10 Common Signs Of Addictive Behaviors

Whether a person is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or some other harmful, compulsive behavioral problem, addictions all come with certain telltale characteristics and warning signs. Here’s what you should watch for.

There are many different types of addiction, including substance use disorders (drug addiction/alcohol addiction) and non-substance addictions (behavioral addictions) like gambling addiction, pornography addiction, certain aspects of eating disorders, and gaming addiction. 

While these disorders are all different in many ways, they all have certain elements in common.

This includes a common definition provided within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), specifying that all addictive disorders involve losing control over a compulsive behavior that becomes problematic for you or for those around you.

Here are 10 of the most common warning signs of addiction to watch for.

1. Self-Medication

Self-medication involves using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or any underlying issues, and defaulting to this kind of behavior can mean addiction is on the way.

When your first response to daily stress and exertion involves taking an addictive substance or engaging in a certain behavior, or you feel that you can’t get through normal life challenges without a drink, a hit, or something else, it can indicate an unhealthy level of dependence.

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2. Ignoring Harm

One of the trademark symptoms of addiction involves continuing to use substances despite negative consequences relating to your own physical, mental, emotional, or social well-being.

If you continue to use despite harm coming to yourself or others, you are showing a telltale sign of addiction. 

3. Being Unable To Control Your Own Behavior

Addictive behaviors are, by definition, unmanageable. Say you decide that you’d like to not drink or use illegal drugs for a while, or you choose to stick to a much lower dose. 

If you make this decision but find that you can’t follow through with your own limits, this lack of self-control should be very concerning. 

4. Tolerance/Escalation

The longer a person’s alcohol or drug abuse continues, the more the body will adapt to that substance’s effects, requiring a larger dose or a stronger substance to produce the same effects.

Likewise, if you struggle with some other form of addiction, you may find that your activity becomes either less and less satisfying with time, or more and more extreme.

5. Losing Time

As addiction deepens, it’s common to surrender more and more time to it each day. You may spend hours upon hours thinking about it, planning for it, or recovering from it afterwards. 

In fact, when it comes to certain drug or alcohol use disorders, a person’s substance abuse may become constant or may lead to days-long binges and slow, unpleasant recoveries afterwards.

6. Neglecting Responsibilities

Many people use alcohol, play video games, and enjoy other potentially addictive activities. 

However, in the case of an addictive disorder, this activity will increasingly take over your time, interest, passion, and energy, throwing your life out of balance and causing problems for your other responsibilities at work, in school, or in the home until you simply can’t keep up. 

7. Social Isolation

While anyone can experience addiction under certain circumstances, those who struggle with isolation and poor social support face an increased risk for these disorders and many other mental health problems.

Those who do start to experience negative effects related to some form of addiction may also change social circles or turn inwards, allowing their relationships with friends and loved ones to break down more and more.

8. Cravings

Intense cravings for drugs, alcohol, or problematic experiences are a clear sign of addiction that occurs after the brain has been trained by the pleasurable effects of these experiences over an extended period of time.

These dopamine cravings are often linked to particular places or habits and may also be triggered by negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and depression.

9. Withdrawal Symptoms

Besides cravings, other symptoms of withdrawal can include both psychological and physical signs and symptoms like anxiety, depression, shakiness, sweating, mood swings, headaches, sleep problems, and more.

While alcohol or drug use usually cause both physical and mental/emotional signs, other forms of addiction can also produce significant psychological withdrawal effects if a person does not engage in their addictive behavior for a certain period of time.

10. Deceit & Defensiveness

Lastly, one of the most obvious signs of an addictive disorder is the change that will occur in a person’s behavior when they are questioned or confronted about their worrying behavior.

Even if this questioning is gentle and comes from a place of love and concern, those facing addiction can be very reactive due to deep feelings of shame, denial, or fear. 

They may immediately turn to evasion, lying, defensiveness, hostility, or they may simply shut down without answering.

Treating Addictive Disorders

If you or someone you love is showing signs of an addictive disorder, treatment options are available that can help.

While some people may be able to use proven self-help techniques to address their condition, others may benefit from the services of mental health professionals in an inpatient or outpatient treatment environment, where they can participate in evidence-based interventions such as: 

For expert residential substance abuse treatment, including treatment for opioid addiction, benzodiazepine addiction, alcohol abuse and addiction, stimulant addiction, and all other forms of substance use disorder, please contact Ohio Recovery Center today.

  1. American Psychiatric Association (APA) https://www.psychiatry.org/file%20library/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/apa_dsm-5-substance-use-disorder.pdf
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/parents-educators/conversation-starters/what-are-signs-having-problem-drugs
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health/mental-health-substance-use-co-occurring-disorders

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: February 8, 2024

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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