For millions of Americans, it is difficult to know when a habit has become an unhealthy addiction. Often, the signs can be hidden or difficult to identify. And with the many damaging effects that come with over-consumption, it’s important to recognize when a habit has become harmful.
Whether the activity involves alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, food, sex, gambling or even electronic gaming, being able to identify patterns of abuse is imperative.
If you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s health, consider these seven addiction symptoms.
1. Being Unable To Change Your Behavior Despite Feeling Poorly About Your Habit
Often, people struggling with early stages of addiction want to make a positive change but experience an internal resistance. They may see their behavior, health, or physical appearance begin to suffer and decide to change. However, for many, it can be an uphill battle. No matter what they try, they can’t seem to succeed. If you can’t control your desires and compulsively engage, it could be indicative of a problem.
2. Increased Frequency Of Usage
It’s understandable, and even healthy, to enjoy the occasional indulgence of certain activities, (legal) substances, and such. For example, a glass of wine with dinner or beer after work is usually just fine. However, if your rate of consumption increases beyond your control, it could be a sign that habit has become an unproductive ritual. Most health professionals agree that a very moderate amount of alcohol on a daily basis can be beneficial. However, if you are regularly drinking throughout the day or finishing off a bottle of wine, it could mean that you’ve developed an unhealthy habit.
3. Uncontrollable Changes In Mood Or Behavior
For many people struggling with addiction symptoms, changes in mood or behavior can be the most obvious. They can suddenly become easily irritated, angered, aggressive, anxious or depressed. They may lash out or have quick tempers, especially when confronted with the effects of their habit or behavior. This can be particularly true in cases of drug abuse, sex addiction, or heavy alcohol use.
4. Obvious Physical Changes
Often, addiction will cause, not only changes in behavior but also appearance. Drug abusers may sweat heavily in ordinary situations or drop weight suddenly. Smokers and cannabis users may develop respiratory problems or labored breathing. Food addicts may suddenly put on pounds. Whatever the case, addiction symptoms frequently manifest in physical terms that become apparent over time.
5. Persistent Cravings
It’s relatively normal to crave the things we like. It can be as simple as the desire for a great meal, the gratification of being loved or the rush from a great workout. They all serve up a natural dose of dopamine that informs our sense of pleasure and reward.
However, if you can’t control your impulses it can be a sign of addictive behavior. You may crave the daily burger you can’t refuse. You might seek out unhealthy relationships to satisfy a need for sexual gratification. Or, you could take on risky behavior patterns to get a high or rush of adrenaline. In any case, persistent cravings can be a warning signal that you may have lost the self-control you once had.
6. Financial Problems
For people managing a habit that has become an addiction, financial problems are a regular factor. As the habit grows, tolerance (another symptom of addiction) to the drug or substance grows. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to achieve the same high or level of satisfaction. As a result, a person has to spend more and more of their disposable income. In doing so, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with rent, bills, food and social expenses. It can appear as if the person never has enough money for even simple items. In actuality, it is all being invested in getting more drugs, alcohol, services or even foods that satiate their need for gratification.
7. Symptoms Of Withdrawal
If you’re trying to beat a habit that has become bigger than you can manage on your own, withdrawal can be a devastating signal that it has become more than just a harmless habit. It is perhaps the most dangerous and telling of addiction symptoms. These symptoms can range from uncomfortable mental or emotional distress to life-threatening physical effects. Psychological symptoms of withdrawal range broadly from irritability and depression to severe anxiety and even hallucinations. Depending on the substance or activity and duration, severe physical withdrawal symptoms can range from stomach cramps and tremors to muscle aches, vomiting and seizures, just to name a few.
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