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Am I An Alcoholic? 26 Signs To Look For

Alcoholism is not always black and white. It can be difficult to recognize when someone is struggling with addiction, no matter how close you are to them. The spectrum for an Alcohol Use Disorder is also very wide.

People might use alcohol as a way to cope with stressors, leading to heavy drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol dependence, or people might find that whenever they go out with friends, they end up consuming more than they want.

Both describe a person struggling with their alcohol use and could benefit from addiction treatment and a supportive community. Mental health and drinking problems are common and often go hand-in-hand, and trying to understand your relationship to alcohol can be difficult if you’re in denial. But this is the start of your comeback story, and recovery is possible.

If you think that your alcohol use is getting out of control, there are some signs that you can look out for. Learn more about alcoholism and what it can do to a person below.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is when a person is unable to stop excessive alcohol consumption despite the negative consequences that come with it, including mood swings and health conditions like liver disease and high blood pressure. AUD is the clinical term for alcoholism and can have varying levels of seriousness. It is a disease that affects the brain and can be very difficult to get the proper care for.

Not everyone who drinks has or develops an alcohol problem. Many people can drink a moderate amount of alcohol and never let things get out of hand. An aspect of control is lost with AUD and excessive drinking. You cannot stop yourself from drinking alcohol, you end up drinking more than other people around you, and when you are without a drink, you can become very irritated.

You don’t have to be diagnosed with AUD for you or your family members to recognize that you have a problem with alcohol. If you think you have an issue with alcohol consumption, listen to your gut. To be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, a medical professional will go through the DSM-5 criteria.

DSM-5 Criteria

Individuals who meet two or more of the following criteria within 12 months are considered to have Alcohol Use Disorder:

  • Drank more or longer than they wanted to

  • Have wanted to cut down or stop completely but were unable to

  • Spends a lot of their time drinking or being sick from drinking

  • Intrusive thoughts about alcohol have consumed them

  • Drinking has interfered with taking care of their home, themselves, relationships, and responsibilities

  • Drank even though problems were arising with loved ones

  • Stopped doing things they loved to drink

  • Found themselves in dangerous situations due to risky behavior

  • Drank even though it made them depressed, anxious, sick, or blackout

  • Needing to drink more than they used to to get the desired effects

  • Have had alcohol withdrawal symptoms due to the alcohol wearing off

People may relate to a variety of these criteria in different ways. If two of them resonate with you over the past year, seeking help is your best option. And support is out there — you are not alone.

How Is Alcohol Used in Today’s Society?

Due to alcohol being legal and generally considered safe, its prevalence in today’s society is outstanding. People can’t wait to turn 21 and get their first legal drink, and teens are constantly trying to find ways to get ahold of it.

Socially we are almost expected to drink around people of our age group. It’s the one thing that many people have in common. “Grabbing a drink” is an easy social outing that many people in their 20s and on are comfortable doing. Alcohol can soothe stress and lower your inhibition so that you become a more free-spirited and open version of yourself.

However, due to the way we view alcohol, many signs of alcoholism go unnoticed. More people likely struggle with their alcohol use than they’d care to admit, simply because they think their behaviors are normal. As a result, many functional alcoholics often find self-assessment, let alone seeking out support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or checking in to an alcohol treatment center, difficult.

If you only have one version of what an alcoholic looks like, you may miss other signs in your friends, family, and yourself. Alcohol abuse, like any drug addiction, can happen to anyone, and it will portray itself uniquely in that person.

Casual Drinking vs. Addiction

How can you really tell the difference between a person drinking casually and someone suffering from addiction? It can be hard! For one, the behaviors might appear very similar.

Casual drinking will encompass:

  • Limiting yourself to only three drinks in one night, at the maximum

  • Having a set designated driver or using rideshare services to get to and from the destination

  • Having a glass of wine or a single beer with dinner

  • Having the ability to turn down a drink or stop drinking even if you have some alcohol left

If a person is no longer able to control their usage of alcohol, this might begin to look very different.

Signs To Look For in an Alcoholic

Understanding the different signs of alcoholism might be useful in figuring out if you have a problem or not. Of course, denial can make it difficult to see your own problems, but there might be a tiny voice in your head pointing out some of the following and begging you to seek help.

Early Signs

You might begin to question your feelings towards alcohol but not be able to stop. If there is a clue in your brain that something is wrong with how you are using alcohol, consider the following early warning signs that a substance use disorder could be forming or is already present:

  1. Being unable to stop drinking when you want to

  2. Feeling like you’re constantly experiencing a hangover

  3. Lacking responsibility as a result of drinking

  4. Needing to drink more than you want to feel the effects you want

  5. Having cravings for alcohol throughout the day

Behavioral Signs

You might notice that your behavior is not as it once was. People around you might also begin to take note, causing a shift in how they interact with you.

Some behavioral signs that a person is struggling with alcoholism are:

  1. Struggling to maintain jobs and school work to a high standard

  2. Putting yourself in risky situations

  3. Hiding how much you drink from people around you

  4. Going on the defense when someone asks about your drinking habits

  5. Cutting people off because they brought up their concerns

  6. Hanging out with a new group of people who have similar issues

  7. Participating less in events that used to once bring you joy

  8. Being in denial about your habits

  9. Becoming easily agitated and irritated

  10. Borrowing or even stealing money from loved ones to pay for your addiction

Physical Signs

The physical signs that you might be struggling with alcohol will be more apparent to those around you than they might be to you. Denial can make a person struggling with substance abuse fully unaware that they need help. They might not see their appearance or health problems as concerning or how they are acting as abnormal.

Physical signs that someone is an alcoholic might be:

  1. Suffering from withdrawal symptoms

  2. Dark circles under the eyes

  3. Drier skin

  4. Thinning hair

  5. Poor coordination

  6. Slurred speech

  7. Memory impairment, maybe as a result of blacking out

  8. Slower reaction times

  9. Excessive sweating

  10. Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns

  11. Tremors and shakes

What Are the Consequences of Alcohol Use?

When you abuse alcohol, you can end up doing more harm to your life than you might recognize. Not only does it ruin relationships and isolates you from people who care, but it can completely change the course of your life. To get back on track, a lot of hard work and effort are necessary — and possible.

Alcohol abuse can put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease and severely damage your kidney and liver. You may lose access to people you love and watch as your responsibilities disappear, not by choice but because of the danger you may bring. People with addiction need community to help them recover.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

If you want to see results and watch as your life pieces itself back together, consider seeking addiction treatment options. Finding somewhere that you can be open about your struggles and connect with others going through the same thing is life-changing.

For easy access to a community like this, download Sober Sidekick on Android and iPhone. You can talk with other sober-seeking individuals about your struggles and goals, all while supporting one another. With access to 24/7 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups and medical professionals, becoming sober and staying sober has never been so easily accessible.

It’s time to start your comeback story, and Sober Sidekick is here to help.


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