Is Your Loved One Showing Early Signs Of Alcoholism?

Sad girl at sunset showing early signs Of alcoholism

Perhaps your husband hasn’t been acting like himself lately. Maybe your sister has a strange demeanor about her. Your loved one is starting to forget important things and he or she is experiencing severe mood swings. Maybe the individual has even been engaging in an excessive amount of after-work drinking with coworkers. 

If your friend or family member seems to be drinking a lot more or is simply displaying inexplicable behavioral changes, it is important to take note. Your loved one may actually be showing early signs of alcoholism. In the case that the individual is, indeed, suffering from alcohol use disorder, you can help them. Learn more today.

What Is An Alcohol Use Disorder?

If an individual has experienced at least 2 of the 11 symptoms provided by DSM-5 clinicians, then that person has an alcohol use disorder [1]. It’s important to understand that no two individuals will undergo alcohol abuse in the same way. The set of 11 factors helps the DSM-5 clinicians be guided in the severity grade of the alcohol use disorder (AUD).

  • 2-3 of the 11 factors: mild alcohol use disorder. 
  • 4-5 of the 11 symptoms: moderate alcohol use disorder. 
  • 6+ of the 11 factors: severe alcohol use disorder.

Some of the signs and symptoms of an alcohol use disorder include the following:

  1. Engaging in risky behavior after drinking, such as driving, fighting, swimming, operating machinery, or having unprotected sex
  2. Continuing to consume alcohol despite the negative impacts it’s having on relationships
  3. Interference with school, work, family, and/or other responsibilities as a result of excessive alcohol consumption 
  4. Requiring more alcohol over time to attain the desired intoxicating effects

What are Some of the Early Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder?

There are numerous early signs of alcoholism that individuals should be on the lookout for. While there are several identifiable warning signs of alcoholism, there are others that might be challenging to identify. The severity of an individual’s alcohol abuse might play a major part in the warning signs that a person displays.

For example, many individuals attempt to cover their alcohol abuse issue by instead drinking in private and ultimately isolating themself from other people. When this occurs, it makes it more difficult for family members and friends to intercede and ultimately help their loved ones. If an individual has a mild alcohol abuse issue, it can be easily overlooked.

It’s important to understand that what might seem like a minor issue at the beginning can end up turning into something dangerous over time. The following early signs of alcoholism should not be disregarded. Seeking addiction treatment sooner than later will help you to get back to enjoying what you love most out of life. 

Here are 6 Warning Signs of Alcoholism

1. Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol

Moderate or social drinking is defined as having no more than one to two drinks per day for the majority of individuals, depending on their gender and weight. Social or moderate drinking can become problematic if it begins to cause unpleasant effects. When an individual has 5 or more drinks in one day, it is considered binge drinking.

It is not uncommon for people struggling with alcohol abuse to have a dozen drinks or more a day. Often, problematic drinking begins slowly. Many alcohol drinkers feel the urge to drink more  in order to feel the original effects of their alcohol consumption. This is due to what is known as “tolerance”. 

2. Loss of Control While Drinking

At a certain point, the individual struggling with alcoholism may make a vow to other individuals or themselves that they will reduce their drinking. Unfortunately, when some people make this promise, they aren’t truly ready to keep it. It’s extremely difficult to stop drinking once they have arrived at a particular place. Typically they don’t think ahead regarding the consequences of drinking excessively. Once an individual begins drinking, they continue going until they are entirely intoxicated. 

3. Persistent Alcohol Use Despite Awareness of Issues

Receiving divorce papers or getting a DUI might not be the life-changing event in an individual’s life to make them change their ways. Individuals who struggle with alcoholism are normally aware of the issues caused by their drinking. The problem lies in their feeling powerless to make a change. 

Other individuals are so engrossed in their denial that they fail to recognize the full impact of their consequences. The downward spiral continues to take place because they lose perspective and control. It might become progressively challenging to face the problems that were caused by drinking, but it’s not impossible to heal, regardless of how intense the problems have been. 

4. Loss of Time Spent on Alcohol-Related Activities

Individuals who struggle with alcohol abuse spend a great deal of time surrounded by alcohol-related activities. These same individuals might find themselves neglecting just about everything else that matters to them. An individual struggling with alcohol abuse will often defend their actions by stating that they need to unwind or that no one understands their problems

The things that might go by the wayside are the following:

  • Home and property care
  • Financial obligations
  • Family commitments
  • Job requirements
  • Hobbies

5. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms develop once an individual who is heavily engaged in alcohol use stops all use. When this occurs, there are many withdrawal symptoms to be on the lookout for.  The withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Depression symptoms
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hallucinations 
  • Headaches
  • Convulsions
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Blackouts
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Fever

6. Increased Alcohol Tolerance

After an individual engages in excessive drinking, their body develops a tolerance for alcohol. This process occurs when the person needs to consume more alcohol to feel that same effect they once felt. Many individuals don’t feel they have an issue due to the lack of getting drunk every time they drink. It’s important to note that there is a lot of damage that can result in the body despite the individual being intoxicated or impaired. 

Other Warning Signs Of Alcoholism

A person may have an alcohol use problem if he or she:

  • Is beginning to crave alcohol often
  • Are starting to spend a lot of time drinking
  • Drinks more or longer than they originally planned
  • Is experiencing an increase in their drinking tolerance
  • Gets into legal trouble often (as a result of alcohol use)
  • Is starting to give up activities in pursuit of drinking opportunities
  • Is dealing with friction within work and personal relationships
  • Is becoming emotionally withdrawn from family and friends
  • Wants to quit drinking but can’t 

What are Common Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse?

There are several common symptoms of alcohol abuse. When left untreated, alcohol abuse can quickly spiral out of control. Once alcohol abuse begins to impact an individual’s life negatively, it can severely cause harm. 

If an individual is diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), recognizes the warning signs, and receives the proper treatment can make a world of difference. There is no exact formula or science when it comes to determining whether a person is an alcoholic. 

The common symptoms of alcohol abuse that often co-occur and snowball into another which could fuel more issues down the road are:

  • Making excuses for drinking to deal with stress, feel normal, or relax
  • Changing a group of acquaintances you hang with or appearance
  • Becoming distant and isolated from family members and friends
  • Experiencing short-term memory loss and temporary blackouts
  • Choosing to drink over other obligations or responsibilities
  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings and signs of irritability
  • Feeling hungover even when you didn’t drink
  • Drinking in secrecy or alone

What is the Relationship Between the Psychological and Physical Components of AUDs?

The 11 factors mentioned above address the psychological and physical components of an AUD. The distinction between psychological addiction and physical dependence is a pivotal difference to understand. 

As explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, physical dependence is an integral component of addiction but it isn’t necessarily synonymous with addiction. In other words, an individual can be physically dependent on a substance or alcohol. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual is psychologically dependent on it.

The psychological component of addiction does not refer to the alcohol effects on an individual’s mental state, such as disordered thinking. Instead, it refers to how an individual’s actions and thoughts become geared towards acquiring alcohol and consuming it, to the exclusion of paramount responsibilities.

What Is Physical Dependence?

Physical dependence is one of the hallmarks and ultimately a natural process. As tolerance is built, an individual who consumes alcohol will require a greater volume to undergo familiar effects. After that process, the body will undergo withdrawal if there is a significant reduction in the usual amount or if intake of the familiar drug ceases. 

Once a chronic alcohol abuser stops their drinking, the signs of withdrawal set in. Due to this uncomfortable and strange feeling, they continue to drink to bypass feeling withdrawal symptoms. When individuals have an alcohol use disorder, they will most likely experience the following symptoms of psychological effects, as well as physical dependence. 

  • Sleeplessness
  • Racing heart
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

Your Loved One Might Experience Physical Changes and Issues As a Result of Alcoholism

The expression, “beer gut” isn’t just a saying. Alcohol causes belly fat similarly to foods that are high in simple sugars and calories such as candy, soda, and beer. The extra calories from these items result in stored up fat in an individual’s body. When an individual decides to consume drinks and foods that are high in sugars, it can quickly lead to weight gain. Indeed, we can’t control where the extra weight ends up in the body, but it normally accumulates in the abdominal area. 

Alcohol is known to slow down a person’s metabolism because alcohol intake levels can lead to impaired absorption and digestion of nutrients in the body. When this process occurs, the metabolism of a person’s organs is greatly affected. Especially the organs that play a vital role in weight management. 

It’s important to realize that alcohol can fully inhibit proper digestive function. It causes stress on an individual’s stomach and intestines. This process leads to decreased digestive movement and secretions of food through the digestive tract. Your digestive secretions play an essential role in healthy digestion. They are responsible for breaking down food into basic micro and macronutrients that are later absorbed and used in the body. 

Sobriety Awaits Your Loved One at Lifetime Recovery 

The first step to overcoming alcoholism or even recognizing that you or a loved one has a problem is being aware of the early signs of alcoholism. By participating in our treatment program, you’ll be able to recognize warning signs of alcoholism and ways to combat them to avoid relapse. Our treatment professionals will guide you every step of the way. Recovery is just a phone call away. Please reach out to us today to allow our team to help your loved one overcome alcohol use disorder, once and for all. We are ready and willing to help bring healing to your family through addiction treatment and recovery.

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Our behavioral health and substance abuse treatment experts also treat co-occurring disorders/dual diagnoses (including trauma), and we are one of the few alcohol and drug rehab centers offering gambling addiction treatment.