When most people hear the word, “alcoholism,” they are probably thinking of someone sitting on the floor, drunk, holding a bottle, and slurring words. But the reality is, signs of alcoholism aren’t always that obvious.
According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, drinking problems affect more than 17 million adults in the United States. Also, more than 10 percent of U.S. children live in a household with alcohol problems. And it’s not just a problem affecting working adults either, the Caron Treatment Center in Philadelphia shares, “widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in the U.S.” Alcoholism is a disorder that is color blind and age blind.
If you suspect someone you love has a drinking problem, take notice of these common signs and behaviors of alcohol abusers so you can get them the help they need.
How to Recognize Signs of Alcoholism :
As we mentioned before, signs of alcohol addiction are not always obvious. They differ depending on the person that is being affected and the severity of the disorder. To make it even more complicated, there are also different types of alcohol disorders.
The one that most of us think of is “alcoholism,” which is when a person feels they cannot function normally without alcohol. They have to drink to get through the day.
The other type of alcohol disorder is “alcohol abuse” where a person cannot control the amount of drinking once they start, which often leads to harmful behavior either towards themselves or other people.
Although signs of each disorder are slightly different, they are not mutually exclusive. Below are some of the ways they are different and the same.
Signs of Alcoholism :
When people with alcoholism go on without alcohol, they feel as if they’re being deprived. They have trouble functioning in their normal lives and will exhibit real signs of withdrawal. These include anxiety, nausea, insomnia, shaking, sweating, and irritability. When they are drinking, they’ll display these signs:
Hiding Alcohol :
The person stashes away alcohol in places alcohol wouldn’t normally be kept (laundry room, work drawer, car, etc.).
Denying or Lying About Drinking :
When confronted, the person will deny they have a problem or flat out lie about their drinking problem. They will be annoyed by comments about their drinking.
Strong Cravings for Alcohol :
The affected person is physically and mentally addicted to the substance and will do anything they can to get a sip which is why they hide them everywhere.
Inability to Stop Drinking :
Alcohol is an ongoing event. The person might not binge drink every time, but they are always either drinking or thinking about their next drink.
Drinks Alone :
Since the person doesn’t want to be judged or criticized for their drinking problem, they’ll choose to drink alone. This person might even feel ashamed of their own behavior but still cannot seem to stop. The alcohol controls them.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse :
Alcohol abuse is different from alcoholism in that the person suffering from it does not necessarily feel like they have to drink all the time. However, when they do drink, they cannot control the amount of alcohol they drink. As a result, they also often end up making poor decisions and engage in risky behaviors. Some common signs of alcohol abuse are:
Drinking to Cope With Stress :
People who abuse alcohol often start drinking because they are having trouble dealing with problems related to work, relationships, or school.
Drinking to Relax :
They might be the coworker or friend who’s always at the bar after work because the truth is, they don’t know how to relax without alcohol.
They Hurt Other People :
Since people who abuse alcohol have trouble stopping, they often binge drink to the point where they lose self-control, and they will do or say things that hurt other people. Alcohol abuse also often exacerbates other types of abuse that might be going on.
Person Blacks out and Cannot Remember What They Did :
As a result of binge drinking, this person might also black out and suffer from short-term memory loss, which creates further resentment for those who were on the receiving end of their hurtful actions and words.
Engage in Risky Behavior :
It’s not uncommon for people suffering from alcohol abuse to end up in jail for driving under the influence and other types of illegal actions.
Signs of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse :
Now that we’ve gone over some of the different signs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, here are some signs that are the same.
Relationship Problems :
People with alcohol disorders commonly have problems with family, friends, and intimate partners. Sometimes they conduct physical, sexual, or verbal abuse. Severe alcohol disorders can break apart marriages and families.
Neglecting Responsibilities :
Depending on the severity of the problem, the abuser might start to neglect responsibilities at work or at home. They start prioritizing drinking over everything else.
Mental Illness Develops or Surfaces :
People with prolonged alcohol disorders will often develop other mental illnesses because they probably started drinking due to a problem that they could not solve or cope with in the first place. If this is the case, a dual diagnosis treatment might be needed.
Know the Signs So You Can Help :
Now that you know what signs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse look like, you will be able to help the person whom you suspect might be having a drinking problem better. Just remember that when you confront them, they might become angry at you and completely deny it. They might say hurtful things to try to get you to back off, but you must remember that these are all signs that just confirm a drinking problem.
And remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. If it’s too much for you to handle, share it with a family or friend and seek professional help together for this person. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are devastating disorders but what is more devastating is giving up on someone who deserves a second chance.
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