17 Signs Of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism | RehabCenter.net
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17 Signs Of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

January 23, 2019

An alcohol use disorder may be difficult to spot, but knowing the signs could help save an individual from the life-threatening side-effects of alcohol addiction.

Drinking has been an acceptable way to socialize for hundreds of years, but it’s also caused heartache and misery for millions of people during the same time. The problem is that people rarely understand that they have a problem until it is much too late. Then, recovery is a more difficult and exasperating process than it would have been earlier.

However, you can gauge whether or not you have a drinking problem. The following information will help you diagnose a potential problem, its severity, your drinking triggers, and more. Remember that professional help is available, should you decide you need it.

Shame, Guilt And Alcoholism

When gauging the possibility of a drinking problem, you need to avoid feeling any kind of shame about it. Why? Psychological Science reports that shame doesn’t actually get people to quit drinking, but can actually increase their risk of suffering a relapse.

This was proven in a study performed by the University of British Columbia which found that people recovering from alcohol addiction often felt depressed and driven to drink because of personal shame. It helped inspire people to avoid treatment, denial of any type of problem, and even “hiding” behaviors.

So if you are worried about the possibility that you are suffering from either a drinking problem or actual alcoholism, be honest and open about it and don’t beat yourself up too much. Understand that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. You’re not a bad person, but somebody who needs help. This can make the process of recovery much easier.

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Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse

Drinking one beer every night isn’t necessarily a sign of a drinking problem. Usually, the symptoms are much more severe, including multiple issues affecting your personal life, your health, and even your career progress. The first step in diagnosing your problem requires watching for symptoms of an alcohol use disorder.

The Rethinking Drinking website is designed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to help people gauge whether or not they have a drinking problem. It includes a variety of symptoms that indicate if your drinking has passed a healthy level. These questions are not meant to be a medical assessment, but rather a guide towards understanding your problem:

  • Do you drink more than you want at least once a week?
  • Have you ever tried to cut down on your drinking, but failed?
  • Do you drink and drive, even though you know it is a dangerous idea?
  • Does drinking help you feel less anxious and depressed?
  • Have blackouts ever occurred after a heavy drinking period?
  • Are you sick whenever you try quitting for an extended period of time?
  • Do friends and family members complain about your drinking?
  • Have you lost interest in pursuing activities that you enjoyed in the past?
  • Did you ever feel the need to drink more because the effects of the alcohol were wearing off?
  • Have you ever suffered from a health problem related to drinking (such as vomiting, nausea, insomnia, liver failure, heart murmurs, etc)?

If you answered yes to more than one or two of these questions, there’s a chance that you either suffer from a drinking disorder or are on the fringes of developing one. Not every person who drinks has a disorder and knowing the difference can help guide you towards the treatment you need.

The Difference Between True Disorders And “Almost” Disorders

So you like to drink, but you didn’t answer “yes” to any of the above questions. Does that mean you have nothing to worry about? Not quite. Drinking problems don’t pop up overnight and there’s still a chance that you may develop one over time.

Dr. Robert L. Doyle and Dr. Joseph Nowinski wrote a book entitled “Almost Alcoholic,” in which they look at the ways that occasional drinking problems can quickly turn into serious disorders and even addictions. They differentiate between people who “almost” have a problem and those who are truly suffering from one.

People who are in danger of developing a drinking problem are often using it as a method to relieve stress in their personal lives or to beat back boredom. Over time, these occasional drinks can become a habit. Assessing whether you’re going to develop a drinking problem involves asking yourself some tough questions. For example, do you ever:

  • Drink while you’re alone?
  • Drink to feel less stressed?
  • Plan days when you can drink?
  • Beat boredom by excessive drinking?
  • Get drunk every time you drink?
  • Drink to keep the “buzzed” feeling it causes?
  • Feel uncomfortable or shy in situations that don’t include drinking?

Answering yes to more than one of these questions indicates you may be on the crux of developing a serious drinking problem. Thankfully, you can step back from the precipice and cut back on your drinking. However, if you don’t, there’s a good chance that your minor drinking habit will quickly develop into a major drinking problem.

How Problem Drinking Becomes Serious

Minor drinking escapades often develop into serious problems when you aren’t paying attention. For example, if you are drinking heavily in college, those behaviors can quickly increase your alcohol tolerance. The British government anti-drinking website Drink Aware UK assesses the process in the following way:

“Regular drinking induces certain enzymes in your liver that break up (metabolize) alcohol. If you drink heavily over weeks or months, levels of these enzymes go up, your tolerance builds and you need more alcohol to get the same effects.” They also point out that your brain can quickly become tolerant of alcohol and require higher doses.

As your tolerance increases, you’ll need higher amounts of alcohol to get the same effect. Unfortunately, this means heavier drinking is more likely and that a downward spiral of addiction may develop. Suddenly, you find that your occasional partying becomes a daily necessity and that you can’t operate without a few drinks in you.

Avoiding the development of this problem requires understanding what triggers you to drink. Everybody drinks for different reasons and understanding your triggers can help you eliminate them from your life.

Self-Diagnosing Your Alcohol Use Triggers

Understanding your triggers can help you steer clear of people and situations that contribute to your drinking. Assessing your triggers is a relatively simple process. It involves honestly considering why you drink when you drink, and who compels you to drink. For example, maybe you drink simply to have fun or to alleviate anxiety. Be honest with yourself here. This is a very difficult process and absolute honesty is a necessity or else you’ll struggle to avoid developing a drinking problem. Many people drink to alleviate depression, anxiety, or even boredom, and if you do, you must admit this to yourself.

Once you understand why you drink, you can identify people and situations that often drive you to drink. Maybe you have a group of friends whom you always drink with every time you hang out. Or maybe you always get a few shots of vodka at a specific restaurant you enjoy.

After you have identified your triggers, you can work hard to avoid them. This requires changing your life in a lot of major ways. For some people, it may be too difficult to manage. However, it’s absolutely necessary. Cutting out your triggers is a major step in the right direction toward eliminating your problem drinking behaviors forever.

The Complexities Of Quitting Drinking

If you think you have a serious problem, you need to understand how to avoid letting it take control of your life. Unfortunately, quitting is not as easy as putting down the bottle forever. There are a lot of unforeseen problems that can strike a person when they are trying to get over a drinking problem

For example, Psych Central states that people who give up drinking often go through a serious grieving process about it. This may seem strange, but for many, it’s like giving up a long-time friend. Unfortunately, this kind of agony can easily pair with depression and anxiety, causing people to relapse and turn back to drinking.

Other people will lose their social network of former drinking buddies and feel alienated and isolated. As a result, they may turn back to drinking in order to “fit in” with the crowd again. Remember, we are tribal creatures who love fitting in with the people around us. This need causes us to behave in ways that may be unhealthy for us, such as continuing a negative drinking habit.

Even worse, serious health problems can often strike people when they quit drinking. For example, you may suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms that can be as serious as seizures. To avoid this kind of physical pain, many people turn back to drinking. Thankfully, it’s possible for you to quit without suffering from these problems.

Supporting Your Alcohol Recovery

Beating the complexities of quitting your serious drinking problem requires assessing each problem individually and finding solutions. For example, you can reach out to friends and family members who don’t drink and try to create a new social support network.

These people can help create a new environment to replace the one you lost after drinking. They can also serve as cheerleaders that compel you to stay sober and happy. Often, this requires avoiding people and places that have triggered alcohol use in the past.

You can also treat your depression by visiting a psychiatrist, assessing your problems, and even receiving medicines that help keep you from falling into the pit of depression. Medicines are also useful for the pain of withdrawal, including treatments for physical pain, as well as replacement medicines.

If You’re Worried You Many Have A Drinking Problem, Contact Us Today

Problem drinking behaviors can cause a major impact on anybody’s life and if you’re worried that you suffer from one, you may need help recovering. While cold turkey may work for some people, suffering from withdrawal is a serious problem, one that can even threaten your life. Don’t do it alone: contact us at RehabCenter.net today.

We can help you recover in a healthy, friendly environment and beat your addiction. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our counselors today as many of them have experience dealing with these problems in their own lives and know exactly what you are going through.

Nova.edu - Exercise on Identifying Triggers

Rethinking Drinking - What are symptoms of alcohol use disorder?

Harvard Health - Heavy drinkers aren’t necessarily alcoholics, but may be “almost alcoholics”

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