VOS: How to Recognize Addiction Problems

How to Recognize Addiction Problems

Psychology explained

April 2021

How to Recognize Addiction Problems

We often say we’re addicted to something or someone - it can be our favorite Netflix show, our best friend or lover, or even chocolate. Normally, we just laugh about it, because we know we don’t really mean it - but how can we actually recognize the difference between just enjoying something, or if we have an addiction problem? Let’s find out!

What is addiction, and what we can be addicted to?

The World Health Organization uses the term Dependence Syndrome. Dependence Syndrome is a ‘cluster of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance or a class of substances takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviors that once had greater value...’

Generally, the first thing that we usually associate with the word addiction is alcohol or drugs. In many movies or jokes, there is often something based on the popular phrase: ‘Hi, My name is … and I’m an alcoholic.’ You may also be familiar with the stereotypes of addicted people; skinny and pale, with needles in empty streets or nearby train stations - or those on a dancefloor, tirelessly dancing for hours or combining pills with alcohol at the bar. This is the general idea of people with addiction. However, often the addiction problem does not obviously present itself.

It’s really important to know that addiction problems are not only about physical substance abuse but also behavior - for example, gambling has no physical dependency. As Mara Tyler writes, you can also be addicted to working, sex, shopping, using the internet, media, and playing video games - the list goes on.

What are the symptoms of an addiction?

As you can read in Mara Tyler’s article mentioned above, in the early stages it can be difficult to recognize addiction, especially if it’s to alcohol or tobacco. Yet, it is possible to still observe some symptoms; people who have dependence syndrome are particularly drawn to certain substances or behavior. Often, they look for situations where they can buy the substance or do the activity they’re addicted to - eventually, they can also lose control because of the substance/behaviour, but they won’t regret their actions after they’ve sobered up or finished.

According to Adam Felman’s article, we can discern that people with addiction issues experience hard times in relationships, and at work, because of the drug or the activity they’re addicted to. The drug/activity becomes a priority: making them skip important events in their life; getting involved in dangerous situations; neglecting hygiene; lying about using the substance or taking part in their activity; and most completely change their life, just so they can receive the substance or do their desired behavior whenever they feel the need.


When people with dependence syndrome stop using the substance or avoid their behavior, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. These can range from anxiety and tremors to shaking, nausea, and vomiting. Severe addictions, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, can lead to a fatal result when stopped cold-turkey! Therefore, their withdrawal should be medically supervised - read more about it in Adam Felman’s article mentioned above.

Where to seek help

When you have a feeling that you or your loved one might suffer from dependence syndrome, please do not hesitate to get professional help. You can talk to your GP about the problem, or you can find a support helpline or treatment center in your local area. You can also call a crisis helpline and talk to them about it; they very often have contacts for specialized institutions that could be helpful for you. Remember, you can find crisis helplines in the VOS application!

Fighting addiction is a really long and hard process - if you are struggling, I wish you all the strength to get the help you need. Take care!

Similar articles

Embrace Mindfulness

Alongside 3,000,000

VOS Members. It’s Free.