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Signs and Symptoms of Addiction: When to Seek Help

Addiction is a complex and misunderstood condition affecting millions of individuals, their families and friends worldwide. It can take many forms, from alcohol and drug addiction to behavioural addictions like gambling. Understanding the signs and symptoms of addiction is crucial for identifying when it's time to seek help.
Signs and symptoms of addiction when to seek help

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease that fundamentally alters the brain’s reward centres. It can manifest as an inability to control certain behaviours, cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and physical side effects, often causing harm to major organ systems.

While addiction can involve various behaviours, it’s generally associated with substance abuse, which profoundly affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, including dopamine.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug or Alcohol Addiction

When you are caught up in the vicious cycle of addiction, it is often difficult to realise that you are in trouble, let alone admit that you need help. Let’s look at some of the common signs and symptoms usually indicating a substance use disorder. 

Psychological Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Psychological symptoms are a significant component of addiction and can manifest in various ways. One of the most prevalent signs is mood swings. When we struggle with addiction, we can experience erratic emotional changes. These mood swings can range from extreme highs to profound lows, creating instability in our emotional well-being.

Another common psychological symptom is increased temper, characterised by heightened irritability and anger. People suffering from addiction may find themselves easily agitated, quick to react negatively to various situations, and prone to outbursts of rage, which causes additional strain on their relationships.

Persistent fatigue is another consequence of addiction, stemming from its physical and mental toll on us. The constant pursuit of the addictive substance or behaviour can lead to exhaustion, leaving you mentally and physically drained.

Paranoia often sets in as addiction progresses, making us suspicious or mistrustful of others. This heightened sense of distrust can lead to strained relationships and isolation.

Defensiveness becomes a common reaction when we are questioned about our behaviour. People with addiction often go to great lengths to deny or justify their actions. This makes it challenging to recognise the severity of our addiction or accept help.

Restlessness and anxiety are prevalent in addiction, contributing to agitation. This restlessness can feel overwhelming and drives us to seek relief through our addictive behaviour. This merely perpetuates the cycle of addiction.

Addiction can also impair cognitive abilities, leading to an inability to focus or concentrate. Our decision-making is often compromised, resulting in poor judgment. Memory problems are a common mental symptom of addiction, affecting our ability to function daily.

One of addiction’s most damaging psychological consequences is low self-esteem and self-worth. As we battle with the consequences of our addiction, we often experience a decline in our self-esteem. This plays a significant role in contributing to a negative self-image.

Feelings of hopelessness can accompany addiction as we struggle to break free from the cycle of dependence and face the consequences of our actions. This sense of despair can be overwhelming and contributes to our continued reliance on the addictive substance or behaviour.

Additionally, addiction can exacerbate existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. These conditions may worsen as we attempt to cope with the emotional turmoil and distress that addiction brings.

In summary, addiction significantly affects a person’s psychological well-being, leading to various symptoms that affect our emotions, cognitive abilities, and overall mental health. Recognising and addressing these psychological symptoms is crucial for effective addiction treatment and recovery.

Behavioural and Social Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Behavioural and social signs of addiction are crucial indicators of the impact of substance misuse or addictive behaviours on our lives. These signs often manifest in various ways and can be essential in recognising the presence of addiction.

Secretive or dishonest behaviour is a common behavioural sign of addiction. We tend to become secretive about our actions, hiding our substance use or addictive behaviours from family, friends, and loved ones. This secrecy often drives the shame or guilt associated with our addiction.

Another noticeable sign is poor work or school performance. Addiction can lead to absenteeism from school or work and a decline in overall performance. Meeting our responsibilities and commitments becomes increasingly challenging when we struggle with addiction.

Withdrawal from responsibilities and social activities is another behavioural red flag. Hobbies and social interactions we once cherished are often abandoned as addiction takes precedence. We may withdraw from family gatherings, social events, and previously enjoyable pastimes.

Loss of interest in previously important activities is a common consequence of addiction.

Pursuits that were once a source of joy and fulfilment may lose their appeal as the addictive substance or behaviour becomes the primary focus in our lives.

Continuing substance use despite negative consequences is a hallmark sign of addiction. Even when we experience adverse effects on our health, relationships, or overall well-being, we continue to engage in addictive behaviour. This shows the powerful grip that addiction holds over us.

Furthermore, unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop substance misuse are common in people with addiction. Many of us struggling with addiction find it challenging to quit on our own despite our desire to stop. These failed attempts to regain control over our behaviour can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration.

In summary, behavioural and social signs of addiction encompass a range of behaviours and actions that indicate the presence of addiction in our lives. Recognising these signs is essential for early intervention and support to help us address our addiction and work towards the recovery we desperately need.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Physical symptoms are another crucial aspect of addiction, reflecting the serious impact that substance abuse or addictive behaviours can have on our bodies. These symptoms often serve as visible and tangible indicators of our struggle.

One of the most immediate physical signs of addiction is tolerance, where the body adapts to the substance or behaviour over time. We tend to need more to achieve that high. This growing tolerance leads to an increase in our substance consumption, putting strain on our bodies.

Withdrawal symptoms are another prominent physical aspect of addiction. When we try to reduce or stop our substance use or addictive behaviour, we often experience uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. These can include nausea, sweating, tremors, muscle aches, and intense cravings, highlighting our body’s dependence.

Changes in appetite and weight can also occur with addiction. For some of us, addiction leads to reduced appetite and weight loss. In contrast, others may experience increased hunger and weight gain due to their addictive behaviours.

The impact of addiction on sleep patterns is also significant. Addiction often leads to sleep-related challenges, including difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restorative sleep. Chronic sleep problems can further contribute to physical health issues and overall well-being. There may even be times when we can’t remember whether or not we have even slept.

Another physical manifestation of addiction is the deterioration of physical health. Substance misuse, in particular, can lead to various health problems, including liver disease, heart issues, respiratory problems, and a weakened immune system. These health issues can have long-lasting and sometimes irreversible effects.

Skin and appearance changes are also common in addiction. The physical toll of addiction can result in skin problems, such as acne, sores, or a general unhealthy appearance. Poor personal hygiene and a disregard for self-care are often associated with addiction. Our drug of choice becomes the priority as we slowly lose ourselves.

In summary, physical symptoms of addiction encompass a range of changes and health issues that result from the ongoing use of substances or engagement in addictive behaviours. Recognising these physical signs is crucial for identifying addiction. We need to address the health risks and find help and support.


As we said earlier, addiction is a complex and pervasive disease that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. Recognising the signs and symptoms of addiction is the first step towards seeking help and embarking on the path to recovery. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or behavioural addictions, the consequences of addiction can be devastating. 

Addiction is a treatable disease, and numerous resources and treatment options are available to help everyone achieve long-term recovery and lead healthier, happier lives. With professional support and a commitment to change, we can overcome addiction and regain control of our lives. 

Don’t wait; seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction. There is hope, and recovery is possible.

Connect with our team today! Taking the initial steps toward finding help can be daunting; however, if you’re driven to change your situation, we are here for you.

Experiencing the addiction of a loved one can be an extremely difficult situation, leaving you with feelings of frustration, powerlessness and sadness. Reach out to us; we are here for you.

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