Addictions can alter behavior, incur physical harm and deteriorate our bodies before we know it. It can happen to a friend, our partner, a child, a workmate or even ourselves! We may inadvertently stumble into a dilemma where we come face to face with our own addiction.

Addiction is a physical and emotional illness according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a dependency or necessity for a substance, activity or relationship based on the satisfaction it brings to the affected individual.

The addict is unable to control their addictive behavior. Instead, the addiction controls their lives. It also generates an indispensable “need” when faced with anxiety due to withdrawal symptoms.

The person who suffers from an addiction is dominated by their thoughts and actions. This leads to a cluster of desires that consumes their actions and behaviors. In turn, they become compulsive users who suffer withdrawal symptoms. This set of physical and or bodily reaction occurs when a person stops using addictive substances. It is important to note the difference between simple habits or consumerist influence over addiction and dependencies. In this instance, the addict “needs” these substances to live and cannot control their desire. Addiction can be physical, psychological or both.

People can become addictive to all types of substances. When we think of an addiction, we may normally think of alcohol or illegal drugs. But people can get addicted to medication, tobacco and even food, which are addictions related to consumption. Some substances are more addictive than others based on their components. All it takes is one “taste” and the person may lose control.

The addict uses a substance or becomes obsessed with an activity in an effort to achieve pleasure, avoid problems, fears and insecurities. The problem is this: Pleasure is fleeting and ends when the effect wears away. However, the body tends to adapt to the addictive substance and generates a dependency requiring a higher dose each time for the desired effect. This can lead to violent conduct and even death, especially if this behavior involves strong drugs and alcohol. The addict becomes irrational and will do anything to feel that sensation of pleasure. They may even steal or hurt others to get what they desire.

At the beginning of this article, I noted that certain attitudes and changes could indicate addictive behavior.

There are certain alarm signals that can be detected during the early stages of the addictive process. Early detection will allow you to help someone in this situation to avoid the physical and mental risk they may face.

The changes can be physical such as a lack of personal hygiene, increase or loss of weight, fatigue, nasal problems, red eyes and psychological ticks like anxiety, depression and irritability among others.

You may also observe behavioral alterations within familiar circles. This can extend to work, school, family and friends. Poor scholastic performance, change in friends to disreputable individuals, bad attitude at home, sudden violent outbursts and lack of responsibility to finish pending tasks can all be signs of the addictive process.  Even changes of routine habits such as drowsiness alternating with insomnia or abrupt changes of appetite are things to consider!

It should be noted that none of these changes by themselves is enough to diagnose an addiction. And many of these symptoms are signs of other health crisis or pathologies without being exclusive to addictive behavior.

So, if you think you are an addict or if you know or believe someone is in this situation, the first step is to face the problem and get help right away!

It is very difficult to get over addiction alone.  A sponsor, a tight circle of friends, a therapist or a support group will help us realize how much damage an addiction can cause. They will also help us recognize the need to get out as soon as possible.  Always seek someone you can trust to talk to about the issue. Do not think you need to solve this problem on your own! It is too much of a heavy and unnecessary burden. The help of a professional is needed in several cases not only a as a guide, but also someone to help with the treatment process.

People who are busy, active and have goals in their lives are less prone to addiction. So look for or help the addicted individual to find activities that will motivate them like: A sport, art or even music. Something that gets their healthy adrenalin pumping and keeps them busy and happy! Remember: If we have to use drugs or alcohol to fit in, then we need to find other friends. True friends that love us for who we really are!

And finally, be careful with temptation and relapse. When faced with improper desires, it is important to talk to someone to guide and support us so we don’t succumb to the addiction.

Always ask for help! This does not make you weak. On the contrary, it gives you strength.

Best of luck!