Amongst the most noticeable consequences of untreated addiction are: serious harms to physical and mental health, strained or broken relationships, losing jobs and opportunities, committing crimes or experiencing financial insolvency.
But what are the less obvious signs that you need professional help with addiction? If you can spot them, you can get specialist addiction support before your illness does irreparable damage. In this blog, we’ll set out 10 of the early signs of dependence, whether that’s to alcohol, drugs or a process such as gaming, gambling, internet use, work, sex or love.
If you relate to 3 or more of these signs, please get in touch with Addiction Helper for a confidential addictions assessment.
Spot the Early Signs you Need Professional Addiction Help
When you read these 10 signs, please look out for all the points you agree with or recognise from your own life. It’s also useful to notice anything you react against very strongly – sometimes this can indicate an underlying problem. Professional addiction help is available in the UK and abroad, to suit all budgets and life circumstances. You can recover from addiction. It’s never too early or too late to get addiction help.
1. Recurring anger
Do you get angry a lot? Do you turn to alcohol, drugs or an addictive habit to escape anger? Are you often irritated about the same things – people or situations that frustrate you time and time again? If anger is extremely uncomfortable, painful or overwhelming for you, then it’s likely you have some difficulty in dealing with this emotion. Recovering addicts often describe anger as very hard to manage and cyclical. Addictions often take hold when people turn to substances or processes, seeking fast relief from unresolved anger.
Professional addiction help can provide you with anger management strategies, to prevent the need for alcohol, drugs or an addictive process as a coping mechanism.
2. Feeling very uncomfortable within yourself
In treatment for addiction, people often describe feeling awkward, anxious, unworthy or unloveable. Usually, these feelings precede their addiction, beginning in childhood or young adulthood. For some addicts, this state of being has lasted for years or decades. Usually, it feels much worse when they’re not using an addictive substance or process – especially if they’re not getting any professional help with addiction and/or support from peers.
Addictions are more likely to develop and progress when people feel longstanding shame. Typically, when people have never had professional addiction help, they try to mask feelings of shame by using or acting out in their addictive habits.
3. Surrounding yourself with other addicts
If you drink, how many of your friends consume alcohol like you do? If you gamble, do you prefer to spend time with people who gamble regularly? If you take drugs, do you find people boring or annoying who don’t take drugs? Is it remarkable to you when someone has one or two lines of cocaine, then calls it a night?
Addicts tend to gravitate towards other addicts. They seek out people who won’t question them about their substance use or process addiction. They prefer to spend time with people who use in similar ways to them too.
4. Cross addiction
If you stop drinking alcohol, do you find yourself craving chocolate, sweets or cake? If you curb your internet addiction, do you smoke more cannabis? Cross addiction is very common but it isn’t understood well by people in the early stages of addiction. Particularly if you’ve never had professional help for addiction, cross addiction can easily be mistaken for positive change.
For example, a food addict might spot they have a problem with eating and decide to change. Their strategy involves going to the gym every day, in order to feel like they’re doing something positive. However, over-exercising is just another addictive process and it also feeds into certain eating disorders such as anorexia.
5. Seeing sadness as weak or unacceptable
Do you dread the thought of crying in front of people? Is it hard to admit you’re upset about something that’s happened to you? Have you always kept silent about experiences in childhood because you fear being overwhelmed by emotion?
Often addicts try to disguise their natural feelings of sadness. If you’re using substances or processes to suppress or avoid pain, then you may need professional help with addiction.
6. Playing down or playing up how much you use
If you frequently minimise how much you drink, take drugs or act in a certain way, then it can be an early sign of an addictive disorder. For example, your spouse asks you how much you drank last night – you say two or three drinks to get him off your back when you can’t actually remember how much alcohol you had. Regularly exaggerating how much you use a substance or process can also be an early sign of dependence. It shows a disordered relationship that could develop into a dangerous addiction – because of the value that you place on the activity.
7. Sacrificing the things you enjoy
Did you used to love playing football on Sundays but now you’ve pulled out of the team because of frequent hangovers? Do you enjoy buying nice clothes but your money mostly goes on placing bets these days? Does the thought of taking drugs preoccupy your mind, even when you’re playing with your kids? Please don’t wait until you lose everything you love to get professional help with addiction.
8. Bargaining with yourself
Do you regularly promise yourself a night of big drinking, as a reward for working hard? Do you tell yourself you can take drugs to let your hair down, after a stressful period at college or university? Is the weekend a time for undisturbed gaming, whether or not your family want you to be more available?
If you always turn to substances or processes as your reward in life, to the exclusion of other activities, then it’s setting up a pattern of dependence.
9. Joking about being an addict
Do you joke about being an alcoholic? Do you turn big losses at the bookies into an entertaining story? If people comment on your drug taking, do you tell them to lighten up and have some fun? You might enjoy the fact that people laugh at the things you say – but it’s a common strategy to deflect the early signs of addiction by making jokes.
10. Swearing off your habit, then returning to it
It’s often very hard for people to face up to addiction, let alone admit it to anyone else. Often, there’s a period of time before people get professional help for addiction where they try to sort things out by themselves. One pattern to look out for is swearing off your addiction. You may do this every New Year’s Day, resolving to start afresh. Or you have done this countless times in your life. Perhaps you have even managed to stay away from your habit for days, weeks or months.