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Physical, Behavioral, and Psychological Signs & Symptoms of Addiction

Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of addiction is the first step in receiving help for or a loved one. Of course, this can vary depending on the person and if they’re struggling with substance abuse or a behavioral addiction. However, in most cases, you can determine this by looking for the three C’s of addiction:

  • Can not control the amount and frequency of use.

  • Cravings and compulsive using.

  • Continued use despite the consequences.

But, this is a very broad overview of the signs and symptoms of addiction since there are a number of physical, behavioral, and psychological signs to be aware of.

What is addiction?

Before going much further, let’s first define what addiction is. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

For a healthy individual, they can recognize these behaviors and find ways to eliminate them. Unfortunately, someone with an addiction does not have the ability to do this. Instead of admitting that there is a problem they will find ways to excuse their behavior.

The different types of addiction.

When we think of common addictions it’s often related to substance abuse. In most cases, this would be dependent on alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, and tobacco. However, there are studies that suggest that behavioral addiction is just as a serious as substance abuse. Although not all of them are recognized, these include addictions to gambling, sex, work, shopping, video games, and the internet.

The most common signs of addiction.

Regardless of the specific addiction, it is important that you are able to notice the physical, behavioral, and psychological signs and symptoms of addiction so that you or someone that you care about can seek professional help as soon as possible.

Physical signs.

  • Enlarged or small pupils

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Appearance changes, such as sudden weight loss or gain or failing to attend to personal hygiene

  • Repetitive or slurred speech

  • Insomnia

  • Over-active or under-active -- this depends on the substance

  • Excessive sniffing or runny nose

  • Withdraw symptoms like cravings, sweats, seizures, constipation, diarrhea or irritability

Behavioral signs.

  • Obsessive thoughts and actions

  • Missing work, school, or social functions

  • No longer participating in hobbies and activities

  • Loss of control

  • Disrupted sleep patterns

  • Being secretive

  • Making sacrifices to ensure that there’s always a supply

  • Denial

  • Relationship, financial, and legal problems

Psychological signs.

  • Irritability and argumentative

  • Inability to stop using

  • Anxiousness

  • Continued use despite health problems

  • Inability to cope with stress

  • Paranoia

  • Lack of motivation

  • Taking unhealthy risks

  • Inattentiveness and getting confused easily

  • Blaming others for their behavior

  • Sudden mood swings

  • Rationalizing their behavior

  • Changing the subject to avoid talking about their addiction

What to do if you or someone is struggling with addiction?

If you've noticed any of the signs above, you must seek help sooner then later. Start by reaching out your doctor, mental health professional, or support. If they are unable to assist you, they can refer you to a facility where proper treatment can be administrated.

Full disclaimer, this article is intended only for informational purposes and not to diagnose or treat any medical or mental health conditions.

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