Nearly 14 million Americans suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many worry that they drink too much, and you might occasionally ask yourself the question, “Am I an alcoholic?” To help, The Recovery Team wants to provide you with a free, easy way to spot warning signs of alcoholism. Take the alcohol quiz to find out more about your relationship with alcohol.
Alcoholism vs. “Alcohol Use Disorder” (AUD)
Many people understand a stereotype that is meant by the term “alcoholic.” They see someone who severely depends on alcohol to feel a sense of wellbeing and to regulate their emotions in an unhealthy way. These alcoholics suffer great mental and physical damage in the process, but the term is not specifically helpful in treatment settings and among professionals.
Rather than the common language, clinicians and doctors will speak of alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder. This gives them an objective medical approach to understanding, diagnosing, and treating the disorder as a disease in each given patient’s life.
For the AUD diagnosis, a person must show many of the symptoms outlined by the manual for such mental health conditions: Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-V). If symptoms have appeared and persisted within the last year, it also shows the severity of alcohol dependence.
Alcoholic, Heavy Drinker, or Binge Drinker: Which Compares to Your Experience?
Once it’s established that a person might fit the profile of alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, it’s important to gather evidence surrounding drinking to further understand the problem. Professionals will usually rely on two types of excessive drinking when they first diagnose and treat alcoholism:
- Heavy drinking corresponds to how much you drink during a seven-day period. Two drinks each day (or 14 drinks each week) makes a heavy drinker under 65. Over 65 years old, drinking seven drinks per week make a heavy drinker.
- Binge drinking corresponds to how much you drink within a few hours. Men are considered binge drinking after five drinks in a two-hour period, whereas women consume four drinks in two hours to be considered bingeing.
Many excessive drinkers that fit these categories have alcohol use disorder. But, some do not. Excessive drinkers may not have the same emotional, mental, and physical reliance on alcohol as those with AUD. When they quit drinking, they can easily and quickly improve their quality of life. But, someone with alcohol use disorder might struggle to quit, stay sober, and make gains because of frequent relapses.
Key Signals of Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder
If drinking is a problem in someone’s life, they can often be confused about the true nature and extent of the issue. Our culture promotes drinking at many functions and around the year, but if you wonder if you’re becoming an addicted alcoholic, look for these common signals in yourself (or others).
- Continued drinking despite consequences, risks, and punishments
- Visible signs of agitation and discomfort after withdrawal
- Lost interest in activities that do not involve drinking
- Putting drinking first and above responsibilities
- Lost control over the degree and frequency of drinking
- Frequent shifts in mood, perception, and irritation
- Being unable to quit drinking on their own
- Experiencing intense cravings for alcohol
- Engaging in morning, secret, and day drinking
- Having feelings of guilt around drinking
While most of these signs show up as a symptom of a latent substance use disorder with alcohol, every person and each addiction is different. If you see many of these signs in yourself or someone you love, reach out for help with the alcohol use disorder.
You can start by simply comparing your drinking to the well-documented signs of alcoholism using our quiz. Through it, you can see if you may need to take a harder at your alcohol use with a professional in the field of addiction treatment. Start the quiz and begin recovery.
Behavioral, Medical, and Withdrawal Signs of AUD
Problems with alcohol and alcohol use disorder develop over time as the self-medicating behavior takes more and more control over a person’s life skills, rendering them helpless against alcohol. Without other strategies and therapies, the person is left to sink into the despair and hopelessness of being powerless against alcohol.
Look closely at these signs of alcohol use disorder. They can show up as mental formation, physical symptoms, and withdrawal effects. If you or someone you love may have an alcohol use disorder, they may seem familiar.
Behavioral Signs of Alcoholism
- Drinking all alone or in secret
- Neglecting personal pride and hygiene
- Becoming defensive about alcohol use
- Having a high tolerance for alcohol intake
- Cutting work and school commitments for drinking
- Having a poor appetite or impoverished eating habits
- Coming up with many excuses for continued drinking
- Refraining from activities that don’t involve drinking
- Easily losing control of drinking activity
- Continuing to drink despite outcomes
Medical Signs of Alcoholism
- Showing signs of alcohol withdrawal
- Experience intense cravings for alcohol
- Losing time and memory of events (blacking out)
- Feeling shaky and having tremors after drinking
- Catching illness or developing serious disease (cirrhosis, cancer, etc.)
Withdrawal Signs of Alcoholism
- Feeling unable to rest, sleep, or control worrying
- Experiencing intense nausea or vomiting
- Having shakiness in the hands
- Enduring prolonged headaches, racing heartbeat, and sweating
- Going through fevers and having high blood pressure
- Sensing things others cannot see, hear, or touch
- Experiencing convulsions and seizures
Material Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder on Individuals, Families, and Communities
For the person addicted, the family concerned, and the community outside—alcoholism has devastating consequences on health and safety. While it can bring serious risks to your health and wellness, it also extends as a danger to everyone around you:
- Injuries, accidents, crashes, burnings, falling, drownings, and more
- Domestic violence and assault
- Alcohol poisoning
- Unintended pregnancy
- Fetal alcohol disorder
- Miscarriages and stillbirths
- Sexually transmitted infection and disease
In addition to these short-term consequences, the alcoholic faces long-term damages to their body and mind as a result of their unchecked and untreated drinking:
- Throat cancer, colon cancer, mouth cancer, and liver cancer (among others)
- Risk of stroke, heart disease, liver disease, and high blood pressure
- Higher chance of illness and infection from a weakened immune system
- Prolonged problems within home, work, and school environments
- Mental health concerns with depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
- Slipping performance in cognitive abilities such as memory and learning
Millions of people face unimaginable pains from the effects of alcohol on their lives (and the lives of those they love). It’s important to understand what role this could play in your life if you fear you may be an alcoholic.
Take the alcoholic quiz, and you’ll see the many symptoms of an alcohol use disorder and be able to explore your experience further with professional treatment for alcoholism.
Five Categories of Alcoholism to Better Understand Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcoholism and alcohol use disorder represents a diverse group of experiences among the millions of people with the diagnosis. To make treatment more personal, practical, and effective—professionals in addiction treatment rely on categories to establish the closest clinical relationship to alcohol you might have.
Young Adult with Alcoholism
One-third of people with an alcohol use disorder are young adults who engage in binge drinking episodes. They may not be frequent, heavy drinkers according to the guidelines above, but their drinking nevertheless qualifies as alcoholic in nature—even without families with a history.
Co-occurring diagnoses are common among people with an experience of addiction. Some young, adult drinkers also have an antisocial personality disorder, making them impulsive, sometimes deceitful, and resistant to responsibility without regard for others’ boundaries.
Functional Adult with Alcoholism
The functional alcoholic does not fit the usual stereotypes that movies and media would have you believe. They usually hold solid jobs and come from high-functioning families, but they nevertheless make up one-fifth of all those with AUD in the US.
Immediate Family and Adult with Alcoholism
Alcoholism has been shown to be generational in many cases. Adults that come from families with alcohol use struggles often also experience depression and anxiety, which makes them targets for coping with alcohol.
Adult with Chronic Severe Alcoholism
Those who began drinking early on and have a number of other dependencies or addictions are rarest. With 75% having alcoholism in their family, they often endure many mental health challenges that make personalized treatment most effective.
Choose Private Alcoholism Treatment from The Recovery Team
Research shows the most effective addiction treatment is specific to the patient’s needs. The Recovery Team offers the spectrum of evidence-based treatments for your unique recovery from alcohol abuse. Depending on your needs, treatment can involve residential stays, partial hospitalization, outpatient programs, and more.Recover your personal power, and contact The Recovery Team at (800) 817-1247 to take your first step toward freedom from addiction.
Let’s get you or a loved one help with a few simple steps.