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  • Unfortunately, drinking problems don’t just affect one type of person. They can develop in those with vastly different personality types, ages, income or education levels, races, religions, and genders.

    While alcohol use disorders (AUDs) can develop for a variety of reasons and may impact each person’s drinking habits differently, there are a number of distinct signs and symptoms that are widely associated with alcoholic behavior.

    Here are ten warning signs of alcoholism:

    1. Lying About Drinking

    Substance abuse naturally turns you inward, making you more deceptive, secretive, and sensitive. This is especially true when you feel guilt or shame over your drinking or its consequences, and when you are aware that your friends or family are concerned.

    This may lead you to lie about drinking alcohol, either claiming that you haven’t had any, or that you drank a lesser amount of alcohol.

    2. Justifying Alcohol Use

    Increasing emotional sensitivity and defensiveness as a result of substance use can also lead to justifications. 

    You might try to convince others (or yourself) that you don’t have a problem (when you do), that your use of alcohol is under control (when it isn’t), or that a specific occasion for your drinking was normal and justified (when it wasn’t).

    3. Drinking Alone

    While a majority of American adults consume alcohol on a yearly basis, most of this consumption is moderate drinking in a social setting.

    Spending a lot of time binge drinking while isolated from others, on the other hand, is a major sign of alcohol addiction.

    4. Building A High Tolerance

    The more you drink the more your body will begin to adapt to the effects of alcohol. This is known as tolerance, and if you have an AUD, it means that you’ll need to drink more alcohol in one sitting in order to feel the same level of intoxication or relaxation.

    Unfortunately, as your tolerance increases over time your level of alcohol dependence will likely increase as well.

    5. Drinking More Than Intended

    Addiction is, by definition, compulsive. Whether that means it’s difficult to manage or entirely out of your control depends on your situation. 

    Regardless, if you tell yourself that you’re going easy and then surge past those limits and spiral out of control (both in terms of drinking and behavior), it means that you likely have a drinking problem.  

    6. Impaired Memory

    Alcohol affects the brain both in the long- and short-term. In the short term, this can mean blackouts. 

    In the long term, it can cause permanent memory dysfunction (brain damage) and greatly increase your risk of developing a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, and dementia.  

    7. Daily Drinking

    Those who aren’t dependent on alcohol drink because they choose to. Those with AUD drink because they need to.

    Daily drinking represents another common alcoholic tendency and signals that you’re losing your ability to control your alcohol consumption—it starts to control you. 

    It also means that you’re increasing your risk of developing significant health problems associated with alcohol misuse including heart disease, high blood pressure, cirrhosis/liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, and impaired immune system function.

    8. Changing Appearance

    Have you started to let yourself go because of your drinking?

    Those struggling with severe AUD may be caught in an endless cycle of compulsive intoxication and despondent hangovers, making it hard to worry about little things like clean clothes, hair, skin, odor, dental hygiene, weight gain or weight loss, hydration, or nutrition.

    Many others, however, are able to feed their addiction while keeping up their external appearance, making it difficult for those around them to recognize the issue.

    9. Taking Risks

    How many bad decisions have you made because you were drinking?

    Heavy drinking is strongly associated with life-threatening car accidents, drownings, violence, unprotected sex, sexual assault, birth defects, and alcohol poisoning.

    Compulsive drinking can also end up costing you and your loved ones in terms of legal problems, finances, employment, academic performance, trust, and respect.

    10. The Shakes

    If you go without alcohol, do you start to feel side effects like tremors, sweating, or palpitations? Do you get cranky or anxious? Do you start to see or hear things that aren’t there?

    If you have AUD, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will likely be a never-ending threat until you stop drinking and get help.

    If you believe that you or a loved one has alcohol use disorder, please consider addiction treatment. To learn about our comprehensive alcohol treatment programs, including medical detox services, contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    American Psychiatric Association (APA) - The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5)
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol's Effects on the Body
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on May 20, 2022
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