May 21, 2024

Behavioral Changes Caused by Addiction: 10 Hidden Signs

Quick Summary

Addiction is a disease that impacts both physical and behavioral aspects of life, leading to difficulties in relationships, work, and social interactions. Recognizing the behavioral symptoms of addiction, such as psychological and emotional changes, shifts in priorities, secrecy, isolation, forgetfulness, and risky behaviors, can help in understanding and addressing the issue. It’s vital to seek professional help to manage these changes and support recovery.

Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect the body. There’s also a significant behavioral impact of substance use that can manifest as difficulties in relationships, work, and social life. If you’re concerned a loved one is struggling with addiction, identifying behavior changes in addicts can help you understand what’s going on and assist in getting them the help they need. If you’re someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, understanding the behavioral changes caused by addiction can help you see how addiction affects those close to you, and how now is the time to seek treatment. 

How Addiction Alters Behavior

Those who have watched someone they love suffer from addiction will often say that they’ve turned into a different person. The addiction and the need for drugs or alcohol have taken center stage, and everything else has become less of a priority. 

Behavioral changes caused by addiction are seen in almost everyone with substance use disorders. It’s important to understand that the changes you see aren’t conscious choices. Addiction is a disease, and behavioral changes are symptoms of it. 

The psychological effects of addiction are complex. Addiction can cause psychological and emotional changes that can lead to anxiety, depression, anger, and irritability. The person struggling with addiction is feeling the emotional toll from the stress of maintaining the drug or alcohol use. If they go too long without using, they may also begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal. 

Addictive substances directly affect brain chemistry, altering a person’s personality and behaviors. With this, they may also feel shame, guilt, and isolation, which all take an emotional toll. 

By understanding what’s behind behavioral changes in addiction, loved ones can gain a better understanding of what these behaviors are and why they happen. While these behaviors can often feel like a personal attack, it’s addiction and deteriorating mental health that fuels these changes. 

For more information on how addiction affects behavior and how to help with mental health issues associated with substance use, contact the Massachusetts Center for Addiction. We are here to answer your questions at 844-486-0671.

Recognizing the Behavioral Symptoms of Addiction 

Emotional changes due to addiction vary depending on the individual. It might seem that there has been a sudden shift in behavior, but in reality, there may have been several behavioral symptoms already present, just not as severe. 

The sooner you’re able to recognize the signs of behavior changes from addiction, the sooner help can be sought, and recovery can start. 

Psychological and Emotional Changes 

Those with addiction can experience a range of psychological and emotional changes. When drugs or alcohol are misused, they can create feelings of euphoria and freedom. 

This type of high is frequently followed by emotional lows that can manifest as anger, depression, restlessness, and anxiety or paranoia. This happens as the body craves more of the addictive substance. 

Shifts in Priorities 

For someone struggling with addiction, substance use takes center stage. Relationships, family dynamics, life obligations, and work responsibilities may be pushed aside. You might notice signs like not paying bills, failing to make appointments, not attending events, and missing work deadlines. 

Secrecy & Deception 

A person who is struggling with substance abuse will often go to extreme ends to keep their addiction secret. They may be concerned that their loved ones will discover their substance use, or they may be aware of how their behavior changes and purposefully lie or keep secrets so they’re able to use substances in private. 

Additionally, many drugs are illegal or obtained through illegal means. A person with addiction may become secretive to reduce the risk of attracting any legal trouble. 


Isolation is common in addiction, and the reasons are very similar to why an individual may become more secretive. When isolated, there’s no risk of anyone discovering their substance use, and they’re free to use without worry of scrutiny or being caught. 

Isolation can also be a coping strategy when someone is feeling shame or guilt, or is aware of the stigma surrounding their behaviors. 


Substance use can lead to more noticeable forgetfulness. Certain drugs like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and GHB, among others, can cause forgetfulness. Additionally, the preoccupation with substance use can cause changes in memory, similar to how stress can increase forgetfulness. 

Participating in Risky Behaviors 

Substance use can cause a person to engage in uncharacteristic risky behaviors. They may begin spending time in dangerous areas, risking their financial health by gambling or spending a significant amount of substance use, engaging in unprotected sex with people they don’t know, or taking other risks that don’t fit the individual’s personality. 

Addressing Behavioral Changes Caused By Addiction

Behavioral changes can be the first signs that someone is struggling with addiction. If you’re concerned about a loved one who might have an addiction, the Massachusetts Center for Addiction can answer your questions and offer guidance on the next steps. Contact us today at 844-486-0671

MCA Staff
Written By

MCA Staff

The Massachusetts Center for Addiction expert staff is dedicated to helping individuals overcome... Read More

Contact Us



1515 Hancock Street, Suite 300
Quincy, MA 02169

Phone Number

24/7 Support

Start your recovery with
Massachusetts Center for Addiction

Our team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call today and begin your journey toward long-term recovery.

MCA Contact Form