- You feel guilty or ashamed about how much, when, or how long you drink.
- You deceive others and conceal your drinking habits.
- You need to drink to relax or improve your mood.
- You “blackout” – don’t remember much or all of what you did while you were drinking.
- You are drinking when you first wake up to quell hangovers or have a “hair of the dog.”
- You regularly drink more than you originally intended.
- You have made efforts to quit or cut back but have been unsuccessful.
Risk Factors for Alcohol AbuseRisk factors for developing difficulties with alcohol rise from many interconnected elements, including genetics, how a person was raised, social environment, and one’s emotional health. For example, people who have a family history of alcoholism or drug abuse or who associate closely with unapologetic, heavy drinkers are more likely to develop a drinking problem. And those who experience mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly vulnerable because alcohol is often used as a means of self-medication.
On the Path to AlcoholismNot every person who abuses alcohol will develop full-blown alcoholism, but those who consistently exhibit the signs of alcohol abuse are by far the most likely to become alcoholics. Nonetheless, alcoholism can onset suddenly in response to a stressful life event, such as divorce, retirement, grief, or other loss. More often, however, it gradually sneaks up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you frequently binge drink or consume alcohol every day, it goes without saying that the risk of becoming an alcoholic is high.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse or Problem DrinkingSubstance abuse experts differentiate between alcohol abuse and alcoholism, which is also referred to as alcohol dependence. Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some control and the capability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol intake is still self-destructive and frequently dangerous to themselves or others. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Routinely shirking responsibilities at home, work, or school, such as performing poorly at work or school, neglecting children, or ducking out of commitments to drink or recover from a hangover.
- Consuming alcohol in circumstances where it’s physically dangerous, such as driving or operating machinery while intoxicated or combining alcohol with prescription medication or other psychoactive substances.
- Encountering repeated legal issues due to drinking, such as getting arrested and charged for drinking and driving or drunk and disorderly conduct.
- Continuing to drink although alcohol use is causing conflicts in relationships, fighting with family members, friends, or a spouse over negative drinking behavior.
- Drinking as a way to relax or alleviate stress. Many alcohol use disorders begin when people start using alcohol to self-medicate, such as drinking at the end of a stressful day or reaching for a bottle after arguing with a spouse or boss.
AlcoholismAlcohol Dependence Alcoholism is the most serious kind of drinking problem. Alcoholism is associated with all the signs of alcohol abuse, but it also includes another feature: physical dependence on alcohol. If you depend on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, you’re an alcoholic. This condition means that your brain has become so used to alcohol’s presence that it is unable to operate normally without it, and thus, discontinuation of alcohol use results in withdrawal symptoms. Tolerance If you have to drink more than you used to to achieve the desired buzz or to feel relaxed, this is a hallmark symptoms of tolerance, which is a sign of alcohol abuse and a warning that the development of alcoholism is imminent. Tolerance means that, over time, a person requires more and more alcohol to feel the same effects, due to the brain’s propensity to reduce a substance’s impact in response to repeated exposure. Withdrawal Symptoms If you need a drink to steady your nerves in the morning – drinking primarily to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms – this is another sign of alcohol abuse and an early sign of alcoholism. When you drink excessively, your body gets accustomed to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Shakiness or tremors
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite