It’s not always easy to tell if substance abuse or addiction has taken control of your life. Addiction can take on many forms.

Some users spiral quickly into dangerous habits, and it becomes obvious to everyone around them that they need help. Other people can function for years, treading water successfully for a long time before gradually slipping under. Still, others can use substances recreationally for a long time before trauma or another event triggers an addiction. So, the question remains, how to know if you have an addiction?

What is addiction?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as “compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences, characterized by an ability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and sometimes, tolerance and withdrawal.

Are you wondering if you are struggling with an addiction? Only you can answer that question. Surprisingly, signs of addiction are not always immediately obvious, especially if you are the one caught up in an addiction. While every person’s experience is unique, here are some of the most common signs.

How to tell if you have an addiction

There are three major categories of warning signs: physical signs, behavioral signs, and psychological signs. It’s important to understand how these different categories show up when trying to determine if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

  1. Physical signs include increased tolerance, withdrawals upon cessation.
  2. Behavioral signs include loss of control, disregard of harm that’s caused, or denial of addiction.
  3. Psychological signs include angry outbursts, mood swings, anxiousness, or paranoia. Not every person will experience all symptoms, but addiction does impact every area of your life.

Here are a few of the most obvious symptoms:

  • Intense cravings

Suddenly, your desire for the substance overpowers any other thoughts or feelings. All that matters is getting a fix.

  • Physical dependence

You are realizing you need that substance to function. Without it, you experience withdrawal symptoms such as chills, lethargy, anxiety, or sleeplessness. Instead of the euphoric high, you need to use it in order to feel normal.

  • Increased tolerance

People who abuse drugs or alcohol eventually find they need to consume much larger quantities of the substance to get the same effects.

  • Lying

Have you lied to a doctor to get prescription drugs? Or hid the extent of your substance use from family and friends?

  • Neglected responsibilities

You’d rather get drunk or high than go to work, see friends, clean your house, or pay your bills. This often becomes a destructive cycle: you are too drunk or high to fulfill an obligation, so you use drugs/alcohol to numb the resulting anxiety or hopelessness, and repeat.

How to tell if you have an addiction

  • Unhealthy relationships

You may avoid old friends who judge your habits in favor of new friends who also use, or support you.

  • Isolation

If you’re using alone or avoiding others out of shame of your addiction, this can also turn into an unhealthy cycle.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Does your life feel unmanageable?
  • Do you spend a lot of time thinking about obtaining or using your substance of choice?
  • Have you tried quitting or cutting down without success?
  • Are you suffering negative consequences at home or at work?
  • Do you avoid friends or family who would disapprove of your habit?
  • Have you ever felt defensive or ashamed?
  • Do you lie about exactly what or how much you use?
  • Have you ever been arrested or overdosed?
  • Do you think you might have a drug or alcohol problem?

The bottom line is: if you are engaging in increasingly risky behavior, lying to loved ones or yourself, and continue to use in spite of negative consequences on your life, it might be time to do some soul searching.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a few or all of these signs, seeking help is an important first step. Quality drug and alcohol addiction treatment is available; contact one of our addiction specialists today, to learn more about your options.