6 Tell-Tale Signs That You Have an Addiction
With the advent of the digital age, almost everything now seems ‘instant’. Now more than ever, people rely heavily on products of the latest technological advancements for a lot of reasons, two of the most common are: convenience and enjoyment.
People’s lives have become so fast-paced that they want everything on-the-go. Fast food, instant messaging, and online shopping are just some of the many products of this shift in people’s practices.
What does technology have to do with addiction, you might think. Most people think of alcohol and drugs when they hear the word ‘addiction’. But substance abuse is just one of the many things a person can get addicted or ‘hooked’ to.
Try and look around you—in the subway, your favorite coffee shop, a restaurant, or a local park—you will always find people who are highly preoccupied with typing on their computers or scrolling through their smartphones.
In this age, an ‘addict’ is not just someone you see on the streets but can be someone who lives among us. It can be one of your family and friends, and it can be you.
Whether it’s drinking alcohol, eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, taking painkillers, drinking coffee, or doing activities that do not usually involve ingesting chemical substances (e.g. checking on your social media accounts using your smartphone, binge watching TV series, fasting to lose weight, or engaging in intercourse), too much of anything can have grave effects on your behavioral patterns.
Kristen Hogarth, a certified addiction counselor who works in a scholaradvisor dissertation service, studied addiction patterns in individuals. She delved into how addiction may affect how the brain works, even without you noticing.
Some of these addictive activities may seem harmless as these are designed to offer enjoyment, satisfaction, or convenience to our daily lives, but do you know when to stop and not go overboard?
Before any of your habits take a toll on your health, it’s best to stop, reflect, and ask yourself the question: “Am I starting to get addicted?”. Here are six signs of addiction you should look out for in everything you do before it’s too late to take preventive measures:
1. You treat your habit as an escape from your problems
As in some cases of substance abuse, specifically narcotic drugs, people get hooked to the euphoric state that comes with using the drugs.
This state is normally seen by the person as an instant refuge from reality. People are willing to avoid personal responsibilities, which according to an article by Dr. Stephen Diamond in Psychology Today, is vital in adulthood and acceptance of reality.
Some drugs offer a euphoric feeling that lasts a few hours depending on factors such as the dosage and volume of drug solution. In order achieve this feeling, some people tend to self-medicate and take as many doses as they can to ‘escape’ reality.
Self-medication is defined by the World Self-Medication Industry (WSMI) as the “the treatment of common health problems with medicines especially designed and labeled for use without medical supervision and approved as safe and effective for such use.” The term can also mean turning to substances like drugs or alcohol to deal with intense stress, emotional or even physical trauma, and serious mental health illnesses which must be dealt with seriously and treated by a professional.
The signs of behavioral addiction or getting addicted to an activity that does not involve drugs, alcohol, or any addictive substance, may not be obvious but can be similar to substance addiction when it comes to effects and symptoms.
Whenever people get tolerant to a substance (e.g. drugs, alcohol) or an activity (e.g. watching television, posting photos on social media), there is a tendency for these people to develop dependence to the substance or activity, to the point that it becomes one of their comfort zones. This leads us to the second sign that a habit becomes addictive or unhealthy for a person — obsession.
2. Your habit turns into an unhealthy obsession
Obsession, as defined in the Psychology Dictionary as “a continual thought, concept, picture, or urge which is experienced as invasive and not proper, and results in significant fear, distress, or discomfort,” may happen to a person who becomes dependent on a drug or a practice.
In short, addicted people become highly engrossed in the substance or in the activity that they start to allot more time and effort in it. In these cases, day-to-day tasks and even social interactions are sacrificed.
People who develop an obsession can, and will, avoid confrontation. They will do their best to deny their condition in front of other people. According to Steve Danziger, a masters level clinical social worker and certified clinical addiction specialist, people put up defense mechanisms to hide truths from other people.
This gets them to stop looking at different types of issues, including feelings, trauma, and addiction. Once a person becomes obsessed with something, completely stopping the deed can be problematic to do.
People can also deny their condition among themselves, shrugging off confrontations as exaggerations, using this reasoning to justify their actions. This phenomenon can be explained by the Cognitive Dissonance Theory formed by Leon Festinger in 1957. According to this theory, cognitive dissonance happens in a situation where people’s attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs clash.
This event will result in an uncomfortable feeling, which will cause a person to make the situation better for them by altering one of the factors which the conflict stemmed from and conditioning their mind.
3. Your habit forces you to isolate yourself.
In addition to cognitive dissonance, people can also resort to isolating themselves from other people when they are faced with confrontation or judgment.
At times, this isolation is used by an addicted person to continue using a drug or doing an activity. As the popular saying in recovery rooms goes, “Addiction is the only disease that tells you that you are alright.”
Secrecy becomes a good friend for an addicted person, too, as the goal is to continue using or doing the addictive substance or activity despite its clear manifestation on the person’s health and even when the person is aware of this condition. In the case of substance abuse, an addicted person can take excessively large doses when left alone.
Having stashes and hiding them in the least suspected places becomes a practice, as the urge to maintain a good supply without getting caught or confronted by family members or friends is being formed.
4. You find it extremely difficult to withdraw from the habit
As defined in Web MD, withdrawal refers to “the physical problems and emotions you experience if you are dependent on a substance and then suddenly stop or drastically reduce your intake of the substance.” Substance abuse can result in extreme cravings that make it hard for the addicted person to quit without the help of a specialist or a rehabilitation facility.
In alcohol abuse, the symptoms of withdrawal can arise as early as two hours after stopping drinking, and can last for days after the last drink has been consumed. The symptoms can be categorized into three: mild; severe; and life-threatening.
Some of the mild symptoms are feelings of tension, mood swings, nausea, shaking, and sweating. Constipation, diarrhea, and increased appetite are also considered as mild symptoms of substance withdrawal. Severe symptoms include hallucinations, severe trembling, and extreme confusion or jumpiness.
A life-threatening withdrawal symptom is called delirium tremens (DTs), which is a combination of all mild and severe symptoms, with seizure episodes. Failure to treat DTs can result in serious medical conditions and worse — death.
It’s not just substance withdrawal that people find difficult. Even the simple act of going online can become hard to stop for people who have developed Internet addiction.
As reported by The Telegraph UK, the University of Winchester conducted a scientific study involving ten self-confessed Facebook ‘addicts,’ and another ten Twitter addicts going cold turkey on their social media accounts for four weeks. The study found that the respondents suffered withdrawal symptoms like the feeling of being alone, and being “cut off from the world.”
Given all these possible withdrawal symptoms that may occur, it is safe to say that treating an addiction is not easy after all. Most addicted people who sought help and underwent rehabilitation experience relapse at least once, and it is not always their fault. There are many factors that could trigger relapse in addiction.
5. You engage in reckless activities for the sake of keeping the habit
Addiction can leave its victims with a feeling of impulsiveness, making them vulnerable to do extreme acts such as breaking the law.
Some substance abusers resort to stealing, trading sex for substance, or selling valuable possessions to get money to buy the substance. They will do just about anything just to continue their addiction. Even when they want to quit, these people become slaves of the substances and activities they obsess over.
When under the influence of substances, people can do all sorts of reckless things including driving fast; wreak havoc in neighborhoods, and even commit crimes. Also, because substance abuse commonly numbs the senses and clouds judgment, addicted people will most likely be indifferent or unaware of the consequences of their actions, and will keep on repeating their deeds.
According to the statistics in a 2015 report by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), 80% of offenders are alcohol or drug addicts. It also said that almost half of jail and prison inmates are clinically diagnosed with addiction and more than half or roughly 60% of individuals that were arrested for various crimes have tested positive for use of illegal drugs during the arrest.
In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in the United States estimated that roughly 28.7 million people or about 10.9% of the population over the age of 12 drove under the influence of alcohol at least once.
In terms of addiction to technology, with using smartphones to access Facebook as an example, an addicted person may disobey standard policies like the prohibition of the use of cellular phones when in class, or when aboard an aircraft, and the like.
6. You start making financial and social sacrifices.
Because most addictions can have long-term effects on the brain, the person’s decision-making process is also affected. In some, if not most cases, financial woes are also caused are also caused by substance addiction.
This happens because the focus is to maintain the supplies of the substance in exchange of pleasure or satisfaction. For example, people who are addicted to activities like gambling and shopping resort to selling properties or availing of loans from banks and even unregistered sources.
According to an article by Forbes, addicted people will be more motivated to find ways to make money to sustain their addictions, rather than paying off accountabilities seen as less important such as debts or rent.
This explains why the insidious side of the cost of addiction, it creeps in on people’s finances in unnoticeable ways. An estimate released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that hardcore drug addictions may cost half a person’s income at the poverty level. This is alarming, considering the possibility that a person may have more than one addiction.
As mentioned in item number 3, addicted people will tend to isolate themselves from others, including important people like their family and friends. With addiction, a person might find it hard to maintain relationships, and hobbies and other recreational activities can be compromised. A lack of emotional support may push an addicted person to become more attracted to continue engaging in an addictive substance or activity.
If you notice these signs coming true for your habit, you might want to consider seeking help from a professional right away to get on the road to recovery as fast as possible.
Borrowing words from an article by the Opiate Treatment Centers of America (OTCOA), addiction is not something to be ashamed of, and should be viewed as an effect of numerous experiences rather than a root cause of negative actions to be treated properly.