Addiction – which we in the mental health profession now refer to as a substance use disorder – is a widely used label that describes many patterns, habits or behaviors. (Behavioral disorders like gambling and gaming are also commonly referred to as addictions.)

Diagnosing an Addiction

I like to describe what is called an addiction to a substance or behavior as a loss of control over the use of that substance or behavior. How do you determine if you have an addiction or substance use disorder?   
An addictions counselor can help you answer that question. He or she will consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5, which includes criteria to help determine the extent of a person's loss of control over substances, after assessing your behaviors and their consequences.
If you're not quite ready to reach out to an addictions counselor, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Do I have a significant increased tolerance to a substance or behavior?
  • Does it take more of the substance or behavior to achieve the desired affect?
  • Do I deny that I have a problem despite feedback from significant others that my use of a substance or behavior is negatively affecting them, myself or others?
  • Do I spend more time using substances or engaging in behaviors than I planned to?
  • Do I spend large amounts of time using substances or behaviors, recovering from the use or obtaining substances?
  • Do I have memory loss or frequent blackouts caused by substance use?
  • Do I continue using substances or behaviors despite experiencing persistent physical, legal, financial, vocational, social and/or relationship problems that are directly caused by their use?
  • Do I have withdrawal symptoms like shakes, sweats, nausea, headaches, vomiting, increased anxiety, insomnia, seizures or depression when I stop using?
  • Do I have a history of arrests for substance-related offenses like driving under the influence, minor in possessio, assault, possession, delivery of a controlled substance, shoplifting or breaking and entering that's likely caused by or related to using substances?
  • Have I given up important recreational, social or occupational activities because they interfere with the use of a substance or behavior?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider seeking treatment.

Addiction is Treatable

A dependency on substances or behaviors is a progressive, predictable disorder that tends to become worse over time if not treated. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. Fortunately, recovery is possible since addiction can be managed with treatment, counseling, support and lifestyle changes. 

Ready for Help?

If you think you need help with an addiction or substance use disorder, Menninger can help. Call us at  713-275-5400.
James Sargent, LCDC, is a former addictions counselor at Menninger's Outpatient Services location in Bellaire, Texas.