The 6 Major Characteristics of Addictive Behavior


Trying to figure out if someone has an addiction can be a difficult task because there are so many variables. However, there are 6 different characteristics of addictive behavior that most addicts share. 

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects every aspect of one’s life. It can be deadly, if not treated, and it can also reoccur even after someone receives treatment for their addiction. Addiction is when someone uses a substance or continues a behavior even after it has negative consequences for their life. 

Is There a Difference Between Addiction and Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse differs from addiction, but it is still a worrisome behavior.  Overusing a substance, as well as using a substance for the use it is not intended are clear signs and symptoms of substance abuse. Substance abuse can easily lead to addiction, but if caught early enough, may not. 

To decide whether someone is abusing a substance, or suffering from an addiction, you can explore the 6 common characteristics of addiction. 

The 6 Major Characteristics of Addictive Behavior

Inability to Stop

When someone has addictive behavior, the first sign of an addiction is an inability to stop using the substance of choice. Even though someone may notice their life spiraling out of control, they can’t just stop. They may be able to stop for a short period of time or limit their intake. Eventually, though, they come back full circle to the point where they started. 

The inability to stop may be for many different reasons, including cravings, withdrawal symptoms, habits they formed, or being around the people, places, or things they were when they used the substance. Having a strong will just sometimes isn’t enough. 

Continue Using Even with Negative Consequences

No matter what the substance is, if it’s being abused, it will have negative consequences on someone’s life. Whether it be mental, physical, emotional, or a combination of all three, it is unlikely that an addict can successfully use without their life being affected negatively. 

An example of a negative impact of substance abuse could be losing a job because they called in sick too many times from being hungover. Or maybe they drove while on drugs and killed someone in a car accident. 

The effects drugs and alcohol have on our mental health is also one of the main negative consequences of addiction. Because alcohol and drugs change the chemistry in our brains, effects could include depression and many other mental disorders. 

Being Preoccupied with Substance Use

Being preoccupied with substance use is a hard one to determine because a lot of the time it is inside someone’s head. Unless they are outwardly talking about their desire to use, or wanting to find their substance of choice, it’s usually a struggle they deal with alone. 

That being said, there are a few ways to tell if someone is suffering from this stage of addiction. They may say things like “I know it’s a kid’s birthday party, but can I bring beer to drink?” or “I want to go out tonight and let loose”. It could also be something more direct like “I have been dying to get my hands on this bottle of tequila I’ve been thinking about.” 

If these were one-off comments, it wouldn’t be anything to worry about. But paired with multiple similar comments, or any of the other characteristics of alcohol or drug addiction, it’s time to be concerned. 

Changes in Behavior

Changes in behavior are a huge red flag in terms of trying to decide if someone is suffering from an addiction.  Substance use disorders, especially over long periods of time, can drastically change someone’s personality, perspective, and ability to communicate effectively. 

If someone is in this stage of addiction, they may become irritable, when normally they would be calm. Maybe they are happy being the center of attention when they are sober, but after long-term use, they become a recluse. 

Noticing changes in behavior is a surefire way to decide whether someone is in need of help with their substance use. Getting help could also include behavioral health treatment

Increasing Use and Tolerance 

Noticing when someone is suffering from an increased tolerance, or use is a key element of determining an addiction. Using long-term, no matter the substance builds tolerance. When tolerance is built, it takes much more of the substance for the person to feel its effects. 

This dangerous stage of addiction can lead to a myriad of health issues. Heart attack, stroke, seizures, and even death are often consequences of increased tolerance. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

The last characteristic of an addiction is when someone is using so often that their body is literally dependent on the substance. When they wait longer in between uses or try to quit, their body reacts with withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal symptoms vary between substances, but typically it includes excessive sweating, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and even seizure. As with increased tolerance, this is an extremely dangerous stage of addiction. If someone is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, they need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

What to do If You or a Loved One is Showing These Characteristics 

Showing just one of these characteristics is cause for concern. Usually, it’s a snowball effect and someone will display many of these in a short period of time. If that starts to be apparent, seeking help is a positive way to ensure the person can get healthy. Through detox and individual therapy, your loved one can address underlying causes for addiction and recover.

Does Someone Suffering from Addiction Always Need Treatment?

The short answer is, yes. Trying to quit any substance without medical intervention can be deadly. Entering into a detox program, followed by an individualized treatment program would be beneficial for anyone suffering from an addiction or addictive behavior. 

Where to Get Help

Getting help can be as easy as calling Agape Detox Center. Their admissions coordinators are available to help with any questions and guide them through the process from start to finish. Agape Detox isn’t like a typical treatment facility, though. It feels more like a retreat. It’s a place to reset, learn, and grow into a healthier version of themselves. Contact our admissions team to start treatment!

Have any questions?

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