Recognizing alcoholism isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. Alcohol, unlike a lot of harder and illegal drugs, is a pervasive part of Western culture. Whether it’s enjoying a glass of wine, having a pint at the local bar with some friends, or enjoying some champagne for New Years and eggnog for Christmas, a little bit of booze here and there isn’t an uncommon sight at nearly any adult social gathering. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any obvious signs of alcoholism – and recognizing these signs can be the difference between helping a friend in need and finding your friend in the ER.
Please note that these are simply common signs of alcoholism, and they do not denote a definitive diagnosis of an addiction. It’s best to let an expert gather all the information before making an informed call, and even then, an addiction can’t be treated or even properly addressed until the person struggling with the problem acknowledges it to begin with.
However, knowing these 10 signs of alcoholism can help you not only identify if your friend needs help but if you might have a problem with your drinking habits. Alcoholism does not just target people with anxiety or depression issues, and neither is it a sign that things are going badly in your life. Some people just happen to slip down the slippery slope of addiction through a cascade of decisions, and getting back out of it before realizing how far you’ve fallen can be exceptionally tricky without some perspective.
Without further ado:
Signs Of Alcoholism: Hiding The Habit
The absolute biggest tell regarding alcoholism – or any addiction, for that matter – is when someone is hiding their behavior. This doesn’t strictly mean that they think they have a problem, though. It simply means they know that what they’re doing looks like an addiction – and they rationalize their behavior by telling themselves that they’re still in control of their actions and that they’re simply taking precautions to protect their reputation, rather than expose themselves as actual addicts.
This is because struggling with addiction is a serious stigma. That’s not exactly ground-breaking news, but it does make it harder for people to admit to themselves that something is wrong – because no one wants to acknowledge something’s gone wrong if they can’t help it.
If you’re finding yourself going through extreme measures to hide your drinking, or if you find someone sneaking alcohol into places they shouldn’t, and drinking at times they shouldn’t, then it’s the first major signs of alcoholism.
Unexplainable Mood Shifts
Addiction can quite dramatically mess with a person’s brain, and the constant influx of drugs – including alcohol – can change the way a person feels drastically, and affect their mood in both the short-term and long-term.
Alcohol is a drug that lowers a person’s inhibitions, cognition and anxiety. It quite literally makes you a little braver, by diminishing your risk management skills, decision making abilities and fears. This, however, can result in erratic, thoughtless behavior, including sudden aggression, sadness, inexplicable bursts of joy and anger. Excessive alcohol can increase depression and anxiety, too.
There are underlying triggers for most of these emotions, although sometimes, alcohol just simply causes mood swings that don’t have anything to do with being an exaggerated emotion of your own. Experiencing these mood shifts may be one of the signs of alcoholism.
You Feel Guilty
If you feel guilty about your drinking habits, then you’re likely well on your way to an alcoholic status, or have already reached that point. Guilt isn’t just a negative emotion – it’s the denial starting to crack under the pressure of reality, and it can be very painful as one of the signs of alcoholism.
Guilt is not something you’re meant to live with, but you are meant to overcome it – and if you feel guilty about how much or how often you’ve been drinking, then that is one of the good signs of alcoholism that show you should seriously consider getting help. You can try and quit on your own, but depending on how far your addiction has gone, getting help is the better option.
Drinking Despite The Consequences
Drinking alcohol, like most other mind-altering substances, has its consequences. Drinking a lot of alcohol is even worse, as the drug acts like a poison in the body, creating massive headaches and overwhelming feelings of nausea.
But beyond the physical consequences of alcohol consumption, the hardest consequences to deal with are the social, psychological and emotional ones. Excessive drinking can be expensive, can cost you entire relationships and friendships, and can even end your career.
If you’re starting to strain your relationships with those around you due to your excessive drinking and showing signs of alcoholism, you need help.
Escaping Any Situation Through Alcohol
Alcohol is not a constructive coping mechanism in the slightest. It does not effectively relieve stress, simply masking it, and it does not benefit your mind or body in the slightest way – the opposite, in fact.
On top of that, excessive drinking tends to make things worse when you need a little bit of an escape. If you absolutely need to unwind with some friends and have never had a problem with moderate drinking, that’s another matter – but if binge drinking is your answer to dealing with loss, grief, or frustration, then you’ll be doing no one any favors including yourself. The signs of alcoholism are there when you’re binge drinking away your feelings.
Requiring A Drink To Get Through The Day
If alcohol is your go-to brew in the morning, afternoon and before bedtime just to deal with your every day life, then you’ve got more than just signs of alcoholism to deal with.
Alcohol is not a problem solver, it only creates more problems. Relying on it to coast through a rough time in your life will make things worse – but by getting help, you won’t only find a way to deal with your new alcohol habit, but you can get the help you need to get your life back in order and address the major trigger of your addiction: stress.
Getting Aggressive And Defensive Over Your Drinking
Mood swings caused by drunkenness can often include aggression. When a person’s inhibition is lowered, this includes their natural inclination to avoid conflict. Getting blackout drunk means you probably won’t be able to think straight, and you can easily be provoked – or provoke others around you.
You might just wake up the next day with more than a little head throbbing. In the long-term, these signs of alcoholism and resulting altercations can cause more than just a few bruises.
Taking Unnecessary Risks All The Time
Risky behavior is a trademark of being drunk – but if you’re struggling with alcoholism, then the risky behavior will become a trademark of your life. And regardless of how lucky you get, repeatedly taking massive risks means it’ll just be a matter of time before you lose, and too often, the loss can be tragic.
Blacking Out Often
Excessive binge drinking of alcohol causes black outs, accompanied by a lack of memory regarding what happened just before the black out. This isn’t just a short-term drawback – not only are you going to be missing out on entire hours and days of your life if this becomes a regular occurrence, but the constant blacking out can affect your brain and your capacity to remember things in general.
All drugs carry long-term deleterious consequences, typically for the brain. Alcohol is no exception. If you find yourself losing your mental faculties quickly, then you need to seek help with one of the most dangerous signs of alcoholism.
You Can’t Stop (Physically or Emotionally)
The final straw for determining alcoholism is the ability to stop – or lack thereof. If you can’t stop, either due to severe withdrawal symptoms or an emotional need (or both), then addiction treatment becomes a necessity.
Alcoholism is a genuine issue in America, although things have been getting better. By continuing to support each other and our loved ones, and offering help to all those who need it, we can further reduce the deaths alcohol claims on a yearly basis, and help people find a better life in sobriety.