When is Something an Addiction? Know the Warning Signs

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Published on 13/01/2021 . 3 mins read
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When someone says that they are “addicted” to shopping, food, or a new T.V. series, it is almost always an exaggeration. In this case, the particular object or activity is pleasing and you wish it wouldn’t end. But when is something officially an addition? Learn the meaning and warning signs of an addiction today.

When is something an addiction?

Staying up at night obsessing over a project or frequently shopping online may earn you the title of a “workaholic” or “shopaholic,” but are these actually addictions? Knowing when something is more than just a pastime or passion can be hard at times. In addition, there is a difference between dependence and addiction.

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Dependence is a term that refers to a physical or perceived need to use a substance. It typically refers to substances such as alcohol and drugs. Addiction and dependence are two separate conditions; however, they often go hand in hand.

Before drug or alcohol dependency, tolerance occurs. Tolerance is when the body adapts or becomes used to a certain substance. The term does not only apply to illicit drugs, as it commonly happens with prescription and non-prescription medications. To overcome tolerance, the dose is either increased or tapered down then restarted to achieve the desired effect. Certain medications like opioids can cause dependency and addiction, so patients taking these are closely monitored.

Stopping one’s intake of drugs or alcohol suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms. People who are dependent on substances who abruptly stop can experience symptoms such as chills, anxiety, and irritability. These symptoms often drive people to take more substances. The dependence and withdrawal symptoms are some of the reasons why quitting is so hard for some people.


According to the American Psychological Association, addiction is a “chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance.”

People with addictions become mentally and physically dependent on a substance and the feeling the substance gives them. Because of this, they can lose sight of reality and put all their efforts into obtaining more of the object of their addiction. Some people may stop talking to friends and family or experience a change in personality. This can also leave them unable to hold down a job, fulfill daily tasks, or tend to their basic needs.

Addictions are both mental and physical illnesses that require holistic treatment. A psychiatrist can diagnose and treat patients with addictions. Meanwhile, support groups and family members are also important for recovery process.

when is something an addiction

Types of addictions

There are many different substances and behaviors that people can become addicted to. Not everyone who partakes in these are guaranteed to become dependent or addicted. Some examples of types of addictions are:

Warning signs of an addiction

People with addictions often do not realize that they have one. By the time a person with an addition realizes that they have a problem, the condition may already be severe or debilitating. Some indicators are:

  1. Going through a traumatic or stressful event and using substances to cope.
  2. Being unable to stop using a certain substances or partaking in a certain activity.
  3. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when one tries to reduce or stop it.
  4. Being unable to get one’s mind off of the substance or activity.
  5. Being willing to do essentially anything to get the substance or to do the activity again.
  6. Experiencing either gradual or sudden changes in emotions or behavior. (e.g. irrational, impulsive, irritable)
  7. Having the addiction interfere with one’s daily life.
  8. Experiencing strains in relationships with friends, family, or co-workers.
  9. Neglectful behavior (especially in favor of the addiction).
  10. Loss of control over one’s own actions and thoughts.

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Key takeaway

Addictions are serious problems that have many underlying causes. It does not just affect the person with the condition, but also those around them. Because people with addiction are less aware of how it affects them, warning signs are important to look out for on their behalf. If you or someone you know shows signs of addiction, it is best to talk to a mental health expert like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.

Learn more about Mental Health here

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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