If you’re worried about a loved one, or yourself, here’s what you should watch for.
Addiction can come in many different forms. The most common dependencies are on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, but others can include gambling, shopping, sex and even gaming. And many characteristics of these addictions are the same. So how do you know if you or someone you care about has a problem?
According to Leanne Arbasetti, the clinical director of Crestview Recovery, there are several key indicators that help them identify if someone is addicted. If you’re worried about a loved one, here’s what you should watch for.
Frequently, the first sign of an addiction is the person’s appearance. “Often addicts don’t have the energy to care for themselves,” Arbasetti says. “They may have poor hygiene, not brush their teeth, develop acne, wear too much or no makeup at all, have glassy eyes, or their complexion may be pale.”
The Mayo Clinic website also suggests that if your loved one has a problem, they may lose interest in clothing, grooming or looks, and may lose weight and physical coordination.
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They also suggest that if a person is having problems at school or work this may be another sign of addiction.
Arbasetti agrees and says this is one of the criteria they use to make a medical diagnosis. When a person continues to use in spite of negative consequences like the loss of a job or home, the end of a relationship, a divorce, or legal consequences (including DUIs) it can be a red flag.
“If someone without a problem experiences one of these negative consequences,” she says, “It’s unlikely they’ll do it again. But addicts don’t learn the lesson.”
Addicts also often change their behavior to feed their addiction and hide their problem. According to the Mayo Clinic this means that they may become secretive and try to keep family members out of their personal spaces. They may lose touch with old friends and make new ones with whom they appear to have little in common.
In addition, Arbasetti suggests behavior can change in the following ways. An addict may start staying up late and sleeping during the day; stop doing hobbies they loved because they don’t have the money; commit crimes or have legal problems; have sudden, unprovoked mood swings; become depressed; or stop attending family gatherings.
“It’s important for families to understand that it’s not that their family members don’t want to be there,” Arbasetti says. “Addicts avoid events because they don’t want to be questioned and don’t want their family members to see them in their current condition.”
Addicts may also make frequent requests for money without reasonable explanation. Arbasetti says they may ask you to pay their rent, or give them cash for bills or gas. They often prefer to pay the bills themselves so they can keep the money.
Once you or your loved one connects with an addiction counselor, they will see if they can make a medical diagnosis. According to Arbasetti, these are some of the signs counselors watch for and you can monitor to determine if you have a problem.
Tolerance – Does it take you more of the substance to feel the buzz or high? Did it used to take you one glass of wine and now it’s three every night?
Withdrawal – When you don’t have the drug, does your brain do the opposite of what it does with the drug? For example, meth addicts sleep and eat when in withdrawal.
Continued use – Do you continue to use in spite of multiple attempts to stop?
Use in hazardous situations – Do you mix drugs and alcohol or drink and drive in spite of knowing the dangers?
Loss of control – Are you unable to stick to limits of the drug that you set for yourself?
In the end, Arabasetti says that you shouldn’t expect your loved one to be honest about their addiction.
“Denial is always part of things,” Arbasetti says. “In some 12-step programs they use an acronym for denial that is – Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying. They aren’t consciously lying. To the family member it feels like they’re lying, but to the addict it feels like they are protecting their family from the truth that will hurt them.”
Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center with the experience to help you recover. Our caring and understanding staff members are among the most experienced in the field.