Addiction doesn’t often happen overnight; it’s usually a slow process where someone gradually shows signs. These may seem clearer later down the line but can be subtle and difficult to spot initially.
Addiction is a disease and spotting the early warning signals will help mitigate its harmful consequences and allow the person struggling to get the necessary treatment they need and take preventative measures to stop it from developing further.
Before we progress, be aware that addiction is a treatable condition, and once in recovery, an individual can live a happy, healthy life of sobriety. Addiction has been prevalent throughout history, and it’s important to understand that someone who is struggling has an illness.
Addiction is characterized by the compulsive seeking of a substance or activity, even when it has the potential to cause the person harm. It affects the reward system in the brain, and the euphoria experienced when taking part in an addictive activity can lead to cravings to do it again.
Addiction is complex but can generally be categorized into behavioral addiction and chemical addiction. Chemical addiction refers to the use of substances, whereas behavioral addiction involves compulsive behaviors.
It is possible to be addicted to just about anything, but the most common forms of addiction include:
Below are just some of the ways in which you can assess if you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of a budding addiction.
Addictive behavior can be seen in someone who is starting to focus all their energy on one thing. They may stop socializing or neglect relationships, which can lead to loneliness and isolation. They may also stop doing things they love, stop going to work, or start missing appointments. As the addiction progresses, they may slowly increase their consumption or activity in order to get the same dopamine rush, which can lead to financial issues and ultimately becomes a vicious cycle.
This obviously sounds dangerous in regards to substance abuse or alcohol abuse, however for other addictions, it may not sound so bad. An addiction to exercise, for example, may not sound harmful; however, anything done to excess can be unhealthy and can have dire consequences on an individual’s physical and mental well-being.
Another way addictive behavior can be exhibited is by someone becoming increasingly private and secretive, especially if they are not normally this way inclined. People struggling with an addiction may feel ashamed or fear being judged, so they may go to great lengths to disguise it.
They may avoid certain questions or use excuses to get out of certain events or activities. Additionally, they may be in denial, which makes it more challenging to get help.
Individuals can be very successful in hiding their addiction, so it can be very difficult to spot, especially if they are high-functioning, meaning they are able to lead a seemingly normal life.
Mood swings are a common symptom of many addictions. A person's emotions can go from euphoric highs to anger and frustration to depressive lows, and they can move through several moods very quickly. The changes can be quite drastic and extreme and can be triggered by things that may seem insignificant to someone who is not struggling with an addiction.
Addiction can be all-consuming, and sometimes people begin to neglect their appearance. They may look more disheveled and may begin to lack good personal hygiene and clean clothes. It can also cause them to be tired and irritable due to the nature of the addiction and the obsessive behavior related to it, or they may suffer from a lack of quality sleep or insomnia.
Understanding and identifying the early signs of addiction will help to nip it in the bud. It is a very sensitive issue, so it is always advisable to approach a topic gently and with awareness.
If you think that you or someone close to you may be suffering from an addiction, remember that help is available, and it is much better to treat it in the early stages rather than further down the line.
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