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Recognising Addiction In Others And How To Deal With It

The word “addiction” often conjures up images of a disheveled person with a gaunt appearance completely dependent upon drugs or alcohol. The reality is very different.

Addiction comes in many forms:

Addiction to alcohol or drugs are the most common forms of a condition that leaves a person craving their substance of choice, but it also needs to be borne in mind that there are other addictions many are prone to.

Gambling is one such example. This can be a very well-hidden secret until the financial and mental strain finally forces this problem into the open. Some are addicted to sex, which by the nature of addiction is another closely guarded secret.

More obvious addictions are those who cannot stop buying things; the signs of their outings and online shopping expeditions bear clear evidence, or those who display a constant need to play video games for hours and even days on end.

General signs of addiction:

General signs that someone has a dependence issue can be seen by their lack of control in normal situations, a withdrawal from social circles they used to freely mix in, and the fact they are prepared to take far higher risks than is normally acceptable.

We will look at these and other signs later in the piece but let’s first consider:

Negative behaviour:

It is accepted as normal practice that those of a healthy disposition can recognize any negative behaviour that is causing unwanted consequences and take steps to change their ways.

This is not the case for an addict. They will go to whatever lengths are necessary to justify their negative behaviour, or the fact a problem exists. This false justification allows them to continue with their habit.

The major problem here is that such denial is only adding fuel to the rapidly burning dependence fire.

Signs to look out for:

If you suspect someone close to you may have dependence problems, there are signs to look out for:

Changes in personality:

In the early stages of addiction these changes may be sporadic, but as dependence grows so will these traits:

Lack of interest – Things such as activities or hobbies that used to take up a healthy amount of their time are left behind.

Attitude towards those around them – Showing little interest in relationships with those closest to them, and becoming more argumentative over minor issues.

Neglecting work and social obligations – Taking more time off work than ever before and ‘forgetting’ or making excuses to avoid social occasions. This change will be particularly noticeable if the person was always a good timekeeper and/or had an active social life.

Following unusual habits – If you find the person often avoids regular meals, is beginning to sleep at unusual times or not sleeping for long periods, or they ‘go for a walk or drive’ at unusual hours, then these are signs that their dependence is increasing.

Ignoring accusations – If any of the above points are individually raised the person will ignore or deny such a change in behaviour and more than likely place the blame elsewhere.

Denial – It is very important to always keep in mind that denial is a major weapon in an addicts armoury. As long as they can continue with denial they feel justified in continuing with their habit.

Changes in health:

A person suffering with deepening dependence will almost always show a deterioration in their physical and mental health. Here are some signs to look out for:


Eyes – Their eyes will often be glazed or bloodshot, and their pupils as small as pinholes or as wide as saucers.

Weight – Their weight will change quite rapidly. This will usually show in terms of weight loss, but some will opt for a ‘fast food’ regimen which could well cause weight gain.

Appearance – If drugs are the problem then dependent upon their ‘poison’ of choice an addict may care little about their appearance and an unkempt look will become the norm. There is also a chance that skin, teeth, hair and nail health will deteriorate.

Abrupt changes in activity: Once again this mainly relates to drugs. Those into opioids such as heroin may do very little and loll around. Physical activity will be restricted to getting comfortable on their favourite seat and exercising by way of using the TV remote control! Those on drugs that stimulate; think meth or cocaine, will be unable to sit still for any period of time.


Mood swings – Sudden and unexpected changes in mood may well become common.

Speech – Their speech may well alternate between normal, slurred, or a constant incoherent rambling.

Behaviour – Their behaviour and attitude can change over minor incidents. This may cause them to become overly anxious, depressed, irritable or aggressive.

Apathy – Many with deepening dependence problems will often show signs of apathy. They will have a resigned look and way about them and show little confidence regarding their future.

Do not ignore mounting signs:

The earlier a person with dependence problems seeks help the easier treatment will be. If you suspect a loved one, or someone very close to you of having a dependence problem it is important that you gain knowledge and offer support, but also make it very clear that treatment is required.

It will take patience, persistence and perseverance, but you could very well be the catalyst that helps turn this person’s life around while fully supporting them through professional rehabilitation treatment and counselling.

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