How To Spot Addiction Early
Addiction affects millions of Americans every year. Many patients look back and wonder, “why didn’t I realize what was happening?” Awareness of the early warning signs of addiction can help stop things before damage becomes too great. Dependence on any substance or alcohol causes numerous physical, mental, and emotional changes to the body. By knowing what to look for, we can proactively seek care for ourselves or our loved ones. Here are 5 early warning signs of addiction:
- Physical changes
- Mental impairment
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Loss of control or overuse
- Changes in lifestyle
The first of the 5 early warning signs of addiction to note are physical changes to the brain. Normally, the brain provides chemical “rewards” for healthy behavior, such as adequate sleep or exercise. Compounds such as dopamine and serotonin can make someone feel happy or in a good mood. Addiction rewires the brain to provide these chemicals as a reward for substance or alcohol use. At the same time, the brain will send out stress signals when it doesn’t detect the substance. This is why many patients feel anxious or depressed if they have gone too long without use. If you begin to notice feelings of anxiety after a period of abstinence, take note. Likewise, pay attention to external or internal stressors that drive the desire to use. Do you find yourself using to “take the edge off?” This is a definite sign that recreational use is turning into active addiction. Also be aware of sudden changes in weight, appetite, or sleep patterns. If you begin to feel the need to use it in order to feel “normal,” it’s time to talk to someone about it. If you notice even one of the 5 warning signs of addiction in yourself or someone else, it should be cause for concern.
Addiction wreaks havoc on the brain. The risk/reward functions get thrown off balance and the prefrontal cortex is also affected. This is the decision-making part of the brain. Under normal circumstances, we all make thousands of decisions a day that keep us alive and functioning. The prefrontal cortex controls everything from taking a shower to solving problems at work. As SUD/AUD run their course, the patient’s ability to make good decisions will suffer. If you begin to notice yourself making mistakes that seem out of character, take note. Everyone has an off day occasionally. If you begin to see a pattern, though, it could be a sign of something more serious. Impaired thinking or judgment is another one of the 5 warning signs of addiction.
Withdrawal From Family and Friends
Addiction can have negative consequences on your most important relationships. Often, as the condition progresses, patients will spend less time with those who love them. Have you begun to feel uneasy or anxious around people you used to enjoy spending time with? Have they begun to notice changes in you or expressed concern about your well-being? If so, know that they care about you and want you to be well. If you find yourself withdrawing from loved ones or hiding your use, now is the time to seek help. Your relationships with family and loved ones are worth it.
Loss of Control Over Use
When someone tries a new substance, the body responds with a kick of the reward chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine. As time goes on, though, the body switches to danger response mode. Instead of rewarding use, your body feels threatened by a lack of use. Combined with the impairment to the decision-making prefrontal cortex, the patient can now no longer control themselves. Does this sound familiar? If so, please know you are not at fault. Addiction is a serious medical condition that can be treated. It is no more a moral failing than any other medical condition, such as flu or a broken leg. You wouldn’t hesitate to ask for what you need in those cases, addiction should be no different. The first step is to ask for help.
Changes In Lifestyle
The most outwardly noticeable warning signs of addiction are changes to a person’s lifestyle. Have you found yourself taking little to no pleasure in activities you used to enjoy? As addiction progresses, many patients stop enjoying hobbies or going to social functions. You may also struggle with your performance at work. Some patients even begin to encounter financial or legal trouble due to patterns of use. Dramatic, especially negative changes in lifestyle can be one of the 5 warning signs of addiction. Even if you haven’t experienced severe disruptions in your life yet, don’t hesitate to talk to someone about it. If your condition is diagnosed early, you may have more treatment options available.
When To Seek Help
Addiction can be compared to the fable of the boiling frog. As the story goes, a frog will jump away from a pot of already boiling water to save itself. However, if the frog is placed in room temperature water and slowly heated, he won’t notice until it’s too late. How does this relate to addiction? No one begins recreational use with the intention of being diagnosed with AUD or SUD. The physical and mental changes that use can cause may seem small at first. Left untreated, though, the effects can negatively impact you as well as those closest to you. If any of the 5 early warning signs of addiction apply to you or someone you care about, talk to us. Harmony Healing Center understands addiction and we’re here to help. Even if you aren’t sure you are ready for treatment and you just have some questions — start the conversation. It’s a step in the right direction. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Addiction is a physiological condition, not a moral failure. Each year, millions of people in the United States are diagnosed and successfully treated for AUD and SUD. The vast majority go on to live fulfilling and productive lives. This can be your story too!
We are here to help. Just ask.
Are you concerned that you or a loved one may be living with addiction? Contact us today! Our intake coordinators will be happy to discuss your options and help you take the first step to recovery.