Addiction can be tricky to diagnose, but the presence of the four C's (craving, consequences, loss of control, and compulsion) is a good indication that an addiction is present.


One of the hallmarks of addiction is craving the substance or activity that you are addicted to. Craving is an intense need or desire for something. Learning to cope with cravings is an important skill to learn when recovering from an addiction, as cravings can be particularly intense in the early stage of recovery.

Negative consequences

The negative consequences of addiction can range in severity and can affect every area of your life. Examples of negative consequence include the following:

  • Your personal relationships with family and friends can become strained, friends may change, and you may isolate yourself.
  • You may experience financial problems as a result of spending money on your addiction rather than on other necessities (e.g., food, rent, mortgage).
  • You may have trouble at work if you are often late or are not able to perform your job.
  • If you start to behave in ways that contradict your values or sense of right and wrong, this may cause feelings of anxiety, guilt, anger, and depression.
  • You can injure yourself while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and can also cause damage to your body (e.g., stroke, high blood pressure, liver problems).
  • You may encounter legal problems such as impaired driving charges or arrests because of illegal activities or harmful behaviour.

Loss of control

One of the most important signs of addiction is losing control. You may want to stop and may be aware of the consequences of your addiction, but despite this, you continue the activity or using the substance you're addicted to. Some people may not be aware of loss of control; this is called denial.


Compulsion, unlike craving, is an unconscious drive. Compulsion for the addiction is such a high priority that it crowds out or endangers other, previously important priorities. The addiction becomes becomes the most important activity in your life.

If you think you might have an addiction or are on the way to having one, see your doctor or and addiction counsellor for an assessment.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team