How to Spot Signs of Addiction in Your Loved One (And What to Do About It)

Addiction comes in many different shapes and sizes, and knowing when to classify something as abuse can differ from person to person. Someone who plays video games all day can have an addiction, for example, or they may play professionally. With the exception of substance abuse addictions, where your brain is physically addicted to a substance that can take your life, addictions are usually referred to as such when they interfere with a person’s life, goals, safety, and happiness.

With such a loose definition of addiction for addictions that aren’t substance-related, it can be difficult to know when to step in and help. Even with substance abuse, signs of addiction can be nefarious and difficult to spot. You can be addicted to cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, or an activity.

With this guide, you’ll be able to understand better when something is an addiction and the signs that indicate you need to step in and help.

Signs of Addiction

You will want to know and watch out for a few key signs of addiction. Seeing these signs can be difficult, even in cases where you share a home with the person in question. Parents, in particular, can miss an addiction by simply writing off worrying signs as part of puberty or any other things teens go through, from test stress to concerns about their appearance or fitting in.

Though not exhaustive, a few key signs of addiction include:

  • Changes in personality
  • Changes in behavior (especially if aggressive)
  • Shakes, tremors, and poor health
  • Financial issues
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Drop in performance (work, grades, hobbies)
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Social withdrawal

Do keep in mind that addiction and mental illness go hand-in-hand. Addiction can occur as a way to self-treat mental illness, or addiction may cause mental illness. If you are worried your loved one, especially your teen, may be depressed, have anxiety, or may be developing bipolar disorder, then you’ll need to help them on two fronts. Only when you give them the tools to improve their addiction and mental health can you see lasting change.

What To Do If Your Loved One is Addicted

If your loved one is addicted, then what you do next will depend entirely on how ready they are to hear that they need help. You may need to stage an intervention, for example, to lay down the damage their addiction is causing.

When you do, it’s very effective to have solutions on hand. Don’t just offer one, however – offer many. Choice and choosing to recover is a very, very important part of any recovery, and having options (especially pamphlets) means that your loved one can look at them later.

When it comes to recovery options, try to find one that addresses all parts of recovery, but keep in mind the types of treatment programs and what would fit your loved one most. For example, an inpatient treatment program where your loved one lives on-site while they recover from withdrawal is essential if they’re at serious risk of overdose. Otherwise, you may look into 12-step programs and other courses that can be attended around work and responsibilities.

No matter what, the program needs to approach addiction in several different avenues: physical, mental, and spiritual. Never underestimate the power of spiritual guidance in recovery, regardless of whether that guidance is based on religion or is secular. Having a sense of purpose and feeling like you have been forgiven and are loved by your community are all very important components of a person’s recovery.

Know You’ll Join Them

There are parts where you will need to join them in their recovery, especially if you share a close bond like that between a parent and their child. At the very least, working with program advisors and healthcare workers to provide a safe, stable environment at home is key. You’ll also want to work together to understand how you can talk about the addiction and resolve the personal scars that exist between you.

All relationships need love and care, which is why you’ll also be with your loved one on their recovery journey. Part of this will be direct, for example, in family therapy, while in other cases, it will be indirect. You deserve support just as much, and if you find that their addiction has caused harm to you, find a support group or therapist to help you work out your feelings in a safe space.


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