The signs of addiction can be hard to spot. What starts as a way to relax or socialise can become an unhealthy habit. Our behaviour can get out of control, leaving us and our loved ones feeling helpless in addiction’s grasp. How do you know when it’s time for rehab?
This article may be helpful if you are…
- Seeking more information about the signs of addiction;
- Concerned about yourself or a loved one in regard to their substance use or behavioural patterns;
- Deciding whether a rehab program would be suitable for yourself or a loved one.
Spotting the signs of addiction
Many people seek help for addiction when they have hit rock bottom. We may wait to seek help until we are at risk of losing our close relationships, family or financial security. But what if there were signs of addiction much before the crisis hits? What if you could seek help well before then?
You can. The Banyans Health and Wellness highlights six signs that point to addiction.
You find it difficult to relax or relieve stress without your unhealthy behaviour or substance.
Whether it be a long day at work, the kids have finally gone to bed, or we are in emotional distress, we all have ways that we cope and diffuse the stress in our lives. It is problematic when we turn to negative or harmful coping strategies rather than ones that help us build resilience.
In addition, some people may find it tricky to “let their hair down” without consuming the substance or engaging in their harmful behaviour. This can be especially in true in Australia, where alcohol has become synonymous with relaxation and social connection.
Do you rely on alcohol to relax or enjoy yourself? The following may be signs of addiction:
- Making jokes or light hearted comments about how a substance or behaviour will help you feel better in moments of stress or pressure;
- When you are feeling stressed, tired or unhappy, do you look forward to alcohol, drugs or unhealthy behaviours (such as gambling) to keep you moving forward?
- Regularly “pre-drinking” or consuming illicit substances before events, parties or concerts;
- Feeling uncomfortable at dry events where alcohol or smoking is not permitted.
If you relate to the statements above, you may benefit from seeking help.
You forego responsibilities or commitments to engage in your behaviour.
Addictive behaviours can lead us to feel out of control. We may neglect our responsibilities or commitments, or not perform at our best. Perhaps we engage in risky or illegal activities that we wouldn’t normally, like driving under the influence or stealing.
Do you forego your responsibilities, or sacrifice your comittments? Signs of addiction may include:
- Neglecting your responsibilities as an employee, parent or friend due to unhealthy behaviours or substance seeking;
- Choosing to forego or disrupt significant events such as Christmas, birthday parties or anniversaries due to our addictive behaviours;
- Engaging in illegal or risky behaviours that we would not normally;
- Not performing our best as we attend work feeling hungover, foggy or tired due to our addictive behaviours.
You find it difficult to stop your behaviours once you start.
A healthy individual will be able to exercise self-control over their substance use or behaviour, knowing when to stop and acting upon it.
However, when we are experiencing an addiction, we may feel like we have an uncontrollable desire to engage in our addictive behaviour, and often end up drinking, taking or gambling much more than we intend.
Do you find it difficult to stop engaging in your unhealthy behaviour once you start? Signs of addiction might look like:
- Going on “benders” for days at a time;
- Struggle to say no to your unhealthy behaviour or substance;
- Drinking numerous alcoholic beverages even though you only intended to drink one standard drink, or choosing beverages that will make you intoxicated quicker (for example, choosing spirits instead of beer);
- Gambling significant sums of money when you did not intend to.
Does this sound like something you often struggle with? If so, it may be helpful for you to reach out for help.
You engage in your addictive behaviour more than you used to.
A hallmark of an addictive behaviour is that we require more to reach the same effect. We may need to risk more money, take more drugs, or drink more glasses of wine before we feel satisfied. This is a biological concept called tolerance – and is a strong indicator that you are developing a physical or psychological dependency or addiction.
Alternatively, we may be engaging in our behaviours more than we used to. Perhaps you were once a social drinker, but now you drink on the daily. Maybe you only needed prescription medication when you were in pain, yet know you take it regardless as a preventative. This pattern may suggest that you have an unhealthy relationship with a substance or behaviour.
Are you engaging in your behaviour more often than you used to? The following may be signs of addiction:
- You undertake the unhealthy behaviour more often than you used to;
- Your desire for the substance or behaviour is much stronger than before;
- You have noticed that you need to consume greater amounts of substance or gamble greater amounts of money to achieve the same effect.
The above are indicators of addiction and should be taken very seriously. A physical tolerance or dependency requires medical attention, and any reduction in your intake should be guided by a medical professional. To learn more about the importance of medical support in recovery from addiction, click here.
You notice yourself thinking about the next time you can access your substance or behaviour.
One way we can identify a developing addiction is by noticing our thoughts. Do you notice yourself thinking about or looking forward to the next time you will be able to access your substance or behaviour? Perhaps you plan your trip to obtain your substances, or think about when you will gamble next.
Feel ashamed of your addictive behaviour, or try to hide your actions.
When experiencing an addiction, we may not be proud of our choices, and regret the pain and hardship we may inflict on our loved ones. The pull between regret and desire for our behaviour or substance can create a lot of shame, secrecy and guilt.
Do you feel ashamed of your addictive behaviours, or shroud your actions in secrecy? Some common signs of addiction are:
- Engaging in your behaviours to avoid feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment;
- Lying about or creating alternative explanations for your whereabouts or unaccounted finances;
- Hiding evidence of substance use or unhealthy behaviour;
- Having seperate bank accounts, phones, email addresses or other identities for your substance use or addictive behaviours.
If you identify with any of the above suggestions, it would be worthwhile to seek help for addiction. The understanding team at The Banyans are available to help you get back on track, and regain your life: free from the shame and guilt of addiction.
Free Support Guides now available for friends and family
Supporting someone experiencing an addiction can be extremely difficult, especially if you are not sure how to help. The Banyans has created a number of free, downloadable support guides that may help direct a conversation towards help seeking and rehab.
Download yours today.
Why no one wants to become addicted
Keep reading below
Addiction professionals give insight into signs of addiction
Dr Christian Rowan and Peter Hayton lead the Clinical team at The Banyans Health and Wellness – a private treatment centre for both substance and behavioural addictions. They see hundreds of guests every year who seek recovery from addictions, including drug and alcohol dependency, compulsive gambling and video game addiction.
Peter Hayton is the Clinical Director and Senior Psychologist at The Banyans Health and Wellness. He empathises with those experiencing addiction, understanding that seeking help can feel overwhelming, difficult and scary.
An accidental addiction – why no one wants to become addicted
“Often, we end up experiencing an addiction because we rely the substance or behaviour to relieve pain or emotional discomfort,” Peter explains. “Our brains then create a shortcut that encourages us to seek the substance or behaviour when we feel that way again.”
Peter suggests that this pattern may encourage us to overlook the signs of addiction or dependency in our own lives, as we know that long term recovery will need us to face the pain head on.
Caffeine addiction a great example of biological dependency
Addictive substances and behaviours also have chemical characteristics that make them attractive to us. For example, Dr Christian Rowan, the Medical Director and Addiction Medicine Specialist, uses the example of caffeine:
“Caffeine is a textbook example of an addictive substance. Not only does it have immediate stimulating effects – that most people enjoy in the moment – it creates a chemical change in your brain that makes you notice its absence. We call these effects withdrawal symptoms, and could be headaches, irritability, cold and flu like symptoms, or brain fog.”
Basically: the more you consume caffeine, the more your brain adapts to its presence, and desires more.
Humans are easily addicted to pleasure
“This pathway is similar for other substances, like alcohol, prescription medication and illicit drugs. But it is also the same for behavioural addictions. Engaging in the behaviour may provide us with a “hit” of pleasure in the form of the happy hormone dopamine, instead of the substance itself.”
Dr Rowan encourages that although withdrawal from substance or behavioural addiction is unpleasant, with the appropriate support, it can be overcome.
No one ever says, “I wish I waited longer to seek help.”
“If anything, the freedom people gain in recovery makes them realise that they would have benefitted from seeking help much sooner,” Peter says.
Sooner rather than later: Act on the signs of addiction
Addiction is one of the most expensive social costs to society, with Australian’s copping over $14 million dollars in social costs every year. Personally, addiction costs an individual much more – relationally, financially, physically and legally. You can read more about the cost of addiction here.
“When we are in the cycle of addiction, it can be difficult to imagine a life that is different to how we know it now,” comments Peter. “We can lose our perspective.”
“It’s important that we focus on the benefits of recovery, especially when our treatment or therapy requires us to push through some difficult times.”
Regain your freedom: seek help from The Banyans
The Banyans Health and Wellness is a private treatment centre for those experiencing the challenges of addiction. Our tailored programs will help you uncover the drivers of your addiction, as well as equip you with the tools and strategies to regain control and experience the freedom of life once again.
Our highly qualified team of registered professionals will work with you to rediscover joy and relaxation without drugs, alcohol or other unhealthy behaviours. Seek help today from Australia’s best private rehab centre.