8 Signs that You or a Loved One is an Alcoholic
Everybody drinks, right? For young adults, drinking to excess seems almost like a rite of passage. You’re expected to get absolutely hammered on your 21st birthday, and most people spend their 20s (and early 30s) socializing at night clubs and bars. Right?
Because drinking is so deeply rooted in American culture, it can be easy for us to convince ourselves that ‘everyone does it’ – that everyone drinks the same way we do, and that even blacking out on occasion isn’t a serious problem. The truth is, it can be tricky to tell whether or not you – or someone you love – is grappling with an actual alcohol abuse disorder. There are many reasons for alcoholism, ranging from underlying psychiatric disorders to genetic propensity for addiction. Regardless of the cause, alcoholism can be absolutely devastating. If you do suffer from symptoms of alcoholism, it is always better to seek professional help sooner rather than later.
While there is no real medical alcoholism test you can take, you can easily conduct an in-depth self-assessment, which will indicate whether or not you should seek treatment for alcoholism.
Am I an Alcoholic?
When attempting to decipher whether or not you are an alcoholic, first ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do you find that you consistently consume more alcohol than you intended?
- Maybe you play with self-control, telling yourself that, because you have a big test tomorrow, you’ll only have a couple of beers. You wake up the next day, utterly hungover and late for your exam. You have no idea what happened – when did two drinks turn into ten? If this sounds familiar, you may be struggling with alcoholism.
2. Have you ever tried to cut back on drinking, or quit drinking altogether, and found yourself drinking again a day or so later?
- Sometimes, people who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder will realize that something is off, and they’ll do what they can to take matters into their own hands. For example, you might realize that you’ve been hungover more mornings than not, or that your drinking has started to interfere with your interpersonal relationships. So you’ll swear off for good – or tell yourself that you aren’t going to drink for a week. You make it one day, or maybe two… you start to feel good, and you tell yourself that ‘just one’ won’t hurt. Soon, you’re right back where you left off. Oftentimes, those struggling with alcohol addiction will attempt to cut down or quit repeatedly, but consistently find themselves unable.
3. Has drinking ever put you in physical danger?
- Consuming alcohol affects people in different ways. In many instances, those struggling with undiagnosed alcoholism will repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way. This may look like starting a bar fight, or driving while under the influence, or walking home late at night in an unsafe neighborhood. Ask yourself honestly – has your drinking recently compromised your safety? If the answer is ‘yes’, you may want to seek professional help. Issues like this don’t remedy themselves, they only get worse. And every time you put yourself in physical danger, you increase the odds of facing serious and lasting consequences.
4. Has anyone ever mentioned concern about your drinking habits?
- Alcoholism is a disease of defensiveness. Try to think back to a time when someone may have expressed concern. This could have come in many forms – maybe a friend said something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you aren’t around as much as you used to be.” Or your mom said, “I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking more than you used to.” Or maybe a bartender cut you off. Or a counselor suggested that you might be self-medicating. Concern comes in many different forms. To make it easier, try to think back to a time when anyone has mentioned your drinking at all. Did they say, “Wow, man, you’re so fun to party with,” or did they say, “What you did last night wasn’t cool”? It’s easy to become defensive, and say or think things like, “You don’t know me,” or, “Mind your own business.” One of the most important factors in determining whether or not you have a drinking problem is learning to be honest with yourself.
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5. Has your motivation been suffering?
- One of the most telling signs of alcoholic tendencies is severely decreased motivation. You may lack motivation to do things you used to have no problem doing – going to school, going to work, spending time with friends. You may lack the motivation necessary to getting out of bed in the morning. If things seem harder than they used to be, or if you find yourself procrastinating when it doesn’t make sense to do so, you may be struggling with an alcohol-related problem.
6. Do you find that you’re less engaged in things you used to have fun doing?
- Many individuals who struggle with alcoholism rapidly lose interest in things they used to enjoy. This is typically because of the mental obsession – once the brain becomes addicted, it can’t help but to prioritize alcohol. Hobbies are replaced with seeing behavior – everything revolves around taking the next drink. An alcoholic might trade in time spent outdoors for time spent in the bar, for example. Or time spent at soccer practice for time spent hanging out with new drinking buddies. Take an honest look at what you used to spend the majority of your time doing, and what you spend the majority of your time doing now.
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7. Have your sleeping and eating patterns changed?
- Those who struggle with substance dependency of any kind will likely experience changes to their daily habits. They may eat less or eat more, finding that their appetite is either suppressed or increased by the substance they’re taking. For example, if you are using methamphetamines regularly, you will likely lose weight – seeing as this is an appetite suppressant. If you drink excessively for a prolonged period of time, you will likely gain weight – seeing as alcohol is extremely high in calories, and it tends to increase appetite. Similarly, if you use methamphetamine, you will likely suffer sleep-related symptoms such as insomnia, where as, if you drink excessively, you will probably sleep more than normal, or suffer interrupted sleep or fatigue.
8. Have you had any health problems as a direct result of your alcohol consumption?
- If a medical professional has informed you that continuing to drink could pose a danger to your health, yet you continue to do so, you are very likely dealing with an alcohol-related disorder. In some cases, people who drink normally will be diagnosed with a condition or disease that requires them to cut back, or eliminate alcohol altogether. If this person drinks normally, they won’t have a problem cutting out alcohol. However, if the person struggles with alcoholism, cutting back will probably be far more difficult – if not impossible. Say you develop some kind of infection, and a doctor places you on antibiotics. The doctor tells you not to drink for two weeks. Are you going to listen to what he says and stay away from alcohol, or are you going to go home and Google all potential interactions and side effects?
Reviewed for accuracy by:
LCSW, LADC, CCS
Randi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Supervisor who has over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health and addictions. She has worked in both clinical and administrative leadership roles and also has extensive career experience in gender specific trauma treatment, crisis intervention, structural family work and substance use disorder treatment and supervision.
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Being honest with yourself is the most helpful thing you can do when trying to determine whether or not you have a serious drinking problem. While the reasons for alcoholism differ, the symptoms are generally the same. Look back over the questions – if you answered most or all with “yes”, you may be suffering from alcoholism. To learn more and talk with an expert contact us today – we’re available 24/7 to answer questions you may have. Call (888) 693-1751 now.