signs of addiction

How to Recognize the Signs of Addiction and Find Help for Your Loved One

When you’re not familiar with the signs of addiction, it can be a difficult disease to identify.

Sadly, that’s one of the reasons why someone with a substance use disorder can often hide their addiction from family members for months or even years.

If your loved one is suffering from addiction, there’s a long list of physical, behavioral and emotional signs that are fairly easy to identify once you know where to look.

The Most Common Warning Signs of Addiction

Everyone experiences the symptoms of addiction a bit differently, with some showing more signs than others. Recognizing the signs and knowing what to look for will help you find your loved one the help they need much sooner so they can get on the path to recovery.

Physical Signs

Changes to the Eyes & Skin

The look of a person’s eyes and skin reveals a lot about their health and wellbeing. If you notice that your loved one’s eyes are often bloodshot or glazed over, that could be a sign of drug use. Some substances cause our pupils to constrict. Others cause severe fatigue which can show up as persistent dark circles or bags under the eyes.

Over time, drug use will cause skin–especially facial skin–to look dull, pale, inflamed, or even jaundiced. Consistent injection marks, scabs, or bruises are also a clear sign of drug use.

Insomnia or Hypersomnia

Drugs and alcohol directly impact sleep patterns. Depending on the substance and the person, addiction can make it hard to sleep. It can also cause hypersomnia or oversleeping. Both have negative impacts on alertness and energy levels and are fairly easy to recognize.

Weight Loss

Sudden weight loss is one of the most noticeable signs of addiction. If your loved one loses a lot of weight in a short period of time, take notice of their eating habits. The same is true if their weight keeps fluctuating. Both are signs they may need help.

Other Physical Signs

While changes to skin and eye appearance, sleep habits, and weight are three of the most common physical indicators of addiction, there are many others to look for as well. Your loved one may also suffer from addiction if they exhibit these other physical signs.

  • Memory loss
  • Injuries
  • Ongoing Illness
  • Body odor
  • Unhealthy teeth, hair and nails
  • Slurred words
  • Unexplained sweating, shaking

Emotional Signs

Anxiety and Depression

Signs of depression and anxiety are some of the more common symptoms of substance use disorder. This can include extreme lows as well as manic highs and worry.

Apathy or Low Motivation

Substance use disorder can make a person feel emotionally numb. A lot of times they lose interest in the activities that they used to get excited about. Addiction reduces a person’s drive, ambition, and motivation. If your loved one is typically a highly motivated person but suddenly loses all ambition, this is a strong sign of addiction.

Not Acting Like Themselves

Any major changes in behavior, whatever they may be, can be a sign of addiction as well. Trust your gut. If a behavior your loved one is exhibiting doesn’t seem normal, they may need help from a professional.

These behaviors may include:

  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Aggression
  • And others

Behavioral Signs

Socially Withdrawn

If your loved one went from a socially engaged friend and family member to suddenly withdrawn from social activities, this is a sign that they could be suffering from addiction. Drug and alcohol use disorders cause people to isolate and stay to themselves, which can fuel feelings of loneliness and depression that trigger the desire to use.


When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, nothing is more important to them then using. With every other part of life deprioritized, they can start neglecting responsibilities – everything from meeting financial obligations and going to work to caring for family and keeping their home clean.

Lying and Secrecy

People addicted to drugs and alcohol will lie to cover up their addiction. They’ll likely lie to you, employers, friends and physicians and anyone they want to keep from knowing the truth. Lies and secrecy go hand-in-hand with substance use disorder. This is one of the hardest signs to recognize, but also one of the most telling that your loved one needs help.

How to Start the Conversation When You Discover Your Loved One Needs Help

Approaching a highly sensitive subject like substance use disorder with someone you love can be an extremely difficult conversation to begin. And it gets even harder if they’ve been lying, keeping the addiction a secret, or have been aggressive – all signs that they won’t be receptive to acknowledging or discussing their addiction.

Set the stage for a successful conversation by first taking the following steps.

  • Think ahead to how you’ll introduce the conversation
  • Consult a trusted family member or friend for guidance
  • Choose a comfortable place where you can talk privately
  • Choose a day and time when the conversation won’t be rushed
  • Communicate with empathy and compassion
  • Don’t pass judgement or blame
  • Suggest they get support through a treatment center
  • Listen more than you talk

Recovery Begins with a Strong Support System

Recovery from addiction isn’t meant to happen alone. It’s a life-long process that requires a strong support system of professional counselors, a community of other people also working to recover, and the compassion and love of family.

At The GateHouse, we create a support system for each of our clients to break the cycle of addiction and get them on a path towards recovery. Whether they need our residential extended care treatment, a transitional living environment, or outpatient support, we are here for them. Our outpatient services program also includes initial assessments that help us determine the proper course of treatment. Every step is individualized, so our clients receive the best care for their personal needs.

When you and your loved one are ready to discuss a treatment plan and start the journey towards long-term addiction recovery, our team will be here ready to support you on your way.

The GateHouse offers addiction treatment services for long-term addiction recovery with locations throughout Lancaster County, PA. We’d love to help you with your next step in recovery. Reach out to us today!

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