Addictions are health disorders with a great capacity to damage our quality of life.

Some of the reasons for this are the physical wear and tear of developing one and its negative consequences in maintaining a social and emotional life. However, there is also another factor that complicates everything: how complicated it is for the person to realize in time that they are developing an addiction.

Therefore, in this article we will see a summary of what are the main warning signs that indicate the beginning of an addiction . Keeping this in mind can be very useful to discover in time that you have a problem and thus go to a mental health professional before the situation gets worse.

The signs that mark the beginning of addiction

These are the main signs that help detect addiction problems in their early stages of development.

It should be noted that it is not necessary to meet all of these criteria to be developing an addiction , nor is it advisable to assume that such a disorder is developing simply because it seems to us that someone meets one or two of these criteria. These are guidelines to know if there are reasons to be concerned, and if a case deserves to go to a first visit with the clinical specialty psychologist.

On the other hand, it is also important to know that there are different types of addictive disorders, each of which has different characteristics. For this reason, the warning signs described below are not delineated by going to the specifics (for example, how much time has to have passed since one of them appeared before the criterion is met).

In any case, the diagnosis, the moment when it is “officially” recognized that the person has developed one of these disorders, can only be carried out by professionals duly accredited and working in mental health.
Having said this, let us see what the signs are that indicate the beginning of an addiction.

1. You start sleeping badly

This is one of the most typical signs that there is an addiction going on. People who begin to generate dependency with some substance or behaviour tend to see many of the hours of sleep as a waste of time , and many times anxiety does not let them sleep, thinking constantly about issues related to the next time they will see their unrestrained need satisfied.

For example, some of these thoughts that go through your mind when you try to fall asleep are: “Is it worth staying here, or does it give me time for one more drink in the kitchen,” “what will I do tomorrow morning to get another dose,” “where could I get material closer to home,” etc.

2. Irritability appears when talking about the subject

If someone in that person’s environment begins to suspect that an addiction is brewing and asks the affected person about it, it is likely that sooner or later the latter will become irritated and hostile, even if the other person has not been overly insistent. The aim is to avoid a conversation about the subject in order to maintain a certain ambiguity , since it is not yet evident to everyone that a disorder has arisen and one can aspire to continue hiding it as much as possible.

3. The start of addictive substances in parallel

In the vast majority of cases, people who have some kind of addiction and who have not undergone treatment reach a point where they combine this addictive tendency with the use of substances with the potential to create dependency. It is true that this does not have to happen in the early stages of addiction, but when it does, it is one of the main warning signs.

For example, if a person has started to create patterns of behaviour that are typical of pathological gambling, even if he or she hides those gambling sessions that he or she holds almost daily, it is very likely that his or her friends and family will notice that he or she drinks more, or that he or she has started to try drugs from time to time that he or she has never touched before (cocaine, cannabis, etc.).

4. Old friendships are left behind

One of the characteristics of addictions is that do not just arise in the brain of the affected person, but generate social contexts that favour their survival.

For example, if a person starts drinking a lot of alcohol and his or her regular friends barely drink a beer on the weekends, the average person who is developing an addictive disorder tends to “tune out” those social circles, for example, so as not to feel judged. In some cases, they will begin to isolate themselves during their free time, and in others they will begin to seek out the company of others who have addictive patterns in their behavior.

5. There is a tendency to seek solitude

As the person who is developing an addiction is starting to put as a priority number one always the same action, his social life becomes impoverished; after all, the most important moments for him can be achieved in solitude ; with the exception of certain behavioural addictions such as pathological gambling, in which it is noted that the company of others is simply instrumental, a consequence of what one is trying to achieve (in this case, betting with someone at a poker table, on a horse racing bet, etc.).

6. Abandonment of projects

In the same way that friends tend to be left out, the person begins to lose interest in projects that he or she was previously excited about, since these require thinking about them and organizing time to spend on them regularly, something that the addict cannot afford to do.

At the same time, a lack of control is appearing in the way of saving or creating long-term life plans (retirement, starting up companies with own capital…), to the point where it is assumed that savings are resources that can be spent on leisure.

7. Polarizing effect at work

As far as work is concerned, normally one begins to invest the efforts and time just to continue having an income, but already there are not too many perspectives of improving the work status .

However, in other cases of people who start to develop addictions, life is distributed in two obsessions: addiction and work, leaving aside the rest. It is possible that this is due to the fact that work offers a moral cover to continue dedicating a lot of time to the satisfaction of addictions, or to cover debts.

8. A rational reason is sought to justify addiction

On the other hand, the person begins to “mask” his real reasons for using drugs or embracing addictions without substances, for example by arguing that these experiences help him to concentrate, to get motivated, etc. It is a transitional phrase between the moment when one feels that there are reasons to feel guilty (admitting that there is an addictive pattern) and the moment of acceptance of the problem, when the deterioration that has generated the disorder cannot be hidden.

Professional help against addictions

If you are looking for psychological assistance in person or online to overcome an addiction, I invite you to contact me. I am a clinical psychologist with 25 years of experience , and I can help you to create effective habits and thought patterns to get out of this dependency situation. To see my contact details, click here.

Bibliographic references:

  • Marlatt, G.A.; Baer, J.S.; Donovan, D.M.; Kivlahan, D.R. (1988). Addictive behaviors: etiology and treatment. Annu Rev Psychol. 39: pp. 223-252.
  • Olsen CM (2011). Natural rewards, neuroplasticity, and non-drug addictions. Neuropharmacology. 61(7): pp. 1109 – 1122.
  • Taylor SB, Lewis CR, Olive MF (2013). The neurocircuitry of illicit psychostimulant addiction: acute and chronic effects in humans. Subst. Abuse Rehabilitation. 4: pp. 29 – 43.