All addictions, whether to substances or to behaviors, involve both physical and psychological processes. Each person's experience of addiction is slightly different, but usually involves a cluster of some of the following symptoms of addiction. You can still be addicted even if you do not have all of the symptoms.

There are many different addictions, but similar symptoms span them all.

Some of the common symptoms of addiction are:

  • Tolerance - the need to engage in the addictive behaviour more and more to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal happens when the person does not take the substance or engage in the activity, and they experience unpleasant symptoms, which are often the opposite of the effects of the addictive behaviour
  • Difficulty cutting down or controlling the addictive behaviour
  • Social, occupational or recreational activities becoming more focused around the addiction, and important social and occupational roles being jeopardized
  • The person becoming preoccupied with the addiction, spending a lot of time on planning, engaging in, and recovering from the addictive behaviour

Signs of Addiction

Symptoms can only be experienced by the person with the addiction, whereas signs can be observed by other people. You can never know what someone else is experiencing unless they tell you, so if you are concerned that someone else may have an addiction, look for signs as well as for symptoms.

You might see some signs in an addicted person but not others. These are signs which occur across many - but not necessarily all - addictions:

  • Extreme mood changes - happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc
  • Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of day or night
  • Changes in energy - unexpectedly and extremely tired or energetic
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexpected and persistent coughs or sniffles
  • Seeming unwell at certain times, and better at other times
  • Pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual
  • Secretiveness
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Financially unpredictable, perhaps having large amounts of cash at times but no money at all at other times
  • Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd cell-phone conversations
  • Repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency
  • Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, syringes, etc
  • "Stashes" of drugs, often in small plastic, paper or foil packages