Alcohol Addiction

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Alcohol addiction is a disease that has a variety of symptoms that can harm an individual’s health, interpersonal relationships and ability to perform well at work. Common signs that a person’s relationship with alcohol has become an addiction include repeatedly neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol in dangerous situations (e.g. while driving), legal problems arising due to alcohol usage, continued drinking despite relationship issues and/or drinking to de-stress. A few other common signs of an alcohol addiction include:

Physical signs and symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Slurred speech, inability to concentrate
  • Not remembering conversations or commitments
  • Building tolerance
  • Withdrawal when alcohol is unavailable
  • Liver damage

Emotional/Interpersonal signs and symptoms

● Relationships affected by alcohol use
● Diminished performance at work
● Inability to follow through with commitments
● Loss of control

While it is common for an individual to indulge in a cold beer after a long day to de-stress, unfortunately, it is also common for this behavior to snowball into an addiction. This is largely because a person’s tolerance to alcohol (as with other addictive substances) develops over time, causing that cold beer to not have the same effect as it did the day before and thus the individual must consume more alcohol to have the same desired effect.

Other red flags of an alcohol addiction include withdrawal symptoms (e.g. nausea) when alcohol is not available, loss of control, a desire to stop but an inability to do so, neglecting other activities and continued alcohol use despite negative consequences. For example, if an alcoholic gets a DUI or runs into similar legal trouble as a result of his or her drinking, yet continues to indulge in alcoholic behavior, this is a sign that the individual has little to no control over alcohol intake and needs help.

While all of the above signs are common, it is also possible for someone to exhibit very few of these as a high-functioning alcoholic meaning they can function at a high level in their personal and/or professional lives, despite an addiction to alcohol. A high-functioning alcoholic does not fit the typical alcoholic stereotype and can often go unnoticed. Since this individual has not suffered financially or had legal consequences as a result of the addiction, it is also easy for the high-functioning alcoholic to live in denial and shrug off any notion that there is a problem. However, this kind of alcoholic’s actions and dependence on alcohol still have severe effects on his or her loved ones and personal health, which the individual is either unaware or unwilling to address.

However, there are still some behavioral signs to look for in a high-functioning alcoholic. These individuals like to surround themselves with others who drink in high volumes. Alcohol becomes an obsession and the ability to consume just one drink is not possible. Similar signs include finishing other people’s drinks and trying to quit drinking but failing. Other notable behaviors include uncharacteristically skipping social events , missing deadlines at work, displaying a lack of focus and insomnia.

Many alcoholics, whether high-functioning or not, experience shame over their drunken behavior. Blacking out (and memory loss, as a result) is common with overconsumption and is a sign that the drinker has lost control of his or her habit. However, high-functioning alcoholics are especially ashamed of overt drunkenness, as this does not fit with their social image. They fear being out of control, which is something that is ultimately inevitable with that level of alcohol consumption.

Drinking alone or hiding alcohol consumption is a common way that those suffering from alcohol addiction might try to hide the problem. For this reason, alcohol could be kept in unusual places. Drinking becomes a ritual and the individual might become irritable when access is denied.

Furthermore, using alcohol to numb, relax or self-medicate is a form of alcohol abuse. Abusing alcoholic substances can quickly lead to addiction when this abuse becomes more frequent. However, it is important to make the distinction between someone who abuses alcohol and an “alcoholic.” Someone might abuse alcohol occasionally, which is very dangerous and can lead to addiction, however, alcohol addiction is characterized by a high frequency of drinking and an obsession with alcohol.

If you know someone who abuses alcohol, it is important to help them address his or her unhealthy relationship with the substance before it snowballs into alcoholism. Someone suffering from alcohol addiction might exhibit almost all or only a few of the above symptoms. It is important to realize that, in the context of addiction, any combination of these warning signs should not be taken lightly. To learn more about alcohol addiction or treatment you can call the Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline at 866-220-5381 for more information.