Addiction is a dangerous behavior that can sever relationships and hinder the progress of life. There’s no shame in admitting addiction; in 2011, a study found that 22 million Americans use drugs. Sadly, those statistics only scrape the surface of what addiction is and the grip that it has on most of the country’s youth. There are behavior addictions like shopping, cutting, internet usage, gaming, gambling, eating, and more; drug addictions to prescription pills, illegal substances, and over the counter drugs; alcohol dependence; sex addictions such as voyeurism, cybersex, paying for prostitutes, etc.; and many more that can be found using a basic Google search. Regardless of what the addiction is, they can all be pinpointed by some of the same symptoms of addictive behavior. Identifying the problem is the first step to removing it from your life.

The symptoms of addiction may become more veiled as the objective of addiction becomes less traditional, but one could argue they never change. You might recognize compulsive behaviors in yourself, perhaps you have to have four or five drinks instead of one. Maybe you have a craving to do something, and if it’s a substance then stopping may cause irritability, nausea, tremors (shaking), and anxiety. Alternatively, that craving can translate to when you’re not doing it, and you may find yourself thinking about your addiction obsessively. But beyond all else, the crowning achievement of any addiction is that it stunts the growth of your life, preventing you from going to work, fulfilling responsibilities, taking care of relationships and more.

There are many other ways of diagnosing addiction that may be more relatable. Whenever you find yourself doing something in immoderation when you don’t want to, it’s likely that you may have a problem. Conversely, if you find yourself wanting to do it as means of coping, then this is also a red flag. When you begin hiding the behavior from your family or developing things like depression and low self-esteem, these are signs that you’re losing control. Other people will confront the addict in question but, more often than not, they’ll deny the problem entirely. The mind is a powerful thing and indulging it too much can bring your life crashing down, even with the seemingly rational mindset that everything is okay.

A common question might be something along the lines of ‘I have a friend who does it way more than I do, so why am I addicted but they aren’t?’ Like other diseases, addiction is one that has risk factors. One of them is biology, as one person may be more genetically predisposed to addictive behaviors than the other. Along with nurture is nature, as the friends you hang out with or the quality of your life may compel you to engage in unhealthy behavior. It’s worse when you start younger because that’s when drugs adversely affect the development of the brain. Like with substance abuse, you grow immune to the initial reward and need more of it to satisfy your craving.

It’s important to realize that addiction doesn’t have to define who you are. If you have an addiction, you don’t have to identify yourself as an addict, but you do have to own up to the fact that this problem exists. Addiction is like a virus that takes root in the brain, constantly maturing, multiplying and spreading its influence over every aspect of how you think. If it can’t debilitate you physically (which it most likely will at a certain point), it will find a way to cripple you. Over-indulgence from addictive thought is the beginning of a road to having nothing. This is why the smallest signs seem like they’re blown up to worse case scenarios: By the time most addicts realize they have a problem, it’s too late.

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