Alcoholism Warning Signs

Although drinking alcohol is socially acceptable, alcoholism can produce severe and even fatal outcomes. Being able to identify warning signs can potentially prevent these outcomes.

Are You Showing Alcoholism Warning Signs?

Alcoholism, or an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is one of the most common addictions in the US. In 2019, nearly 15 million Americans struggled with an AUD. Among this group, there are an estimated 95,000 alcohol-related deaths per year. With a problem this big and this serious, it is important to know what alcoholism warning signs are.

Common indicators of alcoholism include the frequency of drinks and the lack of control over their alcohol intake. Many who drink to the point of intoxication are not alcoholics, although the symptoms of both can be similar. Because of this, it is often difficult for friends and family (and even alcoholics themselves) to determine if alcoholism is a genuine concern.

Warning Signs Of Intoxication

Although not everyone who becomes intoxicated is an alcoholic, it can be the first sign of unhealthy drinking habits.  Some of the most common warning signs of intoxication include:

  • Emotional instability
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Slurred speech
  • A high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level
  • Confusion
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Blacking out
  • Nausea
  • Violent behavior/abuse
  • Binge drinking

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Warning Signs Of Alcoholism

There are many signs that indicate that a person may be struggling with an AUD. The prevalence of any combination, or even just one, of the following warning signs can signify alcoholism.

A High Tolerance To Alcohol

Over time, the body becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol in its system. An increased frequency and amount consumed can lead to more alcohol being needed to achieve the same effects. This process is known as developing a tolerance. Generally, alcoholics have a very high tolerance because they have the long-term exposure to high amounts of alcohol.

Binge Drinking

Defined as more than 4 drinks for women or 5 drinks for men within a 2-hour period, binge drinking is one of the most dangerous drinking behaviors. Although commonly associated with college students, binge drinking is a major problem for people of all ages. Binge drinking gets participants intoxicated faster, but it also raises blood alcohol levels to a dangerous point. This kind of drinking behavior can also be the result of an individual dismissing their limits when it comes to drinking. They may be challenging what their body can handle. Binge drinking can rapidly lead to alcohol poisoning and even death in severe cases.

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Drinking To Regulate Moods And Emotions

The emotions and moods of alcoholics are typically highly influenced by alcohol. Many alcoholics will act one way when sober and a completely different way when intoxicated. Often irritably is a symptom of withdrawal and some may use alcohol to improve their mood. Friends and family can often tell their level of sobriety based on their mood. When someone has used alcohol to cope with negative emotions, such as sadness and stress, in the past, they have gotten used to self-medicating. They become dependent on using alcohol to make them “feel better” even though it tends to make them feel worse in the long run.

An Attachment To Drinking

Many alcoholics find that their entire lives have become dominated by drinking. The activity of drinking becomes a critical part of their identity and social life. Alcoholics also often develop extensive routines and rituals around their drinking, such as going to the same bar on a certain day of the week.

An Inability To Stop Or Even Cut Back On Drinking

One of the most telling signs of alcoholism is an individual’s inability to reduce their consumption of alcohol. This can mean they find it impossible to cut back on the frequency of their drinking despite their intentions to do so. Some may try to limit the amount of alcohol they consume at one time by declaring to drink on the weekend. Despite this effort, a lack of control will cause alcoholics to continue to drink during the week regardless of their initiative.

Drinking Alcohol In Secret

Alcoholics often secretly drink to avoid social stigma or other negative consequences of their unhealthy drinking habits. Alcoholics who are drinking secretly are generally ashamed of their unhealthy drinking habits. They may also want to avoid conflicts with their concerned loved ones. Alcoholics can become so dependent that their judgement becomes clouded and they may do things they normally would not.

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Excusing Or Lying About Alcohol Consumption

Most alcoholics are aware that society regards their actions with concern, even if they are unable to vocally admit that they have a problem. They may also be aware that their drinking has negatively impacted their own lives and those of their families. To make their loved ones feel better, and to avoid confrontation, punishment, shame, and guilt they often lie or excuse their drinking. Common examples include: “I only drink when I have a rough day at work,” “I was only being social,” or even the flat out denial of, “I wasn’t drinking.” A very common method used by alcoholics is gaslighting, where they try to make the person accusing them believe that they were mistaken about what they heard or saw.

Feeling Shame, Guilt, And Stigma

Alcoholics often feel guilt and shame over their drinking. This is especially true in families and communities where drinking is discouraged or forbidden. There is a significant social stigma attached to having a drinking problem across all facets of society. Shame, guilt, and stigma often pose a serious problem for alcoholics as they are less likely to seek treatment out of fear of judgement.

Neglecting Obligations Due To Drinking

Alcohol can cause memory loss, carelessness, and impulsive behavior, all of which can cause drinkers to neglect daily tasks while intoxicated. Those who spend a significant amount of time drinking outside of the home often do not have the time to complete obligations either. Many alcoholics find that their jobs, families, and other relationships suffer as a result of them forgetting or avoiding necessary tasks or ones they promised that they would complete. An individual’s health and living situation may also be affect by an inability to meet responsibilities.  When an individual continues to drink despite these problems, they likely have are struggling with alcoholism.

Drinking To Cope With Co-Occurring Mental Illnesses

A very high percentage of alcoholics begin and continue to drink heavily because they are “self-medicating” an underlying mental disorder. Some are aware of their co-occurring disorder, but many are not. They simply recognize that they feel sad, anxious, angry, or some other negative emotion and find that alcohol temporarily relieves them of that feeling. While this may work temporarily, long term self-medicating can make some feel worse.

Taking The Next Step

It can be painful to watch a loved one experience challenges with alcohol consumption. As a supportive loved one, you may be unsure of how to guide a lending hand towards inspired action. Understand that enabling drinking and punishing your loved one will worsen the circumstances. While making excuses for a drinker and engaging in the consumption of alcohol with them can initially seem compassionate, these actions will only make it difficult for them to stop. Arguing with someone who has a possible drinking problem can create defensiveness and worsen feelings of shame and guilt.

Getting someone else’s problematic drinking behavior under control can be a seemingly overwhelming task, and it often requires outside intervention. Many professionals suggest treatment centers to aid those who are especially unable to control their drinking. At these facilities, patients can gain insight on troubling underlying conditions and speak to trained therapists to discover helpful treatment options. Not only will the drinker get the best care available, but loved ones can feel the hope that comes from seeing them in recovery. Take that first step into prevention and treatment. Contact a treatment provider today.

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