When life gets really challenging, it’s easy to check out. It’s easy to want to avoid, minimize, shut down, and close everything off inside. There’s a desire to want to turn grief into getting drunk, for example. There’s perhaps an easy route to take, which is staying away from the heavy circumstances and feelings in life when the going really gets tough. Of course, an addiction is a process that develops over time – like a rolling snowball gaining speed and strength. At first, the development of addiction is subtle and starts small — one drink after work with friends, and six months later, you’re drinking every night and taking a shot of whiskey in the morning before work.
Below are the warning signs that might lead someone to use drugs or drink. They are listed here to make clear that there are some typical behaviors people exhibit that put them at risk for an addiction. Here are some of the early red flags:
- Anxiety – When someone is under stress and if he or she does not have the coping skills to manage that stress, it’s easy to turn to drugs. It’s easy to have a drink as a way to calm the nerves. Some people, for example, are perfectionists with a tendency to be anxious about their work performance. Not being able to manage anxiety can be a reason to turn to drugs.
- Depression – Sometimes depression can lead to drinking. An individual might feel so uncomfortable with who they are, how are their lives are functioning, and it hurts. Although depression is a psychological disorder, it can be painful emotionally and physically. The dissatisfaction with one’s life, the inability to feel anything, the lack of connection with oneself and others might stimulate the desire to drink.
- Social Alienation – Withdrawing is a pattern for many people who experience depression, who have to face stressful situations at work, or who don’t have the coping skills to manage their emotions well. They might be very sensitive and yet have developed the pattern of hiding their emotions. With this is the tendency to feel shameful, and as a result feel the need to hide and withdraw. Yet, in their aloneness and inability to deal with their emotions, drugs or drinking can become their coping mechanism of choice.
- Emotional Avoidance – Emotional awareness is the skill of knowing what you are feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. It’s is also the ability to understand the relationship between what you are feeling and how you choose to behave. However, alcohol or drugs can turn into a way to avoid distress and challenging emotions, especially those that are difficult to express, such as anger and shame. Not having the skills to cope with difficult feelings as well as not wanting to feel them can easily lead to using drugs as an avoidance mechanism.
- Risk Taking – Some people never grow and heal from their childhood wounds. They might make choices that are based on childish thinking; they might engage in risk taking behavior as a means to feel themselves or to have fun, which perhaps wasn’t what they experienced as a child, especially if they had to grow up fast. When you take drugs, dopamine is released in your brain which helps to “feel good,” especially if life is challenging, and provides a high that changes the internal experience from feeling heavy to light and happy.
These are warning signs that might facilitate an entire addiction. It might be obvious that in order to create a life of sobriety, in order to finally get clean, psychological disorder of depression and anxiety as well as childhood wounds need to heal. Addiction typically has underlying issues that need to be treated. One can make the choice to get sober, create a network of support, and even create a new life. However, if those underlying issues are not addressed, there is likely going to be relapse.
If your you or someone you know shows any indications of the above, you may want to have them therapeutically assessed. Doing so can help prevent the harmful cycle of addiction.
Rosado, M. (April 16, 2014). Warning Signs: 5 Red Flags in Kids who are Susceptible to Addiction. The Fix. Retrieved online on May 5, 2014 from http://www.thefix.com/content/warning-signs-10-red-flags-children-displaying-addictive-behaviors
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