What are the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction?

Blurry people walking to show that signs and symptoms of addiction are not always apparent.

What are the signs and symptoms of addiction?


We get phone calls all the time from people who are confused by a complicated behavioral health system; they need answers to their questions. Does my loved one need treatment? Do I need treatment? How do we determine the level of care that is appropriate? What are the signs and symptoms of addiction? How do I start the conversation with someone I suspect is struggling with addiction?


At Sanford Behavioral Health, we appreciate these questions because they allow us to educate and provide resources for those needing reliable information. What to look for, how to address problems, and where to access treatment at what level is easier than it seems when you take it step by step; if you have questions, the best thing to do is to make a no-obligation call to 616.202.3326. Today, we answer the question-


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction?

Social/Behavioral Signs and Symptoms

  • Impatience, anger, irritability, edgy
  • Relationship problems and conflicts
  • Changes in priorities or hobbies
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Frequent health issues
  • Frequent injuries
  • Memory loss or difficulty concentrating – forgetfulness
  • Acting out of character
  • Changes in personality
  • Increased tolerance of alcohol or other drugs
  • Defensiveness, blaming, justification, or minimizing of “an incident.”
  • Arrogance or grandiose ideas without follow through
  • Absenteeism from work or other commitments
  • Errors in judgment
  • Will not accept advice
  • Secretive behavior


Mental/Emotional Signs and Symptoms

  • Persistent or intense fear or worry
  • Nervousness, apprehension, dread
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tense, jumpy, on-edge, irritable behaviors
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Obsessive compulsive traits
  • Under or overeating
  • Apathy
  • Hopelessness, depression, or anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Memory loss
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Dishonesty
  • Low stress tolerance
  • Feelings of guilt or shame



Physiological Impact of Substance Use Disorders


  • Chronic heartburn or gas
  • Bloating, constipation, diarrhea
  • IBS
  • Signs of vitamin and mineral deficiency due to absorption issues

Cardiovascular System

  • Heart attack
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat


  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Dementia
  • Personality changes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures and strokes

Reproductive System

  • Irregular cycles
  • Heavy flow and severe cramping
  • Ovulation suppression
  • Hormone suppression
  • Difficulty conceiving and frequent miscarriage

Endocrine System

  • Thyroid damage
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor mental function
  • Lower bone density
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic chilliness
  • Mental health issues due to increased cortisol production


  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Disrupted functioning of all senses
  • Frequent bone breaks and fractures due to poor calcium absorption


Signs and symptoms can be addressed if you call Sanford


Vulnerabilities for Substance Use Disorders (Addiction)

  • Genetics (as much as 60% of the risk)
  • Environment
  • Trauma (some studies show that up to 70% of women suffering from alcoholism have suffered sexual abuse. Physical and emotional abuse also increases the risk of addiction.)
  • Chronic Pain (John Hopkins University released a study showing that it can take the brain only two weeks to become addicted to painkillers.)
  • Lifestyle
  • Peer Influence


How to Address Addiction

It often requires an external motivator like job loss, legal consequence, or threat of divorce to initiate change once the disease has progressed. Because of this, shielding a person with a substance use disorder from these consequences can deter intervention and cause the disease to progress further.

Enabling Actions

  • Allowing loyalty or friendship to stop you from confronting someone struggling with addiction.
  • Covering up for problematic behavior
  • Picking up the slack
  • Accepting the rationalizing, blaming, and excuses
  • Rescuing a loved one, co-worker, or acquaintance from the consequences of their behavior

Empowering Actions

  • Allowing a loved one to deal with the responsibility and consequences of the using behavior
  • Being clear about the relationship expectations at work and home – set healthy boundaries
  • Paying attention to early warning signs
  • Objectively reflect on your observations
  • Support with compassion when and if there is an opportunity to talk about the problem
  • Rationally reinforce non-using behavior


Do’s and Don’ts when Confronting Concerning Signs and Symptoms


  • Be supportive and kind
  • Be straightforward
  • Be specific
  • Stick with facts-don’t get lost in the details
  • Focus on behavior and safety
  • Be objective
  • Be specific and clear about expectations
  • Be prepared for defensiveness, blame, and manipulation
  • Be prepared with concrete help and a plan


  • Get side-tracked with denial, rationalizing, blaming
  • Take responsibility for their choices
  • Argue
  • Try to diagnose them
  • Work harder than your loved one at “fixing the problem.”


Scan the QR code below for a printable copy of Signs and Symptoms of Addiction


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.