It can be hard to identify whether you suffer from a substance use disorder, but knowing the signs of alcoholism is a great place to start. Does drinking every weekend count? How much alcohol is too much? Today, we’re answering these questions and more to give you the signs and symptoms of alcoholism.
1. Binge Drinking
Sometimes, people deny displaying signs of alcoholism because they don’t drink everyday. And while daily drinking can be a red flag, it is not the only way to determine if you have an alcohol use disorder.
Binge drinking occurs when you only drink occasionally, maybe once or twice a week, but on those occasions you drink excessively. You might regularly vomit from drinking or drink until you pass out. In some cases, you might not even enjoy drinking, but you may find yourself binge drinking anyway. This is perhaps one of the biggest signs of alcoholism.
Note that binge drinking does not equal to alcohol use disorder. Younger drinkers with less experience often binge before developing a healthier, more sustainable relationship with alcohol. However, binge drinking can be classified as “problem drinking” that is unhealthy and may increase your risk of developing alcoholism.
2. Drinking Alcohol for the Wrong Reasons
When used in a healthy person without an addiction, alcohol can be a fun way to celebrate special occasions and make fun nights even better. However, when you find yourself drinking to distance yourself from emotional distress, you are abusing alcohol and drastically increasing your risk for developing alcoholism.
Drinking due to emotional pain is a common sign of many mental health disorders, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For example, a person with depression might drink in an attempt to lessen their sadness. Not only does this not work, but relying on alcohol to cope with negative emotions often leads to co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, which require dual diagnosis treatment to properly handle.
Remember, alcohol abuse and alcoholism are different things. Drinking once because of a breakup does not guarantee that you have a drinking problem. However, when this behavior becomes a habit and is accompanied by other signs of alcoholism, it may be cause for concern.
3. Experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If going days without drinking makes you feel sick, you may be experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These happen when your body has become so used to the presence of alcohol that it cannot function properly without it. Withdrawals usually only become a problem after prolonged periods of heavy drinking, and the symptoms of withdrawals include:
- Delirium tremens
As you might imagine, many people have continued to drink solely to avoid these severe withdrawal symptoms. Like in cases of drug abuse, alcohol withdrawals require medical detox to ensure that you can stop drinking without risking your physical health.
4. Hiding Your Drinking
If your friends or family members have expressed concern with your drinking habits, you might start hiding how much you drink. Stashing alcohol around your home or drinking alone and hiding empty bottles are both significant warning signs of alcoholism.
While you might not see it as a big deal, hiding how much alcohol you drink may be serious. Many people see alcohol as harmless, but alcohol and drug addictions work in similar ways, so it’s important to be wary against the warning signs of addiction. Substance abuse, in any form, can cause significant harm. And by hiding your drinking habits, you make it easier for addiction to develop and harder to get help.
Hiding your drinking could look like:
- Drinking alone so nobody will know that you’re drinking
- Lying about the last time you drank
- Lying about how much alcohol you drink in one session
- Hiding empty alcohol bottles so nobody will see them in the trash
If you notice yourself displaying any of these signs of alcoholism, you should seriously consider looking for professional addiction treatment. However, there is still one larger, more concrete sign of alcoholism.
5. Planning Sober Nights and Drinking Anyway
If you’ve noticed that you’ve been engaging in unsafe drinking habits, you might plan to stay sober on certain nights of the week or for a length of time. But if you find it difficult to stop drinking even temporarily, that is a big red flag that you may have an alcohol use disorder.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines alcohol use disorder as, “a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” For that reason, being unable to stop drinking is perhaps the only symptom on this list that equates to a serious drinking problem.
You should not have difficulty stopping drinking. If you do, even if you can justify these problems as “just for fun” or “one-time things,” this is a serious sign of alcoholism, and it may be time to look at addiction treatment facilities in your area.
Get Help for These Signs of Alcoholism
It can be hard to identify the warning signs of alcoholism. But if you see your behaviors reflected in this list, look into some local treatment programs and see how you can get help. Whether you are suffering from alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or co-occurring mental health issues, you deserve help right now.
Would you like to learn more about our evidence-based treatment options? You can call our admissions specialists at 888-512-9802 or fill out a confidential contact form. No matter what signs of alcoholism you’re dealing with, we want to help you begin on the path to long-term recovery.