Recognising the warning signs of addiction

Addiction is a complex and often insidious condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. It tends to start subtly, with seemingly harmless behaviours gradually spiralling out of control. Recognising the warning signs of addiction early on is crucial for intervention and treatment. The people closest to you may notice before you.


Recognising the warning signs of addiction: What you shouldn't ignore

Here are some key signs you shouldn't ignore:

Increased tolerance

One of the hallmark signs of addiction is the development of tolerance. You may find you need more substance or behaviour to achieve the desired effect. For instance, if you initially drank one or two glasses of alcohol and felt an effect, you may now need several more to reach the same feeling.

Withdrawal symptoms

When a person becomes addicted, their body becomes dependent on the substance or behaviour. As a result, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back or stop altogether. These symptoms can vary depending on the substance but may include irritability, anxiety, nausea, sweating, and shaking. Sometimes it's incorrectly assumed that withdrawal symptoms are always physical. This is not necessarily true. If you feel irritable, anxious, depressed, agitated, have difficulty concentrating or sleeping, lack of feeling, stress, social withdrawal and a loss of interest or pleasure, it’s probably withdrawal.

Loss of control

Addiction often leads to a loss of control over your behaviour. Despite your best intentions to cut back or quit, you may find you are unable to resist the urge to use the substance or engage in addictive behaviour. This loss of control can have serious consequences on various aspects of life, including relationships, work, and health. You may not notice this loss of control until it negatively affects your life, for example when you get into trouble at work. Until this point, it may feel more like you’re making a choice.

Neglecting responsibilities

As addiction takes hold, you may prioritise obtaining and using the substance over fulfilling your responsibilities at work, school, or home. You may start missing deadlines, neglecting household chores, or skipping important events to feed your addiction. As per the loss of control until trouble hits, many people think they have control and can make choices to feed the addiction with free will. Try to choose the less appealing option next time (eg. the responsibility), and see how easy it is to do this, if you can’t it’s likely you’re addicted.

Social withdrawal

Addiction can lead to social withdrawal, as you may prefer to spend time alone or with others who share your addiction. You may distance yourself from family and friends who don't approve of your behaviour, leading to further isolation and loneliness.

Changes in mood and behaviour

Substance abuse and addiction can cause significant changes in mood and behaviour. You may become more irritable, agitated, or secretive. You may also exhibit sudden mood swings or uncharacteristic behaviour. You may not notice this yourself. If you’re worried you have an addiction, ask your friends and family if they see this in you.

Financial problems

Addiction takes a toll on finances, as most addictive substances and behaviours cost a lot of money. You may find yourself spending large amounts of money to support your habit. You may spend disproportionate amounts of your own money on your addiction, borrow money from friends and family, or resort to stealing. Generally, things no one would choose to do. In this situation, you may find yourself with financial problems, such as unpaid bills, debt, or bankruptcy.

Physical health issues

Long-term substance abuse may have serious consequences on your physical health. You may experience health problems, including liver damage, heart disease, respiratory issues, and increased susceptibility to infections. Neglecting your health and engaging in risky behaviours can also exacerbate these issues. Some addictive behaviours, such as gambling and internet addiction, affect you emotionally, which has a knock-on effect and may manifest physically.

Preoccupation with the substance or behaviour

Addiction often consumes thoughts, leading to a preoccupation with obtaining and using the substance or engaging in the addictive behaviour. You may spend significant time planning, using, and recovering from the addictive activities to the detriment of other aspects of your life.


Perhaps one of the most challenging warning signs to address is denial. Most people struggling with addiction may be in denial about the severity of their problem or the impact on their lives and those around them. They may downplay their behaviour, make excuses, or refuse to acknowledge they have a problem. If this is you and it's concerning, have a chat with a trusted friend or family member.

Ask if they think you have a problem. It’s likely they’ve already spoken with you about it, and you’ve denied you have a problem. If you don’t want to speak to someone you know, look for a support group locally or online. You can also book a private appointment with a therapist. However, always ensure they have experience in working with addiction first.

Getting help

Recognising the warning signs of addiction is the first step toward getting help. If you or someone you know exhibits these signs, seek support. There are many people you can turn to. An online search will help you find local or online support groups. Your doctor will signpost you to local help, and you may find they can offer you help too. A private therapist with experience in addiction is the answer for some people. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible, and a healthier, happier life awaits.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Farnham GU9 & GU10
Written by Juliet Hollingsworth, MSc
Farnham GU9 & GU10

Juliet is a trauma-informed therapist. Her passion is helping people reach their potential through a combination of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and transpersonal psychology.

Juliet works online and face-to-face with clients across the world. (DHP Clinical Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy. MSc Consciousness, Spirituality & Transpersonal psychology.)

Show comments

Find a hypnotherapist dealing with Alcohol abuse

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals