Drug and Alcohol - Sobriety

5 Behaviors Which May Mean You’re Addicted

Learn the top 5 behaviors which may mean you’re addicted or could be developing an addiction. It's the first step to a happier life!

5 Behaviors Which May Mean You’re Addicted

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

May 12, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

Substance use disorders have been widely studied, but you may wonder if reliance on other behaviors or activities for emotional support can develop into an addiction.

The following five behaviors indicate that an addiction may be developing, regardless of the substance or activity involved in the addiction. Understanding these behaviors can help you identify if you are in danger of developing an addiction.

Key Elements of Addictive Behaviors

There are many different types of addictions, and everyone has the potential to develop an addiction. Although, you might be more prone to addictive behavior than others because of your circumstances and characteristics. 

For example, if you find yourself wanting more of whatever makes you feel good, you can become dependent on unhealthy behaviors to avoid negative emotions. This dependence reinforces unhealthy habits and could make you more vulnerable to developing a substance use disorder or another kind of addiction.

If you are worried that you may be addicted or at risk of developing an addiction, consider whether the following five elements of addictive behavior apply to you.

#1. Excessive Pleasure-Seeking

One behavior common to any kind of addiction is the choice to continue engaging in behaviors even when it becomes harmful. Of course, the desire to seek pleasure and relief is normal. When the need becomes excessive, that is a sign that the behavior is developing into an addiction.

The chemical in your brain that makes you feel good is called dopamine. With normal functioning, the brain is content with the amount of dopamine produced by average pleasures such as good food, meaningful work, and enjoyable activities.

When substances that produce abnormally high amounts of dopamine are introduced to the brain, it becomes less able to function without those substances, and it seeks higher amounts of dopamine. 

When these unnatural levels of dopamine are not produced, the brain can experience a crash, leading to withdrawals and increased cravings. This can motivate you to do whatever you can to produce another dopamine spike, which reinforces the addictive behavior. This is how addictions develop.

#2. Needing to Escape Pain

Experiencing trauma or other sources of ongoing psychological or physical pain can make you more vulnerable to addiction. When the natural desire to escape pain becomes a need that must be fulfilled at any cost, you are more likely to engage in destructive actions that lead to long-term harm as long as they provide short-term relief. 

When in this state, you may turn to whatever helps you mitigate your pain or temporarily forget your distressing emotions. This can involve anything from working too much, to consuming substances daily.

#3. Making Impulsive Decisions

Addictive behaviors can begin at any time, and they may be harmless at first or in certain contexts. When you are in the first phases of an addiction, you may begin to experience a weakened ability to regulate your emotions, control your mindset, and make decisions that serve your long-term goals and wellbeing. 

To avoid experiencing withdrawals or find relief from the pain in your life, you may begin turning to your substance or behavior of choice more frequently and making other impulsive decisions. If you struggle with substance use disorder, you may find yourself experiencing heightened emotional reactivity and responding to events by engaging in your unhealthy habits.

#4. Having Difficulty Concentrating

Substance use and other addictive behaviors alter brain chemistry. This makes concentration much more difficult. Unfortunately, difficulties with concentration can reinforce addictions: when you are unable to focus on the here and now, you are even less likely to experience the pleasure that comes from naturally enjoyable activities and meaningful engagement in life. 

This worsens the desire for dopamine from harmful sources and makes you more susceptible to continuing your addictive behavior, be it substance abuse, gambling, or something else entirely.

If you find yourself struggling to control your focus or concentrate on the task at hand, you may seek resources to stimulate your attention and refocus. There are substances that can increase concentration temporarily, but those are also highly addictive if not prescribed for a legitimate, non-addiction-related condition.

#5. Frequently Using

The last top-five behavior that indicates addiction is your frequency of use. When you use an outlet like a substance use to cope with difficult situations, you will develop a tolerance for it. The greater tolerance you build, the more frequently you will need to use that outlet to experience the same amount of pleasure that you experienced when you first used it.

Substance use disorder is an excellent example of addictive behavior because it increases the frequency that you need to use a substance. The increased frequency can also be a key warning sign that an addiction to a different behavior is developing.

For example, if you find yourself more frequently turning to compulsive shopping, video gaming, or gambling to cope with negative emotions, your behavior may be far along the path to addiction.

Get Help for Addiction

It is normal to engage in activities that make you feel good and distract you from pain. When those motivations create a cycle that reinforces a negative habit, addiction is formed.

If you have an addictive behavior and you feel you have no control over it, you can benefit from finding a licensed therapist to help you. 

The Forge Recovery Center can help you break unhealthy habits before they develop into an addiction or cause further harm in your life. Addiction recovery professionals can advise you on whether you need to stop engaging in your problematic behavior altogether or whether it is possible to use it with a rediscovered moderation.

If you exhibit signs of addiction, including excessive pleasure-seeking, the need to escape pain or negative emotions at any cost, impulsive decision-making, difficulty focusing, or an alarming frequency of turning to your addictive behavior, get help before the addictive cycle becomes even more difficult to break.

You deserve a life free from addiction.

To discuss behaviors, you may be addicted to, learn more about the warning signs of addiction, and receive help today, talk to a Forge Recovery Center team member today.

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