It’s important to know the signs of alcoholism, especially if you have a problem with a loved one. Alcoholism is a chronic disorder marked by certain alcoholic behaviors and specific genetic traits. 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 signs of alcoholic drinking behaviors in someone you know or love, they may have an addiction.
When addictive drinking behaviors become obvious, the problem has likely 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. 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 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. Call 425.414.3530 for more information about our alcohol addiction treatment.
What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Today, when someone is an alcoholic, experts use 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 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. Those criteria include:
- Have times when you drink too much or for longer than you intended to.
- Having the desire to stop drinking or cut down, but not able to.
- Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from having hangovers.
- Having cravings for alcohol.
- Finding that drinking has caused you many problems with your relationships, job, or school.
- Continuing to drink despite the problems it was causing between you and your family or friends.
- Stop participating in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed.
- Put yourself in risky situations after you have been drinking or to obtain alcohol.
- Continued to drink even though you have had blackouts or mental health issues.
- Forming a tolerance to alcohol means you need to drink more to get the same effects.
- Went through withdrawal once the effects of the alcohol started to wear off.
What Are Some Signs of Alcohol Abuse?
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 the brain’s functions, so people might unintentionally commit hurtful or illegal acts while drunk. These behaviors include:
- Abusive acts include 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 an irresponsible sexual activity such as unprotected sex or sexual assault.
- They risk their safety as well as others’ safety.
- They may commit crimes.
Alcohol Tolerance and Withdrawal
The first sign 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 to have the same effect. Tolerance develops because the liver produces more enzymes known as alcohol dehydrogenase. The enzyme is responsible for breaking down and metabolizing alcohol. If there are more enzymes in the body, alcohol levels will take longer to accumulate.
The effects of alcohol will be less pronounced, and more alcohol is needed to achieve the desired effects. If tolerance develops, it will take more alcohol to feel the effects you once felt with fewer 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.
- It affects how tasks are performed.
- May stop medications from being effective.
- Increases toxicity of other drugs.
Someone who is heavily into the second stage 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 because they are going through withdrawal. 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 dopamine and serotonin levels in the body. Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Flu-like symptoms