The 5 Characteristics of Addiction
Addiction is a complex disease characterized by chronic dysfunction in brain systems related to reward, motivation, and memory. In other words, addiction occurs when an individual compulsively craves a substance, behavior, or other thing. When people think about addiction, usually they think of drug or alcohol dependency. While drug and alcohol dependency is the most common form of addiction, individuals may become addicted to any particular substance, thing, or activity. For example, some people suffer from addictions to shopping, eating, or gambling.
In America, addiction has become increasingly common. Whether it’s an addiction to opioids, alcohol, gambling, or sex – many people suffer from this devastating disease. Unfortunately, a large majority of addicts are unaware of the condition they suffer from. So, this begs the question, what makes someone an addict? How can I tell if a loved one, or myself, are suffering from addiction? Well, by definition, addiction is “to surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively-to cause to become physiologically dependent upon.” To expand on this, there are 5 characteristics of addiction that signal whether an individual is suffering from dependency upon something or a behavior.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is characterized by the way an individual’s brain and the body respond to a substance or behavior. If an individual experiences an obsessive or compulsive pursuit of “reward” and a lack of concern over consequences, they are likely suffering from addiction.
Individuals suffering from addiction will:
- be unable to stop consuming a substance or end a specific behavior
- display a lack of control concerning the substance, thing, or behavior they are addicted to
- experience increased desires for the specific substance, thing, or behavior
- deny that their addictive behavior may be causing negative consequences
- lack healthy emotional responses
Over time, addiction will begin to take a serious toll on an individual’s life. People dealing with addiction are also prone to recurring cycles of relapse and remission. In other words, they may cycle between intense and mild use, as well as periods of abstinence. Despite these cycles, addiction worsens over time. For example, if an individual who suffers from opioid addiction gets sober and then relapses, their addiction and use of opioids will rapidly progress. Unfortunately, addiction often leads to permanent health complications or serious consequences such as bankruptcy, broken families, emotional distress, and much more.
Common types of addictions include:
- coffee or caffeine
- sex or love
If you or a loved one suffer from an addiction to substances or a behavioral addiction, professional addiction treatment is highly recommended. Without proper medical and mental intervention, individuals have a difficult time recovering from addiction.
What are the 5 Characteristics of Addiction?
Now that we understand what addiction is, we can begin to look at how to identify addictive behaviors and characteristics. Most people have an idea of what addiction looks like, however, they remain unaware of many tell-tale signs of drug, alcohol, or behavioral addictions. While some behaviors may replicate addiction, individuals suffering from addiction will react negatively when they are unable to attain whatever substance, thing, or behavior they are addicted to.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the 5 characteristics of addiction.
Individuals suffering from compulsive and addictive behavior will always be left wanting more of whatever they have become addicted to. Whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling, or shopping, individuals will experience increased tolerance. Individuals suffering from tolerance will need to gradually increase the amount of a substance or behavior to achieve the same desired effects as previously experienced.
For example, individuals addicted to cigarettes will begin by smoking one or two a day, only to realize they have progressed to smoking one pack a day. This applies to any addictions, for example, individuals addicted to opioids, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc., will experience increased tolerance.
If an individual suddenly stops using a substance or practicing a behavior they are addicted to, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal is defined as a negative reaction to the cessation of a substance, thing, or behavior an individual has become dependent upon. Symptoms of withdrawal may range from emotional to physical, as well as differing in severity based on a variety of factors.
For example, individuals suffering from alcohol addiction will experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal such as anxiety, nausea, headaches, and confusion. The symptoms of withdrawal will depend upon what the individual was addicted to. Unfortunately, many addictions include symptoms of withdrawal that must be medically treated. Therefore, if you suffer from addiction and have experienced symptoms of withdrawal, it may be time to attend a professional addiction treatment center.
Oftentimes, individuals suffering from addiction say things like, “ I can quit anytime I want”, when in reality, quitting would be way more difficult than they’d like to admit. This is known as denial or rationalization, a tell-tale characteristic of addiction.
#4. Loss of Will Power
Oftentimes, individuals addicted to a substance or behavior find it impossible to say no to their addiction. For example, many drug addicts and alcoholics promise themselves and their families that they are going to quit – and mean this wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, many people quickly relapse after making such a promise, because they lose their power to choose.
Individuals suffering from addiction will spend a lot of time focused on the substance, thing, or behavior they are addicted to. For example, thinking about, preparing for, engaging in, and dealing with the consequences of certain behaviors often leaves little time for life and relationships. This is known as preoccupation, a common characteristic of addiction.
Attending Treatment for Addiction
If you or a loved one suffer from an addiction of any kind, CWC Recovery is here to help. Specializing in addiction treatment, our team of experienced mental health experts and medical physicians make their patient’s needs a priority. With the combination of medical assistance, individual therapy, group therapy, addiction education, and aftercare planning – our treatment center can help you or your loved one achieve life-long recovery. Contact us for more information on how to begin addiction treatment.
Medically Reviewed: September 9, 2021
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.