It’s important to know the signs of alcoholism, especially if you have a loved one who has a problem.
Alcoholic Drinking Behaviors That are Hard to Ignore
Alcoholism is a chronic disorder, which is marked by certain alcoholic behaviors along with specific genetic traits. For example, compulsive drinking is a behavior while those with an alcoholic personality are more likely to fall victim to addiction. Heavy or chronic alcohol use leads to psychological and physical dependence and possibly addiction. The effects of alcohol, when consumed excessively, can bring on irrational behaviors that can cause major issues in a person’s life. If you notice some of the signs of alcoholic drinking behaviors in someone you know or love, it’s possible that they may have an addiction.
When addictive drinking behaviors become obvious, it’s likely that the problem has been there for quite some time. Problem drinkers put a lot of effort into hiding their alcoholism symptoms so it’s not always easy to know right away. At the beginning stages, there are very few symptoms that would indicate a real issue. The obvious signs of alcoholism may not become apparent until the tipping point has occurred.
This tipping point between drinking and full out alcoholism may take years, even decades to materialize to the point where it’s obvious. For example, functional alcoholics can maintain a normal life with no signs at all. Seeing where drinking has crossed the line from social use to a problem often won’t be obvious for quite some time.
There are some common behaviors of an alcoholic that would indicate alcoholism at an early stage. If you notice your loved one copes with difficulties by drinking, this could be a warning sign. As the disease progresses, so do the more obvious signs of problem drinking.
The Definition of Alcoholism
When in relationship with an alcoholic, whether it’s a working relationship, romantic, or a family member, you will notice changes in them. Behaviors of alcoholics include how much they drink as well as their drinking patterns. This can range from binge drinking, heavy social drinking, alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states the following is normal or low risk drinking. Anything more would indicate that there is a degree of problem drinking when someone consistently exceeds these numbers:
For women, more than seven drinks per week is considered a problem. For men, it’s 14 drinks per week.
The definition of binge drinking is when women drink up to 4 drinks in a 2-hour sitting. For men, it’s 5.
Heavy alcohol use is when binge drinking occurs 5 or more times in a 30-day period.
While some people have yet to reach alcoholism, that doesn’t mean that the signs someone is drinking regularly should be ignored. Their behaviors are considered to be high-risk drinking and they are likely well on their way to becoming addicted to alcohol. Anyone who consistently binge drinks at least once a week are considered high-risk drinkers. They are much more likely to develop alcoholism than others are. They’re also more likely to turn to alcohol should they face dire circumstances and scenarios in the future.
To assess whether a person is struggling with alcoholism, medical professionals use two distinct assessments for diagnostic purposes. The two assessments are known as DSM-5 and DSM-IV. They look at several perspectives involved with alcohol abuse and addiction to determine whether an individual is addicted or on the verge of an addiction.
What are Drinking Behaviors?
Typical behaviors of alcoholics are often things that people will do when drinking has gotten out of control. While alcohol can cause many of us to be risky, it is when this becomes a daily occurrence for the problem drinker that it needs to be investigated and addressed. Drinking behaviors are things people do while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol changes how the brain functions so people might commit hurtful or illegal acts unintentionally while drunk. These behaviors include:
- Abusive acts including emotional, physical, and verbal abuse.
- They will likely do secret drinking.
- They might be neglectful.
- More likely to start fights or physically assault others.
- They may be illogical and say hurtful things with no recollection the next day.
- They may drive drunk or get in a car with a drunk driver.
- There may be irresponsible sexual activity such as unprotected sex or sexual assault.
- They risk their own safety as well as others’ safety.
- They may commit crimes.
So Why Are these Alcoholic Symptoms?
An in-depth study about what alcoholism does to the brain found some unarguable proof. Drinking causes people to act differently sometimes. Many people will become more excited and happy. When someone drinks too often, their brain changes and they can exhibit poor judgment and risky behavior as part of signs of alcoholism. This becomes a constant problem in their daily life because the brain has been affected.
Cognitive test scores, and MRI scans within the study revealed that the hippocampus area of the brain shrinks. This is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. For someone who had four or more drinks per day, they were 6 times more at risk of hippocampus shrinking than non-drinkers. A moderate drinker was only 3 times more likely than a non-drinker was. Signs of an alcoholic personality may be explained due to the fast decline of cognitive performance. Test showed that heavy drinkers quickly declined in their ability to name as many words that began with a specific letter in a minute.
There is a very obvious effect of alcohol on behavior. It can change the way someone acts and his or her personality may even change. In fact, many crimes are committed while a person was under the influence. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the offenders in 37% of rapes and sexual assaults were intoxicated. The reports also show that 15% of robberies, 27% of aggravated assaults, and 25% simple assaults involved alcohol use by the offender. Even those who are usually calm and levelheaded can become aggressive and violent when intoxicated. Alcohol can drastically change a person.
It’s important to note that some people can get away with being a high-functioning alcoholic. The signs of alcoholism are quite mild with someone like this. That’s why it’s so important to be aware. It may be difficult to even notice signs of alcohol abuse among these individuals. They are able to go about their daily lives as if they were sober.
Many high-functioning alcoholics are even able to hold important jobs. For example, some may work in law enforcement, while others may work in the medical field. The problem is, they are still taking big risks on their health. They are still ruining their kidneys and liver when drinking regularly the way they do. If you suspect someone is drinking too much but they hold it together, they are still in the midst of an unhealthy addiction that they have no control of.
Alcoholic Risk Factors and Problem Drinking
There are some people that are more susceptible to becoming an alcoholic, which puts them at greater risk. Their alcoholic personality traits make them more susceptible to developing alcoholism. In conjunction with alcoholism symptoms, professionals may have an easier time determining the disease by these factors. They may also be able to determine if other mood disorders are causing a co-occurring disorder.
- If family history includes alcoholism, there is a greater risk.
- How a person is raised. Alcoholics and relationships are a major factor in someone becoming an alcoholic later on in life. This is especially true if it is your biological parent. Racial groups are more at risk of alcoholism such as American Indians and Native Alaskans.
- As a person grows up, they may be subjected to a certain social environment. Individuals from certain demographics have shown to be more likely to develop alcoholism.
- Emotional health of the person. If someone is depressed or anxious, they are more likely to turn to alcohol to numb their symptoms. Many people with social anxiety will drink so they become more open to conversation.
- A person with a family history who also associates with heavy drinkers.
Those who suffer from mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. This is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Some mental disorders cause people to exhibit risky behaviors. This makes them more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. When they become addicted to a substance, they will then have to manage both illnesses. This is a more complex type of addiction and is more challenging to overcome.
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Just because a person exhibits one or more of these risk factors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will definitely struggle with alcoholism. They can still enjoy alcohol without being hooked on it if they are able to control their own intake.
Alcohol Tolerance and Behaviors: The First Sign of Alcoholism
The first signs of alcoholism by definition is that you drink more than you once did to get “relaxed” or buzzed. An alcoholic can therefore drink more than other people can without getting drunk because they build a tolerance. Regular heavy drinkers usually have to drink more and more in order to have the same effect. In some cases, the amount of alcohol that needs to be consumed will be dangerously close to the amount that can cause alcohol poisoning.
Tolerance develops because the liver produces more enzymes which is known as alcohol dehydrogenase. The enzyme is responsible for breaking down and metabolizing alcohol. If there’s more enzyme in the body, alcohol levels will take a longer time to accumulate. The effects of alcohol will be less pronounced, and more alcohol is needed to achieve the desired effects.
If a tolerance develops, it will take more alcohol to feel effects you once felt with less drinks. Alcohol tolerance interferes with your behavior and how you function. It is the certain path to alcoholism and the first sign of a problem.
While you may not be addicted yet, tolerance does influence drinking behavior and health consequences may occur:
- It encourages more alcohol consumption.
- Can cause organ damage.
- Affects how tasks are performed.
- Contributes to the dependency of alcohol down the road.
- May stop medications from being effective.
- Increases toxicity of other drugs.
- Creates a greater risk for alcoholism.
Alcohol Withdrawal: The Second Warning Sign
Someone who is heavily into the second stages of alcoholism will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. This can include uncontrollable shakes in the morning because the body is dependent on alcohol. This is why alcoholics will drink in the morning. It’s not to start the party early, it is because they are going through withdrawal.
There are many other signs of alcoholism potential but these withdrawal symptoms indicate the person is addicted to the substance already. Withdrawal symptoms appear when the body can no longer function without alcohol. This is usually because the alcohol has changed brain chemistry levels. In particular, it has altered the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body.
Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety, which can include being easily startled.
- Uncontrollable shaking because of the brain’s dependency on alcohol.
- Flu-like symptoms such as; sweating, nausea, vomiting, headaches, body aches, and fatigue.
- Depression from lack of serotonin and dopamine levels in the central nervous system. The brain has begun to rely on alcohol to raise their levels.
It’s important to keep in mind that the intensity and amount of withdrawal symptoms experienced will differ from person to person. While there are common behaviors of an alcoholic, it depends on one’s biological makeup, among many other factors. Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly. In particular, delirium tremens is the most dangerous symptom of all.
Approximately 5% of patients who are hospitalized for alcohol withdrawals will develop delirium tremens. Symptoms of delirium tremens includes seizures, shakes, and confusion. They can lead to coma and death so it’s important to get help for the alcoholic in your life if they’ve decided to stop. Alcoholism is one of the substances that should include a professional detox in the event delirium tremens do occur. It also increases the alcoholics success rate they get professional addiction assistance.
Alcoholics Make Excuses to Drink
One of the earlier symptoms of alcoholism is making up excuses to drink. An alcoholic will drink when they receive bad news, drowning their sorrows. Alternatively, alcohol is the first thing they turn to when there’s good news. If you find yourself or someone else constantly looking for excuses to drink, it might be a sign of alcoholism. They can quickly learn how to hide drinking and this is often why alcoholic relationship problems occur. It’s the lying and covering up from what’s really going on. A loved one can sense there is an unspoken issue. Signs of a secret alcoholic include doing everything they can to cover all their bases when it comes to their problem with drinking.
When a person is struggling with an addiction, he might try to deny that anything is wrong. Instead of admitting that he needs help with his addiction, he may make excuses in order to cover up the addiction-related problems in his life. Additionally, his friends and family may also try to hide the addiction with excuses. This is known as co-dependency and it can cause problems within a family for generations to come. Ignoring addiction and making excuses do nothing to help the person struggling with addiction to regain control of his life. Instead, they can make the person’s life extremely difficult, and can put both the person and those around him in danger.
A drinker who denies they have a problem with alcohol will make excuses to avoid responsibility. They may exhibit specific drinking behavior patterns and then make up reasons why it isn’t alcohol that’s the problem. Here are some of the things you might hear an alcoholic say if they’re approached about their behavior:
“I can stop drinking whenever I feel like it” – This is the type of nonchalant behavior an alcoholic will use when they’re not pushed too hard. They are trying to keep it cool to deter any more questioning. Signs of alcoholism are likely contradicting this response as their behavior is likely erratic and a major concern.
“I would only be hurting myself” – This response comes from a genuine place in that the alcoholic doesn’t recognize that they are hurting the people around them. Being in a relationship with an alcoholic can be toxic because they can’t see past their own lies to really be a good person to you any longer. They are negatively impacting the people around them and they don’t even see it.
“Sure, I’ll talk to someone about it and get help later but right now isn’t a good time” – This response occurs because they want you off their back and are hoping you’ll forget the conversation ever happened. They will procrastinate and come up with reasons as to why now is not the right time. They may even say they are just going to get drunk one more time and then get help tomorrow. This tomorrow often never comes unless some sort of intervention occurs. This may be a legal intervention or one that’s lead by people who love the alcoholic.
“I’ll get help at a later date, just not right now” – Many people claim that they will get help after using the substance one more time, but procrastination both increases the person’s risk of harming himself and others and gives the addiction further power in his life.
“Nobody is going to be able to help me with this problem”- An alcoholic might think their addiction is too challenging to treat. This response may also occur because they may have already been through alcohol rehabilitation and detox only to relapse again. It’s important to note that any addiction is treatable and relapse doesn’t mean ultimate failure.
Denial and making excuses is one of the big signs of alcoholism designed to deter people from noticing the addiction problem. Alcoholics believe they are in control of their drinking and can stop when they feel like it. In addition, some people don’t want to admit they have a problem because they perceive it as a weakness or that they somehow failed. This can lead to shame, which makes them want to hide alcohol use.
Problem Drinkers Hiding Alcohol Around the House
A common symptom of a problem drinker is that they hide alcohol around the house. They will usually find excellent hiding spots so nobody else in the household will find them. Alcoholics are desperate to keep their secret from everyone else because they feel ashamed. They also don’t want to be caught out because the worst-case scenario for them is to be forced to deal with the problem they know they have deep inside. Bottles of alcohol will be stored in strange hiding places around the house which is an indication of alcoholism.
An alcoholic wants to ensure they can conceal their drinking problem because they are ashamed. They also want to be able to access a drink wherever they are in the house without being questioned. At this point, you may want to consider an intervention before alcoholism progresses to bigger behavioral issues. Look for alcohol bottles behind cabinets, under shelves, in closets and other places. Generally speaking, finding the empty bottles will not be a difficult task.
Alcoholics Tend to Reject Events that Don’t Involve Drinking
An alcoholic will usually say yes to an event they know involves drinking. As part of the signs of alcoholism, they like to celebrate with alcohol. Any reason is a good one and they enjoy being able to drink with others so they don’t stick out. If there is an event where drinking isn’t taking place, an alcoholic will usually avoid it altogether. Parties are acceptable while going to a movie will be rejected.
Many alcoholics tend to isolate themselves from family and friends. In fact, it’s not unusual for many alcoholics to disappear for days at a time. They would much rather drink at home by themselves than to hang out with others. Their decision to isolate themselves may make it more difficult for many people to realize that there’s a problem.
Alcoholics Stay Up Late to Drink in Peace
One of the big alcohol behaviors include hiding their Alcoholic drinking is usually done shamefully. Therefore, many alcoholics will stay awake after everyone else has gone to bed. They can drink on their own without anyone monitoring the amount of alcohol being consumed. They feel more free when no one else is there to judge them.
Drinking Gets Earlier for Alcoholics As Time Goes On
An alcoholic will hide the fact they’ve been day drinking but you may notice a smell of alcohol on their breath during the day. The definition of an alcoholic is that they are dependent on the substance. They need to drink increasingly more often to prevent alcoholism withdrawal symptoms. This usually means that drinking will start earlier in the day as time goes on.
The break from drinking will occur while they’re sleeping. When they wake up, they may instantly have the shakes. They feel exhausted. It may be considered a hangover when it’s actually withdrawal symptoms.
A Problem Drinker Gets Defensive When the Question of Alcoholism Comes Up
Signs of alcoholism can sometimes be stigmatic and cause a lot of judgment. Not only that but the addict feels genuine shame for losing control to the substance. When you confront them about their drinking habits, they will likely get overly defensive. The reaction can include verbal or even physical aggression.
This reaction makes it difficult to confront a person with an alcohol addiction. It’s also why interventions are such sensitive subjects. When hosting an intervention, it’s critical that the right language is being used. It’s also important to maintain a peaceful, calm and accepting environment. If the abuser feels judged, they may close down and be unwilling to listen to anything. This negative reaction can cause the intervention to fail.
Pre-Drinking: Alcoholics Tend To Drink Before They Go Out
Alcoholic behavior in relationships can be more noticeable. You may find that your spouse will start drinking before you go out to an event. This can cause a lot of anxiety because the alcoholic behaviors are usually not acceptable. If you have a friend or loved one who always seems to start drinking before you even go out, this can be an alcoholic symptom. They are able to get a head start on the amount of alcohol they get to consume.
They can then attend the party and drink what would seemingly be a normal amount as nobody was witness to the pre-drinking. They may often be the life of the party but it can also be disastrous. They arrive to the event already black out drunk. They will likely not eat and attention may be drawn to them.
Feeling Ashamed about their Drinking Problem
You may notice that the person in your life exhibiting drinking behavior issues will lie about their whereabouts and they may even ask you to cover for them. This is particularly hard for families because they can become enablers.
Alcoholic relationships become taxing on the family. The drinker will often be extremely secretive and their behavior will change so drastically, you don’t recognize them anymore. There will be no communication and the relationships will deteriorate if the issue isn’t dealt with.
The Alcoholics Mood Will Change Drastically When They Start Drinking
An alcoholic may be anxious or angry until they have a drink. These are actually withdrawal symptoms that you are experiencing. Depending on the extent of their alcoholism, they may appear to have the flu. They will become sweaty and feel ill. Once they have a drink in them, there will be a major change. If you pay attention to the alcoholic in your life, you will notice a dramatic change in their mood.
They will become more relaxed and cope with life in a better way. This is until, they drink too much in which case, they will likely exhibit all the negative signs of alcoholism. This ties in with other behavioral drinking behaviors like using alcohol as an excuse when a negative event occurs.
Blacking Out While Drinking
While anyone can black out while drinking, one of the alcoholic drinking symptoms include a higher probability of blacking out. Studies have been conducted with data showing that the more severe the alcoholism, the greater likelihood that blackouts could occur. This is usually the case after years of heavy drinking where alcoholism became well established. If you find that your loved one blacks out regularly, they are likely a long-time alcoholic.
In addition to blacking out, many alcoholics will also experience memory problems. They may forget events that happened even when they were sober. This happens because alcohol affects the wiring and receptors in the brain. They prevent memory formation and storage. Depending on the length and severity of the abuse, cognitive impairment may be inevitable. The damage may be irreversible. Those who develop wet brain syndrome will usually have some form of permanent brain damage.
Alcoholism Effects the Ability to be Responsible
An alcoholic may neglect important responsibilities in all aspects of their life because of drinking behaviors. This can include home, work, and school. Examples of this include neglecting children and forgetting to pick them up. Even worse, they may pick them up while under the influence of alcohol. Commitments and responsibilities won’t be met because the person is either drunk or hungover.
This is why it’s not so easy to determine whether someone is a functioning alcoholic. There are many signs of alcoholism they don’t exhibit. They usually compartmentalize their drinking to times away from work and family obligations.
An alcoholic will likely drink without considering the consequences because they’re dependent on alcohol. They may drink and drive or operate heavy machinery while intoxicated at work. This can put themselves and others at risk. They may also mix alcohol with illicit drugs or prescription medication regardless of warnings on the label. Alcoholics can exhibit risky behavior in order to get their “fix.”
Mixing alcohol with other substances is highly risky. In some cases, it can even lead to alcohol poisoning, or — worse — death. For example, mixing alcohol with stimulants can be dangerous, as it may make a person feel as if they can drink more than they can handle. This increases the risk of an overdose. On the other hand, mixing alcohol with depressants is equally as dangerous. The two substances will magnify each other’s effects.
Financial Debt and Legal Problems
The behaviors of alcoholic drinking will often manifest legal problems as well as financial issues. The likelihood of being caught drinking is higher when done more regularly. The need to drink despite the risk of legal problems when drinking and driving is a major sign of alcoholism. The mistakes that can occur while someone is constantly under the influence can have serious ramifications. A DUI, disorderly conduct, and violent behavior are some of the behaviors alcoholics will participate in that cause legal issues and financial debt. Many alcoholics will continue to head down this downwards spiral.
Cost of Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Addiction Treatment
The cost of alcoholism is rather high. Even a small habit can end up costing an addict tens of thousands of dollars each year. Alcoholics can quickly get an estimate of the amount they spend drinking using this calculator. Those who drink cocktails are going to be spending a lot more money than those who drink a 6-pack of beers throughout the day.
In addition to the cost of alcohol, alcoholism may also be costly to one’s health. Addicts often experience health complications because of their addiction. They may end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical bills. They may also end up losing money from not being able to advance in their career or from having to bail themselves out of various situations.
Alcohol abusers should consider the cost of alcoholism vs. alcohol addiction treatment. Addiction treatment can be costly as well. Medical detox can cost them up to $500 per day. In addition, inpatient rehab facilities can charge up to $32,000 a month, and outpatient programs can cost around $10,000. Still, getting sober will actually be cheaper in the long run. It will also result in better habits and behaviors that are more ideal for the addict’s state of mind and health. Fortunately, most health insurance policies will cover the cost of alcohol or drug rehab. Alcoholics can verify their insurance information with us to get a better understanding of what their insurance covers.
There are also some low-cost or free rehab programs out there. Some of these programs are faith-based and offered by religious institutions, whereas others are funded by federal or state programs.
Alcoholism and Relationship Outcomes
When it comes to alcoholism and relationships, the problem can lead to marriages breaking up. They deception, lack of communication, embarrassment, and quality of life all becomes a factor. The alcoholic drinking behaviors negatively effect all areas of a relationship and a family dynamic. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is an alcoholic, you will notice that despite all your pleas, they won’t stop.
The relationship may be falling apart, and you’ve mentioned you think drinking is part of the problem. This will not stop them from drinking and in fact, it may even perpetuate alcohol abuse. They use alcohol as a coping mechanism so if a relationship is in peril, they won’t turn to you, they’ll turn to the bottle. Personality changes with alcohol becomes heartbreaking. The person you loved doesn’t exist until they get help.
Being in a relationship with an alcoholic is a painful experience. Alcoholics in relationships refuse to deal with their issues. The household becomes a negative space with silence, disappointment and lies marring it. Many family members and loved ones may accidentally enable alcoholic behaviors and actions. Here are ways to stop enabling the person and to prevent them from making destructive decisions in their life. Many family members and loved ones will usually choose to attend Al-Anon meetings themselves. These meetings teach them the skills needed to help an alcoholic get sober. They’re also a great place for sharing personal experiences and venting about the struggles of having to deal with an alcoholic. The experience can be very stressful.
Outcomes of Drinking Behaviors
Even if you ignore the obvious behaviors of an alcoholic you’re close with, eventually their life will unravel. They will often lose everything that’s important to them. The behaviors that are so prevalent in alcoholics usually means they suffer much loss. If you are standing on the outside, you will see it happening. Alcohol and relationship problems will often go hand in hand because you don’t know how to help. You know that you stand to lose all stability if they don’t stop but if they don’t even admit the problem, it often gets ignored. Here are some of the common outcomes of an alcoholics’ behavior:
- A loss of drivers license or legal problems from DUI offenses.
- Job loss from irresponsible actions.
- Prison time due to violence or illegal actions that occurred while under the influence of alcohol.
- Divorce and potential loss of custody of your children.
- Health problems such as liver disease
It’s not difficult to notice the negative effects of drinking. Despite constantly being dragged down by their illness, alcoholics have difficulties quitting. They are usually well aware of the fact that alcohol is ruining their lives. This is what makes addiction a chronic mental disease. Those who are addicted often have little control over their actions and their thoughts. They may try to fight the addiction, but it’s usually a losing battle.
Signs of an Alcoholic Personality
Those who become alcoholics are generally much more likely to exhibit certain alcoholic personality traits than others. These traits may be shaped and may arise from environmental, psychological, or biological sources. They make a person more likely to enjoy alcohol or more likely to be under the influence of alcohol. Some of the most common alcoholic personality traits include:
Anxiety and fear. Alcoholics tend to either be plagued with worrisome thoughts or fear. To control and regulate their emotions, they turn to alcohol.
Dependence. Addicts tend to have codependency issues. Those who depend heavily on others may also depend heavily on the bottle when they have no one else to turn to.
Impulsiveness. When an addict wants something, they want it now. They often have a difficult time controlling their own actions.
Low self-esteem. It’s not unusual for alcoholics to feel that they are less worthy than others. Many of those who are addicted to alcohol have an inferiority complex.
Low-tolerance. While most people have a healthy outlet for channeling negative emotions and feelings, an alcoholic will usually have a low-tolerance for any negative emotions. They have difficulties coping with difficult times, and will turn to drinking in the meanwhile.
Perfectionism. It’s not the desire to be perfect that causes people to turn to alcohol, but the sense of failure. Alcoholics often feel like a failure.
Many alcoholics may have personalities that stem from certain events in their life. As a result, addiction recovery needs to target these flaws in their character. This is why most rehab centers will recommend patients go to either counseling sessions or behavioral therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Their personality also makes them more vulnerable to co-occurring disorders.
While this is not necessarily a personality trait, alcoholics often have low EQ, or emotional intelligence. EQ is made up of 5 components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. An alcoholic will usually struggle with almost all of these aspects. The emotional traits of an alcoholic include:
- An inability to receive love
- A sense of injustice
- Feelings of frustration
- Feelings of shame and guilt
This lack of emotional capability will explain why alcoholics in relationships don’t make great partners. Many alcoholics will also tend to be under achievers. They blame everyone around them for their struggles, and are not willing to take responsibility for their own actions. They also have difficulties handling their own emotions. They often get easily frustrated.
The Problem Drinker and Denial
Denial is one of the main defining symptoms of alcoholism. Sadly, it’s also one of the biggest obstacles preventing an alcoholic from getting help. Alcoholism in relationships becomes frustrating because of this. The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds ways to rationalize drinking, even when the negative outcomes are obvious. These excuses will keep the person in ignorance so they can continue to live with their addiction. It prevents them from having to look at the truth and it is often protected even after they have begun to lose everything. Denial exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships.
Alcoholics tend to say certain things that include:
- Understating the amount they drink at all costs.
- When something negative happens because of their drinking, they downplay it.
- They will complain that family and friends are making a big deal out of nothing.
- They may blame their drinking problem on others.
- People will give excuses on why they aren’t an alcoholic despite all the obvious signs. They reason with themselves and then make excuses to everyone around them.
If you find that someone in your life is rationalizing their drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject, it’s likely they’re protecting their alcoholism. Their logic is if you can’t determine alcoholism based on the definitions, there’s no proof of a problem and they can continue to drink. If an alcoholic doesn’t believe they have a problem then why are they covering up their drinking or making excuses for why they drink? There are alcoholic assessments that can be done online for when the person is ready.
It’s not always easy to determine if someone’s drinking tendencies are of an alcoholic drinking nature because it’s such a common pastime. Plenty of people go through phases of drinking without developing the disease. It’s when it hits a chronic level despite consequences that you will notice the abnormal drinking tendencies. Finding the line between social drinking vs problem drinking depends on how it affects the persons’ life. If drinking causes problems in the person’s life and they won’t stop, the possibility of alcoholism is high. Especially if they continue to drink and protect their addiction despite the obvious alcoholism symptoms to everyone else around them.
The typical behaviors that alcoholics exhibit become damaging through time. These behaviors include irrational actions like driving under the influence or harming a loved one with physical violence. It’s hard to ignore the downward spiral as alcoholics start to lose everything they once cared about and make drinking their priority. If you want to get help for your friend or loved one, find professionals to help you with an alcohol intervention. There are inpatient and outpatient options once the alcoholic in your life has decided to seek help.
Get Professional Help
Don’t face alcoholism alone. Not only is it incredibly difficult, but the chances of a successful recovery is rather minimal. Alcoholics looking to get sober will find that they absolutely need professional help. Medical detox is a necessity and not an option, considering the fact that alcohol withdrawals can turn deadly at any time. The medical detox should be overseen by professionals for the best results. There are quite a few treatment plans that can help ease the symptoms.
There are many approaches that can be taken with alcohol addiction treatment. Learn more about how we treat addiction here, at The Northpoint Seattle. We offer high quality services that are tailored to the needs of each patient. This expedites the recovery process and makes the transition much smoother and hassle-free. We have a low patient to staff ratio, so our patients receive all the care that they need. We also have a high success rate, and a successful and effective alumni program.
If you’re wondering whether we can help you, check out our testimonials. Many patients who have gone through our program have been successful at staying abstinent. They now enjoy healthier and more fulfilling lives, as they are no longer shackled by addiction. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact one of our addiction specialists. We’re here to answer any questions you may have, and can also walk you through the process so you know what to expect.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Today, when someone is an alcoholic, experts use the term alcohol use disorder to diagnose them. When a person has AUD, they suffer from a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. They are unable to stop drinking or control their alcohol use. They will continue to drink even though they are dealing with the consequences of doing so.
About 15 million people in the United States have AUD. In 2018, there were 14.4 million adults with it and 401,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 who had it. Getting a diagnosis means meeting certain criteria set forth by the DSM-5. That criteria includes:
- Having times when you drink too much or for a longer period of time than you intended to.
- Having the desire to stop drinking or cut down, but not being able to.
- Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from having hangovers.
- Having cravings for alcohol.
- Finding that drinking has caused you a lot of problems with your relationships, job and/or school.
- Continuing to drink despite the problems it was causing between you and your family or friends.
- Stopped participating in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed.
- Putting yourself in risky situations after you have been drinking or for the purpose of obtaining alcohol.
- Continued to drink even though you have had blackouts or mental health issues.
- Forming a tolerance to alcohol, which means you need to drink more in order to get the same effects.
- Going through withdrawal once the effects of the alcohol started to wear off.
If You Have an Addictive Personality Does it Increase Your Risk for Alcoholism?
Personality has long been a major area of research when it comes to alcoholism and addiction. A lot of experts debate about the existence of an addictive personality. It is a term that means that the individual will abuse anything they come across that is addictive.
Dr. Michael Weaver is the medical director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He says, “Addictive personality is not an actual psychiatric diagnosis. Personalities are very complex and while there’s not one specific type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there are several factors that can combine to make you more likely to become addicted.”
If you have had more than one addiction, you may be wondering if you have an addictive personality. While there is still so much more research left to do, it is more likely that:
- You have a family history of addiction, so this behavior has been modeled for you.
- You have a genetic predisposition to drinking; although that does not mean you are destined to be an alcoholic.
- You love the excitement that you experience when you use alcohol or other drugs.
- You always feel like you are chasing the next thrill.
- You are much more impulsive than your family or friends who drink.
- You find it difficult to quit using alcohol or drugs once you start.
We do know that people who have one addiction are much more likely to have more in the future. But there are so many factors that go into that, and it really does not involve just having an addictive personality.
What is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism?
It is very common for people to confuse the terms alcoholism and alcohol abuse. While they are related to each other, they are not the same at all.
A person who is abusing alcohol does not feel compelled to drink as someone with alcohol use disorder. They may enjoy it and the fact that they are abusing it means that they drink excessively. But their consumption of alcohol might only be occasional. But for someone who is abusing it, there are a few things that are missing from the equation:
- They do not go through withdrawal when the alcohol is metabolized.
- They do not have urges to drink.
- They can choose not to drink or to drink less than they normally would.
- Their alcohol use is not having a negative impact in their life.
- They have not changed the way they live to factor in their ability to drink.
For someone who is an alcoholic, their life is basically defined by their alcohol use. They may drink at odd times during the day and they continuously struggle to stop or cut down without success.
What Can You do if Someone You Love Has a Drinking Problem?
If someone you love has a drinking problem, it can be really difficult to communicate their need to stop. Many alcoholics believe that they are in control of how much or how often they drink. But in reality, their drinking controls everything they do.
It is always best to start by sitting down with your loved one and discussing the problem. You may want to take some time to educate yourself on addiction and learn as much about it as you can. Research some treatment programs so you have some information to present as an alternative to continuing to drink.
But even if you have the best of intentions, sometimes it is not enough to convince an alcoholic to get help. The next step may be to consider scheduling an intervention.
Interventions are meetings that are led by professionals known as interventionists. They involve the addict and their closest friends and family members. You and the other participants will be asked to write letters to your loved one asking them to stop drinking. Those letters will be read on the day of the intervention, which will be a surprise meeting.
Interventions can be really helpful in getting alcoholics to change their behaviors. Many of them choose to get help afterward, and arrangements are usually made for that to happen right away.
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