It is a shocking fact that around 32 million Americans are addicted to alcohol, with a staggering 2 billion people worldwide consuming alcohol regularly and to excess. Because alcohol is widely used socially and easy to obtain legally, it is very easy for people to become addicted, sometimes without realizing. It can also be very difficult to spot the signs of a person who is struggling with alcohol use which, often leads to them failing to get detox, rehab and aftercare treatment before their problems become more severe.
In fact, only 2.2% of Americans with alcoholism get the help they need and there are thousands more who are suffering behind closed doors. 88,000 people die each year in America as a direct consequence of alcohol abuse, making it critical that there is more widespread awareness of the symptoms of alcoholism. In this article, we examine the attributes of people who are likely to be progressing through the stages of alcoholism so as to increase the possibility of getting them the treatment they need.
The Social, Physical and Emotional Signs of Alcoholism
There are a multitude of factors at play for each individual struggling with alcohol, making it impossible to identify every single warning sign of a problem. However, because we have developed a greater understanding of alcoholism through scientific research conducted over decades, there is more information available. There are three categories of warning signs because alcoholism affects a person in many different ways: social, physical and emotional.
Social Symptoms of Alcoholism
Risky or Negligent Behavior: One of the main characteristics of someone with alcohol problems is an increase in risk-taking behavior that can get them into hot water with authorities. When a person is under the influence of alcohol, the stats show they are more likely to risk criminal charges as a result of driving and crimes of passion.
Setting Priorities: When someone progresses through the stages of alcoholism, obtaining and using it becomes a creeping preoccupation. This becomes obvious to others when they start neglecting their everyday responsibilities in favor of drinking alcohol. Although this may seem like a selfish choice for them to make, they are more than likely unable to quit drinking without treatment. Caregivers with alcohol issues are in danger of seriously neglecting their charges which can have significant consequences.
Affected Relationships: Personal relationships are often negatively impacted by a person’s alcohol abuse, some becoming completely untenable the longer they continue to drink. To the outside world, it appears as if the person abusing alcohol just doesn’t care about the damage they are doing. In truth, they are more likely to be in denial of there being a problem at all and have lost all sense of accountability for their behavior.
Concealing and Prevaricating: Alcoholism drives people to behave in ways that are not recognizable as part of their personality. This includes telling lies in order to conceal their drinking or to manipulate others into helping them fund their alcohol use. This devious behavior is a social warning sign that is one of the most difficult for family members and loved ones to cope with. However, it is always important to bear in mind that the alarming changes in their behavior are driven purely by the illness.
Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism
High Tolerance: When someone regularly drinks to excess, their body’s become used to receiving stimulus from alcohol. Over time, the person will have to drink more in order to get drunk than they did when they first started using alcohol. This is known as tolerance and it is a physical sign that a person has a developing issue with alcohol. The higher a person’s tolerance to alcohol is, the more severe their alcohol use disorder (AUD) is likely to be.
No Limit: A person who regularly drinks more than they set out to is displaying one of the classic signs of alcohol abuse. People who are in control of their drinking are generally able to stick within the limits they set themselves. Generally speaking, if an individual says they’re having a quick drink after work that is exactly what they have. A person with alcoholism will often drink to excess, including to the point of blacking out.
Drinking on a Daily Basis: When someone has developed alcoholism, they will be unable to go a day without drinking. Even if they don’t drink very much every day, people with a healthy relationship to alcohol don’t generally need to consume it with such regularity. There are reasons why a person will find themselves reaching out for a glass of wine or a beer at a certain time of day and they need to be addressed in order to prevent alcoholism developing.
Withdrawal Symptoms: When an individual has become tolerant of alcohol, their bodies will start to demand it. As alcoholism develops the individual will experience increasingly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms which are the brain’s mechanisms for signaling it is craving alcohol. The only way they will be able to reduce or eliminate withdrawal is by turning to alcohol unless they enter a rehab and aftercare treatment program as soon as possible.
The Emotional Symptoms of Alcoholism
Denial: Denial is commonly known as a characteristic of alcoholism that enables a person to continue drinking. They are more than likely to be aware of the fact they have a problem but also that they are unable to overcome it. Overcoming denial and achieving acceptance is one of the most important steps to take before rehabilitation treatment can begin.
Shame: Although it’s easy to believe a person drinks to excess because they want to, they are very likely to be quite ashamed of their behavior. Although they may not admit this shame to others directly, the fact they are feeling this emotional response to their behavior shows it is beyond their control.
Imbalance of Emotion: The nature of alcohol and the way it works to create its sensations can lead to a person exhibiting mood swings if they have a drinking problem.
Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms: It is often very difficult for a person to consider entering a treatment center when they are in the grips of alcoholism. This is mainly because they get into a state of mind where they can’t imagine life without booze, with many thinking that sobriety is somewhat boring. This is not a true reflection of the way they feel, rather an emotional withdrawal symptom that will pass after detox has been completed.