Addiction Addictive Behaviors Symptoms of Addiction By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 30, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Tom & Dee Ann McCarthy/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Signs & Symptoms of Addiction Complications & Comorbidities Frequently Asked Questions All addictions, whether to substances or to behaviors, involve physical or psychological processes. Each person’s experience of addiction is slightly different, but there are generally some common symptoms to watch out for, including behavior changes like lying, extreme changes in mood, and changing social groups, as well as physical symptoms like changes in weight, sleep, and energy levels. This article discusses some of the signs and symptoms of addiction. It also explores some of the different types of addiction. Signs & Symptoms of Addiction There are a number of different signs and symptoms of addiction. Symptoms are experienced by the person with the addiction, whereas signs are observed by other people. You can never know what someone else is experiencing unless they tell you, so if you are concerned that someone else may have an addiction, look for signs as well as symptoms. You might see some of these signs and symptoms but not others in someone who is experiencing addiction. They can still be addicted even if they do not have all of these. Common signs of addiction include: Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd phone conversations Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, etc. Financial problems Lying Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency Secretiveness Stealing Stashes of drugs, often in small plastic, paper, or foil packages Common symptoms of addiction include: Activities centering on the addiction in a way that negatively affects relationships, school, and work A preoccupation with the addiction and spending a lot of time on planning, engaging in, and recovering from the addictive behavior Changes in energy, such as being unexpectedly and extremely tired or energetic Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behavior Extreme mood changes Physical changes including increased illness and changes in weight Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of the day or night Tolerance, which involves the need to engage in the addictive behavior more and more to get the desired effect Withdrawal, when the person does not take the substance or engage in the activity, and they experience unpleasant symptoms Most of the signs of addiction can have other explanations. People can have changes in their mood, behavior, and energy levels for other reasons, including health-related ones. Be cautious about jumping to conclusions. It is difficult to discern if someone may have an addiction, even if some obvious signs are observed. If you discover drugs or drug paraphernalia, talk with a healthcare provider or an addiction counselor or specialist for guidance on appropriate ways to handle this difficult situation. Symptoms of Specific Addictions While there are signs and symptoms of a general nature, certain substances and behaviors can come with their own set of symptoms. Behaviors (gambling, exercise, sex, shopping): Behavioral addictions are characterized by compulsive behaviors that persist despite negative consequences. Depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines): These medications slow the activity of the central nervous system and can lead to slowed heartbeat and respiration, confusion, coma, and death. Opioids (painkillers, heroin, morphine): These substances decrease sensitivity to pain and produce strong cravings for opioids. Stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine): These substances lead to increased energy levels. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. What Drug Paraphernalia May Look Like Complications & Comorbidities Addictions have a wide range of serious complications, many of which can be life-limiting and potentially dangerous. Some of these complications include: Accidents Family problems Financial problems Health problems Legal issues Relationship problems School difficulties Suicide Work problems Different substances can have their own set of health risks and potential complications. Illegal substances pose health dangers in addition to potential legal issues. Some substances also pose a risk for overdose, brain damage, and long-term health consequences. The risk of addiction may be higher among certain groups of people. There are certain factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing addiction. Mental Health Conditions Addiction often occurs alongside other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Estimates suggest that approximately half of all people who have a mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point during their life. Adolescence Some of the signs of addiction are similar to normal teenage behavior, but teenagers are one of the groups most vulnerable to addiction. If you are a parent who is worried that your child might be using substances, seek professional assistance to determine how to best manage this issue. A healthcare provider can refer you to resources. Life Experiences People who have or have had certain difficult life experiences are also more likely to be affected by addiction. These include poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and early exposure to drugs and alcohol. People who have experienced trauma or abuse also have a higher risk of developing an addiction. Best Drug Addiction Treatment Centers Frequently Asked Questions Is addiction a disease? The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic disease. According to ASAM, it involves a complex interaction between genetics, the environment, brain circuits, and life experiences. While serious, addiction is also treatable. The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines addictions to alcohol and drugs as psychiatric disorders, which are patterns of symptoms that result from substance use. These patterns persist despite negative consequences. The DSM recognizes substance use disorder caused by ten classes of drugs, including alcohol, cannabis, hallucinogens, sedatives, and stimulants. What causes addiction? Addiction is caused by a number of different factors. Anyone can develop an addiction. However, there are certain influences that may elevate a person's risk. Factors that contribute to addiction include genetics, family history, drug use, and mental health disorders. Environmental factors such as poverty, trauma, abuse, stress, and early substance use can also increase the risk of developing an addiction. How do you overcome an addiction? There are many effective treatment options that can help people break free of addiction. Healthcare providers can prescribe medications that can help reduce cravings for certain substances and minimize the uncomfortable effects of withdrawal. Psychotherapy, rehabilitation centers, 12-step programs, and support groups can also help aid in recovery from addiction. Online options are also available, including websites and apps designed to help people overcome addiction. How to Overcome an Addiction 9 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Sussman S, Sussman AN. Considering the definition of addiction. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011;8(10):4025-38. doi:10.3390/ijerph8104025 Cleveland Clinic. Addictions: An overview. National Institute of Mental Health. Substance use and co-occurring mental disorders. Hammond C, Mayes L, Potenza M. Neurobiology of adolescent substance use and addictive behaviors: treatment implications. Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2014;25(1):15-32. National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are risk factors and protective factors?. Khoury L, Tang YL, Bradley B, Cubells JF, Ressler KJ. Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(12):1077-1086. doi:10.1002/da.20751 American Society of Addiction Medicine. Definition of addiction. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. Washington, DC; 2013. National Institute on Drug Addiction. Understanding drug use and addiction. By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.