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10 Habits of People with a Drinking Problem

10 Habits of People with a Drinking Problem

Alcoholism is a life-threatening condition that can wreak havoc on your life and the lives of those around you. But when it comes to admitting that you or a loved one has an alcohol problem, this can often prove to be the largest fight of the battle. However, there are symptoms of alcoholism calling out people with a drinking problem that go from bad to worse.

There’s a fine line between problem drinking and alcohol addiction, but one is just as bad as the other. While problem drinking is not a full-blown addiction, it’s a downhill slope into alcohol dependence and developing this life-shattering disease.

How do you remain objective when noticing symptoms of alcoholism in yourself or one you care about? It’s never easy but knowing the signs can open the door to a discussion about seeking help.

Why Alcoholism Is on the Rise

15 million people across the United States are addicted to alcohol. Worldwide, over 2 billion people drink alcohol on a daily basis, while over 1 billion are reported as problem drinkers. Alcoholism is the third leading cause of preventable death.

On any given day across America, hundreds of thousands of people receive some form of treatment for alcohol abuse, whether it’s a trip to the emergency room at a local hospital, an initial session at a 12-step meeting that never gets a follow up, or a self-held at-home detox that poses serious health risks. But on a larger scale, very few people actually seek out the help of an alcohol addiction treatment professional. Why?

One of the most common reasons that people with a drinking problem avoid seeking out the treatment needed to remove alcohol dependency is because of a failure to recognize the signs of alcoholism. Whether denial, shame, fear, or a lack of alcoholism resources available, alcoholics need help from others to recognize the very issue they are so reluctant to face.

10 Common Symptoms of Alcoholism

As a loved one, a close friend or even a work colleague, there are a few simple signs of alcoholism that are easy to recognize. If you’re reading this due to concern about your own drinking problem, review the information and consider sharing your findings with someone you can trust.

While we refer to these as typical symptoms, they can also be looked at as habits. As a drinking problem will eventually manifest into alcohol dependency, and further into alcoholism, the drink itself becomes the habit that controls every aspect of one’s existence.

The following consists of these 10 habits that people with a drinking problem exhibit throughout the course of their journey into alcoholism. They are broken down into three categories: social, physical and emotional symptoms, though the order in which they occur may differ, depending on the individual.

Social Signs of Alcoholism

Social symptoms of alcohol addiction are among the most common out of the three categories mentioned above and clearly point to a problem with alcohol:

  1. Legal Trouble

    If a loved one keeps getting into trouble with the law regarding excessive alcohol consumption, a drinking problem is probably to blame, though if this is a one-time offense which took place years ago, a current drinking problem may not be the case. However, having more than one DUI, arrests for public intoxication, arrests for public indecency or brawling, these are all examples of the social signs of alcohol addiction.

    If drinking habits are the source of trouble with the law on more than one occasion, alcoholism is at play.

    Legal Trouble
  2. Poor Priorities

    When drinking begins to outweigh a person’s regular day-to-day priorities, alcohol intake has taken control of a person’s decision-making.

    These priorities usually include basic responsibilities such as turning up to work on time, if at all, meeting deadlines, or fetching children from school. If these responsibilities are being overlooked because of drinking, this is a major warning sign.

    Here’s a comparison:
    a. Responsible drinking usually takes place when all your daily responsibilities are taken care of.
    b. Problematic drinking usually occurs in place of or while these responsibilities should be prioritized.

    Responsible drinking requires self-control. For anyone wrestling with alcohol dependency, this is impossible and alcohol consumption cannot be made a priority at any time of day.

  1. Relationship Issues

    If drinking habits begin to affect the quality of more than one relationship, it’s time to take a look at the reality of what’s really going on.

    Some basic examples of how alcohol intake affects relationships are:

    a. Neglecting a significant other
    b. Choosing to drink instead of spending time with your spouse, partner, significant other
    c. Neglecting the time needed or care for children, both physically and emotionally

    If there is no spouse or children in the picture, close friendships and coworkers may experience the brunt of neglect due to unhealthy drinking habits. This could also be coupled with aggressive, defensive, and argumentative behavior.

    It’s also important to assess the ability for self-care. If you suspect alcoholism in you or someone else, take note of personal hygiene and appearance. If unkempt, appearing unhealthy, scatter-brained or unusually aggressive, alcoholism could be to blame.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism

The physical signs of alcoholism can often be tricky to fully recognize as any non-alcoholic could display these too. But if you have your suspicions about issues with alcohol, look out for these physical signs:

  1. A High Alcohol Tolerance

    If a loved one is consuming an entire 12-pack of beer before even feeling a ”buzz”, this is a clear-as-day sign of a binge drinking problem.

    Most people with a regular alcohol tolerance would feel buzzed after three to four beers, depending on their size, metabolism, and other factors. If a person’s alcohol tolerance seems unusually high, this is a sure-fire way to tell they drink in excess.

    Essentially, a high tolerance to alcohol means a person has built up a resistance to the effects of alcohol over time. In turn, they need to drink more than before to achieve their desired ”high” – a well-known sign of substance abuse and addiction.

    Physical Signs of Alcoholism
  1. Failure to Recognize When ”Enough is Enough”

    If you are on a ”bender”, drink more than one alcoholic beverage and get drunk, this is simply known as alcohol abuse or binge drinking. But if a person drinks until they physically cannot drink anymore, this is a sign of alcoholism. Also, people with a drinking problem can binge-drink often, representing alcohol dependency as well. When a person fails to recognize that they’ve clearly had enough and continues to binge drink, without limit, they could very well be an alcoholic.

    People who are in control of their drinking habits generally know when ”enough is enough” and they’ve reached their limit. Those with a drinking problem may not appear to have a limit or even care to set themselves one—a precursor to and evidence of alcoholism.

    Drinking limits tend to differ from one person to the next but if you or a loved one does not know personal limit, this is a sign of alcoholism.

  2. Substantial Memory Loss

    Heavy drinking over an extended period of time is known to induce permanent forms of amnesia. If you have been known to drink to the point of oblivion or blackout, this is a sign of alcohol addiction.

    Drinking enough alcohol to cause a blackout means you have, in essence, forced your mind into a state of temporary amnesia. Temporary periods of memory loss due to many years of drinking can lead to permanent memory loss and point to a very serious problem with alcohol.

  3. Day-to-Day Drinking

    Most people with a drinking problem tend to live, breathe, sleep, and think alcohol. Their every thought and action is usually centered around when they can get their hands on their next drink.

    Daily drinking, even if it’s just a couple of beers at night, could signify a drinking problem.

    Moderate alcohol consumption*:
    Men – no more than 2 drinks per day
    Women – no more than 1 drink per day
    CDC, Dietary Guidelines for Americans

    *Meant to gage drinking limit for a single day, not to be used as an average for multiple days.

    To bring this to a global scale, a recent study reviewed hundreds of previous studies conducted from all over the world, examining drinking behaviors and outcomes related to this habit. The researchers concluded that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, as the risks of drinking far outweigh any perceived benefits.

    The mere act of getting drunk every day, even after work or daily responsibilities have been met, is another obvious sign of alcoholism.

Emotional Signs of Alcoholism

As with the physical signs of alcoholism, emotional signs are also tough to pinpoint and connect with a drinking problem. After all, humans are emotional beings and other factors could contribute to certain behaviors that mimic the symptoms of alcoholism but have a root cause from some other condition or situation.

These common signs should be carefully evaluated to ensure that alcohol is the source of any emotional issue.

Emotional Signs of Alcoholism

  1. The Cycle of Denial

    For many people with a substance abuse issue, whether from alcohol or drugs, denial plays a huge role in the development and sustainment of the addiction.

    The first step in overcoming an addiction, such as alcoholism, is recognizing and admitting the problem exists. Denial is the roadblock to accepting personal truth. If a loved one is heavily in denial about their drinking habits, this could be because they know, deep down, they have an alcohol addiction.

  1. Feelings of Shame

    One of the foremost emotions felt by an addict is an overwhelming feeling of shame about their unhealthy habit(s). This feeling of shame is also combined with denial, the basis of the cycle of addiction.

    If a loved one is hiding their drinking habits from you because they are ashamed, they could be harboring an alcohol addiction.

  2. Being Highly Defensive

    If you’ve tried to talk about your concern over alcoholism with a family member who you believe needs help, you’ve probably heard every excuse as to why he or she doesn’t have a problem. An alcoholic will come up with nearly every reason under the sun to justify needing a drink, immediately jumping to their own defense. This type of defensiveness is a good indicator that they are desperately trying to hide a drinking problem.

It’s Never Too Late to Stop Drinking

If you or a loved one is displaying any of the above symptoms of alcoholism, finding help sooner rather than later could be life-changing.

Our tailor-made recovery programs are created to suit each and every individual, based on their specific circumstances, family history, and goals for the future. Collectively, our integrative, traditional 12-step approach heals the mind, body and spirit to help you get your life back on track.

Find the Help You Need With Acceptance Recovery Center

About Dr. Greg Gale, MD

Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County. Read more about Dr. Greg Gale, MD 

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