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Recognizing The Symptoms Of Alcoholism

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20.3 million Americans have a substance abuse disorder (SUD), and out of these figures, 14.8 million people suffered from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in previous years.

How To Recognize The Symptoms Of Alcoholism

An alcohol use disorder is “an inability to control drinking.” This differs from binge drinking, which is 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour timeframe for women and for men, 5 drinks or more in the same timeframe. Additionally, an alcohol use disorder (AUD) differs from heavy drinking, as heavy drinking can be a precursor to alcoholism as mild, modern or severe alcohol use disorders occur. Recognizing the symptoms of addiction to alcohol can be easy to spot, depending on the stage of alcoholism someone is experiencing. It could be hard to recognize the symptoms of high-functioning alcoholism; however, there are some identifying.

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Behavioral, Psychological, Emotional And Physical Symptoms Of Alcoholism

People with AUDs often begin with social use to cope with emotional challenges or emotional lows, which can result in a physical and emotional dependence. If someone talks about using alcohol to numb pain or has a pattern of drinking more during times of stress, this could indicate an alcohol use disorder, taking into account the frequency of consumed alcohol. Typically, observing someone else whose drinking may be problematic can help someone recognize an alcohol use disorder by the following traits:

  • An inability to control or stop drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite harmful consequences
  • Drinking to relieve stress
  • Developing patterns of drinking
  • Frequenting bars or social events that have alcohol present
  • Partaking in risky behavior when drunk
  • Drinking more despite showing signs of intoxication or dependence
  • Combining alcohol with other drugs to alter or intensify its effects
  • Spending large amounts of money on drinking or drinking-related interests
  • Smelling like alcohol
  • Poor hygiene
  • Bloated stomach
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Lying about or covering up drinking habits
  • Insomnia or restlessness
  • Weight loss
  • Kidney, liver, or brain damage or failure
  • Blacking out
  • Aggression while intoxicated
  • Aging/wrinkles
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sweating/nausea
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Increased frequency of use and amount over time
  • Poor academic or work function due to alcohol abuse
  • Tolerance
  • Anxiety when not drinking

If someone is battling 3 or more of these signs, the individual qualifies for having an AUD; 4 to 5 reveals a mild to moderate alcohol use disorder; and 6 or more indicates a severe alcohol use disorder. Knowing the different stages indicate the severity or level of medical intervention someone needs while battling alcoholism. Furthermore, they reflect the seriousness and probability of the conditions worsening over time. Someone risks suffering withdrawal if they stop drinking and can also suffer potentially fatal alcohol health risks. 

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The Stages Of Alcoholism

Alcoholism has progressive stages of use like other types of chemical addictions; however, the early stages of alcohol are marked by different symptoms than end stage alcoholism. Since alcoholism is a condition that gets progressively worse over time it is imperative to recognize the stages of alcoholism. These stages include:

  • The pre-alcoholism stage
  • The early alcoholism stage
  • The middle alcoholism stage
  • The end alcoholism stage

The pre-alcoholism stage can reveal someone who associates alcohol with coping with challenging emotions. Due to this idea, he or she may show progressively worse drinking patterns over time. The second stage is the early alcoholism stage of drinking, which can include preoccupation with drinking, lying about drinking, secretly drinking, or blacking out when drinking. The middle stage includes someone who is showing more visible signs of alcohol abuse, showing irritability, depression, anxiety, or a craving for alcohol. Those who are drinking may also suffer relationship challenges, or abnormal behavior.
Additionally, someone may face an alcohol dependence with tolerance and withdrawal. End stage alcoholism includes a full-blown alcohol abuse disorder, where someone is displaying more serious effects of alcoholism. In any stage, getting professional treatment for an AUD is recommended.

Symptoms Of Alcoholism: Withdrawal

Someone may be using alcohol to cope with underlying emotional disorders like anxiety or depression and as a result, can develop a tolerance or withdrawal because of it. Alcohol withdrawal occurs when the body is physically dependent on alcohol and is trying to create homeostasis without alcohol. The challenge is once the body and mind have become used to alcohol’s effects, it becomes hard to “feel normal” without it. Withdrawal symptoms occur and typically include:

  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Delirium Tremens
  • Hallucinations
  • Potential death

Anybody who’s never had delirium tremens even in their early stages may not understand that it’s not so much a physical pain but a mental anguish indescribable to those… who don’t drink   

Jack Kerouac
American author

Get The Help You Deserve

Alcoholism is a very serious condition that is best treated under the care of a medical professional.  Inpatient rehab for example allows patients to gain medication for alcohol detoxification, 24-hour monitoring, 12-step group access, and nutrition for recovery. Outpatient treatment allows patients to balance commitments and treatment, gaining access to medications and 12-step groups. Fortunately, they have the choice to maintain treatment with less hours while healing. Contact a treatment provider to find different types of available treatments and facilities.

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