Do I Have a Drinking Problem? 6 Signs of Alcoholism

signs of alcoholism

Alcohol is embedded into American society. Whether you are at a birthday party, a work dinner, or a sports game, you will find people consuming alcohol. While occasional alcohol use is okay, some people have a hard time controlling how much they drink, leading to the development of alcoholism.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 29.5 million people ages 12 and older struggled with an alcohol use disorder in 2021.[1]

If you find yourself drinking often, you might be wondering how to tell whether you have a problem with alcohol. Being aware of the top 6 signs of alcoholism can help you determine whether you require professional treatment.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is the unofficial term for alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder. This condition is characterized by having an inability to stop or control your drinking despite facing the direct consequences of alcohol abuse. People who struggle with alcoholism have a physical and psychological dependency on the substance that makes it difficult for them to stop drinking.

The exact cause of alcoholism is unknown, however, many factors can play a role in its development. These factors include:[2]

  • An early introduction to alcohol – people who began drinking before age 15 were three times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than individuals who started drinking at 21 or later.
  • Genetics – Up to 60% of a person’s likelihood of developing alcoholism is linked to genetics and family history of the disease.
  • Having a mental health condition or history of trauma – many different mental illnesses increase your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder due to self-medication of symptoms.

While these factors all play a role in the development of alcoholism, they do not necessarily mean you will struggle with the condition. They only mean your likelihood of having an alcohol use disorder is increased. However, people with a family history of alcoholism and mental health conditions should use extreme caution when consuming alcohol or other substances.

Top 6 Signs That You Have a Drinking Problem

If you drink alcohol regularly, you might be wondering whether you have a drinking problem. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to recognize alcoholism in yourself because of how the condition affects your thinking and judgment. Thankfully, being aware of the top 6 signs of alcohol use disorders can provide you with the ability to determine when it’s time to seek help.

1. Being Unable to Control the Amount You Drink

When you go out with your friends for a drink, do you find yourself saying you will only have a couple just to leave the bar completely blacked out? Drinking more alcohol than you intend to can be a sign of alcoholism.

When you are addicted to alcohol, the reward and pleasure system of your brain becomes rewired to associate alcohol with happiness. This causes you to keep drinking even when you should stop. As a result, you may find yourself being unable to control how much you drink in one sitting.

2. Continuing to Abuse Alcohol Despite Experiencing Problems

According to the NIAAA, “Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”[2]

If you continue to drink alcohol despite the substance causing you to miss work, do poorly in school, or experience strained relationships, you could be struggling with an alcohol use disorder.

3. Spending Too Much Time Focusing on Drinking

People struggling with alcohol spend a lot of time on alcohol-related activities. The preoccupation with alcohol may cause you to neglect other personal responsibilities or lose interest in hobbies you once enjoyed.

If you find that you are spending a lot of time thinking about, obtaining, using, and recovering from the use of alcohol, you might have a drinking problem.

4. Dealing With Uncontrollable Urges or Cravings

When you are addicted to alcohol, you become psychologically dependent on it. Psychological dependence makes your brain and body feel like they need alcohol to feel happy or content. This will cause you to experience seemingly uncontrollable urges or cravings to abuse alcohol.

If you experience cravings for alcohol that are extremely difficult to ignore, you could be an alcoholic.

5. Developing Tolerance

One of the most telltale signs of alcoholism is having a tolerance. When your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of alcohol (tolerance), this means that your body has adjusted to the amount of alcohol you commonly consume, requiring you to increase your dose to experience the desired effect.

If you have a high tolerance for alcohol, you could be struggling with an alcohol use disorder.

6. Experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Lastly, the most obvious sign of alcoholism is the presence of withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking or cut back on the amount that you drink. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can become dangerous or life-threatening without proper treatment. You should always enter an alcohol detox program before quitting cold turkey.

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:[3]

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Finding Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or a loved one relates to the six signs of alcoholism, it’s time to seek professional help. Alcohol use disorder can lead to an array of long-term health conditions, including liver disease and failure, so you should never allow alcoholism to go untreated.

At Flourishing Foundations Recovery, we understand that no two individuals are alike and that individualized treatment is the key ingredient to long-term recovery. That’s why our alcohol addiction treatment program near San Antonio, Texas uses a holistically tailored, one-to-one approach that addresses each and every one of your needs. Start your recovery journey by giving us a call today.

References:

  1. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States: Age Groups and Demographic Characteristics, Retrieved August 2023 From https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics
  2. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder, Retrieved August 2023 From https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder
  3. Medline Plus: Alcohol Withdrawal, Retrieved August 2023 From https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm