the inability to control that desire or stay away from the behavior or substance, reducing levels of socialization like ignoring your relationships with others, and the ignorance of risk factors, such as you wanting higher doses of a drug so that you can get high, like meth abuse. Another and the one that people look at the most is the physical effects that happen, such as high tolerance to drugs or experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
All the signs of addiction are common, no matter the substance you are dealing with or the behavior of the person. The degree of intensity will vary though, as this depends on how long the person has been engaged in the behavior or consumed the substance.
The problem is getting rid of the addiction unless the person is healthy. For an addict, they do not want to admit there is a problem, so they will find ways of justifying and continuing with their behavior, even if it is damaging to their health and relationships.
Types of addictions to look out for
Most of the time, addiction will be associated with substance abuse, but this is not the sole type. Behaviors such as gambling can also lead to addictions, as the only common feature is that the person cannot abstain from the substance or behavior – even as it costs them their health.
Addiction to substances can involve tobacco, illicit and non-illicit drugs, medication, alcohol, and inhalants such as aerosol products.
On the other hand, studies are continuously proving that behavioral addiction is just as dangerous as substance addiction, if not worse. They also have negative consequences and dependency, and they can include working, gambling, video games, shopping, and using the internet.
No matter what kind of addiction you have or are experiencing, it is very important to seek help as well as recognizing the warning signs so that you deal with them early.
Recognizing the first signs
The early stages of addiction do not make it easy to identify addictions, because they do not show very easily. However, if you observe keenly, you can pinpoint these signs early enough.
They include having particular and intense interest in a substance or activity, experimentation, bringing episodes (where they lose control of their consumption with little feelings of remorse), having a family history of addiction, and looking for more situations where the activity or substance is present.
However, keep in mind it is more challenging to find instances of addiction in a social activity like drinking, so you need to keep a close eye on that. What may seem like addiction issues may just be a way of the person managing stressful events in their life, or experimenting with different things. However, when an actual addiction is not managed and treated early, it develops into a harmful habit or higher risks of getting illnesses.
Significant changes in personality
Once a person moves past the experimentation stage, their behaviors or personality traits begin to change. The change does not happen swiftly though – it can be infrequent during the early stages, but increase as time goes on.
These signs include a loss of interest in the activities and hobbies they used to deem as very important to them, and negativity in their relationships, even those that are close to them. You may have seen this yourself – an addict. No matter what they are addicted to, starts to become distant from you and do not want much to do with your life anymore. When you attempt to check up on them, they shut you out or lash at you for expressing concern.
They can also begin to miss their important obligations and responsibilities while ignoring the negative consequences of what they are doing. They also increase risky activities and behavior, especially when these activities are fueling their addiction, and they can also experience changes in sleeping patterns. This results in greater cases of chronic fatigue.
A hallmark of their avoidance with people close to them is increasing secrecy. For instance, a person lying that they are heading to see a friend, but instead going to spend some time doing drugs. Or they start lying about the substance they use in addition to their amounts – they tell you they use them less but they are hiding their true intentions from you.
All of these behaviors lead to increasing alienation as time goes on because the person with the addiction will spend their time on others who encourage their addiction. When you try to confront them, they will either lash out, stay quiet, or make excuses to try and justify what they are doing.
Addiction is something that needs to be dealt with as early as possible, but you cannot tell it is happening to someone unless you notice the subtle signs that occur. It is also important to understand addiction as a disease, that way you find better methods of dealing with it.