“Life is a series of baby steps along the way and if you add up these tiny little steps you take toward your goal, whatever it is, whether it’s giving up something, a terrible addiction or trying to work your way through an illness. When you total up those baby steps you’d be amazed over the course of ten years, the strides you’ve taken.”
~ Hoda Kotb
It is not always easy to recognize addiction, which leaves many people asking: how do I know if I’m really an addict? Addiction can take on many different forms, which makes answering this question more difficult than one would think. Some addicts spiral downward quickly, moving to increasingly harder drugs and going to extreme lengths to get their hands on their substance of choice.
In contrast, other addicts can go years without anyone even noticing their substance abuse, let alone getting the professional help that they need to recover. If you think your drinking or substance use is causing problems in your life, this is an indication that dependence or addiction may have begun to form. Thankfully, recognizing these problems is the first step toward recovering from addiction if it is present.
Addiction is always associated with symptoms that dependence on a substance has taken hold. However, these signs and symptoms of addiction are not always visible or immediately obvious. In fact, there are three different kinds of warning signs for addiction: physical signs, behavioral signs, and psychological signs. Understanding how these different symptom areas exhibit themselves can help you understand whether or not addiction has taken a hold on your life.
This post is not meant to be a diagnosis – if you find that you meet several of the criteria for addiction, you should reach out for professional help and look into a more formal assessment of your substance abuse. Instead, you should use this post as a general guide for the most common signs of addiction.
Determining if You Are an Addict: Common Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
The major point in determining if addiction is an issue is to assess whether or not you continue to use drugs or drink alcohol despite the harmful consequences that this behavior presents. These problems can be behavioral, social, psychological and even physical.
In terms of the first three, the American Psychological Association outlines questions that you can ask yourself regarding your behavior, social interactions, and state of mind. Answering these questions honestly can help you determine if drug abuse has turned into addiction in your life. Some of the questions to ask yourself include the following:
- Have you tried quitting the substance altogether in the past without success?
- Do you find yourself craving or having a strong desire to use the substance?
- Have you consistently been unable to meet your responsibilities at work or home due to the substance use?
- Have you continued using the substance despite relationship problems that it has caused?
- Do you find yourself engaging in risky behavior as a result of your substance use?
- Have you avoided social interactions or activities that you previously enjoyed due to your substance use?
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about, obtaining or using the substance?
“How do I know if I’m really an addict?” – Take our addiction quiz to help determine if addiction is an issue in your life.
In addition to these psychological and behavioral symptoms of addiction, one of the major signs that addiction has become a problem in your life is when you experience withdrawal symptoms. In simple terms, experiencing withdrawal means that your body has become physically dependent on the content and effects of your drug of choice.
“Drugs can cause physical dependence. This means that a person relies on the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Over time, more of the drug is needed for the same effect. This is called drug tolerance. How long it takes to become physically dependent varies with each person. When the person stops taking the drugs, the body needs time to recover. This causes withdrawal symptoms.”
~ U.S. National Library of Medicine
In other words, physical dependence is part of addiction, and experiencing withdrawal from this dependence can help you know if you are really an addict. Someone who occasionally abuses alcohol or drugs does not experience withdrawal. If your body goes too long without receiving the drug (whether it is alcohol, cocaine, or something else altogether), it will begin to withdraw from the state it has accustomed itself to. This is where withdrawal symptoms come in. While symptoms vary depending on the drug and on how long the drug has been used, some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Agitation or anxiety
- Sore muscles
- Trouble sleeping (or sleeping too much)
- Feeling extremely tired, yawning
- Shaking hands
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures or hallucinations (in some extreme cases)
Withdrawal symptoms like the ones listed here show why addiction and physical dependence on drugs are so integrally connected. Of course, these symptoms can vary depending on what kind of substance is being used. Look for addiction information on specific drugs to get a better understanding of signs of addiction.
“Addiction – or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences – is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes, tolerance and withdrawal. The latter reflect physical dependence in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction.”
~ National Institute on Drug Abuse
If addiction is characterized by continued drug use in the face of problems, dependence reinforces this continued drug use because of the possibility of withdrawal. While there is a difference between drug dependence and drug addiction, the two often go hand in hand. If you find that you are dependent on any substance and experience withdrawal symptoms, you should take a closer look at your habits.
Getting the Help You Need to Recover From Addiction
If, as a result of the signs and symptoms of addiction outlined here, you think you may be struggling with an addiction, it is important to know that it is never too late to get help. There are many ways for addicts to start on the road to recovery, including:
- Finding community support through recovery groups (such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous)
- Getting a professional drug or alcohol addiction assessment
- Enrolling in an intensive outpatient program or inpatient rehab facility
- Asking friends or family for support in getting help
The main takeaway from this post is this: if you continue drug or alcohol use despite recognizing it to cause harmful effects in your life, it is a good sign that you are addicted to something. To find out more specifics about what it means to be an addict, and what you can do about it, it is a good idea to reach out for professional help in the form of an addiction assessment or treatment program. If you have more questions about what it means to be addicted, or you are still unsure whether or not you are really an addict, do not hesitate to contact us today.