When Habit Becomes Addiction: How to Spot the (Sometimes Slow) Tipping Point

How to Spot the (Sometimes Slow) Tipping Point: When Habit Becomes Addiction

It’s a familiar progression: What starts out as an “I’ll try this once” turns into “maybe just a couple more times” … and before you know it, a momentary lapse in judgment has snowballed into a full-blown, life-altering chemical dependency.

So how can you tell when a habit has entered the harder-to-break realm of addiction? That question defies a one-size-fits-all answer. Some addictions are characterized by a rapid onset, while others take a slow, sometimes stealthy approach, moving along as an unnoticeable undercurrent in a person’s life. And although the pace at which addiction develops varies widely from person to person, there are some telling common indicators.

Note: This blog post is designed to set in motion the thought process associated with determining whether you or a friend/loved one needs to get help – not to provide a diagnosis. To help determine whether there’s cause for concern, consider the following questions:


  • Are you dodging work or social responsibilities to drink or use drugs?


  • Has your substance use led you to avoid certain social situations or activities you used to enjoy?


  • Has using led to relationship problems with those you love?


  • Has substance use led you to exhibit riskier behavior?


  • Do you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about using the substance?


  • Do you find that you need more and more of the substance to reach the desired effect?


  • Have you staged unsuccessful attempts to quit in the past?


The questions above fall mostly into the psychological and behavioral categories of addiction signs, but quite often, there are also signs associated with a physical dependence. When an occasional substance abuser stops using, the cessation of use typically won’t lead to symptoms of withdrawal. However, when a habitual user tries to reduce drug or alcohol use, a number of symptoms may present, everything from fatigue, itching, sweating, and agitation to shaking hands, trouble sleeping, nausea and vomiting, and in extreme cases, hallucinations or seizures. Physical dependence alone doesn’t necessarily point to addiction, but it’s important to note that it does often accompany addiction.

In simplest terms, when trying to determine whether addiction is present, you ultimately have to ask yourself (or a loved one) one hard question: Is the use of this substance disrupting critical areas of my life (relationships, career, health and fitness, etc.)? If the honest answer is “yes,” then it’s time to take action.

At Choice House, we encourage you to take that next step, reaching out to someone you respect for counsel or calling us for guidance – 720-577-4422 or Jordan@choicehouse.com.

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