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How to Recognize an Addiction

  • Category: LiveSmart-BP
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  • Written By: Baldwin

Here are some signs that someone you know may be battling addiction—and what to do to help.

Identifying an addiction in someone you know may be harder than it seems, and it can be extremely difficult to recognize your own addiction. That’s because an addiction causes a person to crave certain substances or behaviors to the point where it may also cause them to devise ways to justify what they’re doing or hide their behavior.

When most people think of addiction, they think of being addicted to drugs or alcohol. But addictions may take other forms as well. A person may be addicted to activities such as gambling, shopping, working, having sex, using social media or playing video games, for example. People may also have addictions related to eating or activities surrounding eating, resulting in eating disorders.

How can you spot an addiction?

Each person and each type of addiction may result in slightly different signs, but here are some common signs of addiction:

  • Personality changes: The person may lack interest in work, hobbies or activities that used to be meaningful to them; miss important obligations (like work or school); become socially distant or neglect relationships; start hanging out with new people who share their addiction; become secretive or lie; ignore the consequences of actions; engage in risky behaviors; and/or exhibit mood changes such as irritability, depression, anger, apathy or suicidal thoughts.
  • Physical changes: There may be noticeable signs that the person’s health is declining, such as constant illness; unexplained injuries; changes in weight; bloodshot or glazed eyes; memory loss; speech issues such as slurring or rambling; issues with skin, hair, teeth or nails; and/or sleeping too much or too little.

Can you stop an addiction?

If someone you know is dealing with an addiction, it can be difficult for you to stop it unless they want to stop it. What you can do is help them to recognize that they have an addiction. Point out signs you have noticed that lead you to believe they’re dealing with an addiction. Don’t make accusations, but rather frame your concerns in a way you think the person may respond to. However, be prepared for the possibility that the person may very well deny what you are inferring, get angry or refuse to continue the conversation.

What can you do if someone you love has an addiction?

While you probably want to do anything possible to get your loved one into treatment so they can combat their addiction, it’s important to recognize that may be easier said than done. Have realistic expectations about what you can do to help. Get support or counseling for yourself, if needed. Educate yourself on ways to help and support services available and provide that information when you can. Although it may not be accepted initially, the person may eventually be ready to listen to your information and suggestions. Don’t enable the person, but also don’t force them to do something they’re not willing to do. Even if you can push them into starting treatment, they won’t be in it for the long haul if they’re not committed, and battling addiction is a lifelong commitment.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 20, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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