Addiction is a disease of several brain regions that regulate moods, determine decision-making priorities needed for survival and control behaviours. For instance, when these parts are functioning normally, they tell us to seek food when we are hungry or water when we are thirsty.
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However, alcohol can modify brain function in such a way that a person senses an irresistible desire to seek out and consume these substances. People experiencing alcohol addiction are usually called addicts while health-care professionals refer to alcohol addiction or alcoholism as substance use disorders.
The mental disorder aspect created by the recurrent use of alcohol that creates a blurred and distorted sense of reality differentiates alcohol addiction from so many other diseases. It also encourages you with unusual behaviour that typically interrupts your healthy relationships with your loved ones and often includes deviation from moral value systems and societal norms.
Furthermore, when you are experiencing an alcohol addiction condition that has a deep-seated sense of inadequacy, it will often result in financial irresponsibility with your lifestyle well beyond your means.
Related article: How to Overcome Alcohol Addiction
Social environment and alcohol addiction
There is a close relationship concerning customary practices in society and the actions of its residents. The link can be illustrated as a feedback mechanism where the norms induce activities by infuriating informal restrictions for any divergence from the existing norms. Furthermore, more prevalent and continuing variations from the existing practices will react to the norms and change them.
Practices clearly differ in relation to social situations. Medical experts perceived huge disparity in how people support average drinking and intoxication in every day and work situations against the holiday and in party circumstances.
But we also address drinking behaviours in a more comprehensive manner, assessing of how frequent it is suitable to drink, how common it is allowed to get drunk, whether the drinking occurs in a social setting or in privacy and in these conditions, we usually have very obvious standards about what we distinguish as normal and deviant, use and abuse, acceptable and unacceptable. In other words, an apparent liberal trend in practices for alcohol consumption was clear based on social practices and cultural environment.
Warning signs of alcohol addiction
Friends or family may not always know that a problem exists, but signs of addiction are often visible if you are addicted to alcohol. It is important to be aware of what to look for since early detection and intervention increase the opportunity for long-term recovery. There are a variety of common signs of addiction that serve as red flags that indicate if you are battling an addiction.
There are various forms of early warning signs of alcohol addiction and can be classified as social, physical and emotional signs that must be diagnosed early so that proper treatment and intervention can be done immediately.
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Social warning signs are the simplest signs to distinguish because there are more of them than any other classification. Some of these signs are as follows:
- Trouble with the law
- Twisted priorities
- Affected relationships
- Telling lies
- Making excuses
- Bad company
- Drinking alone
- Poor performance
The level of manifestation of each of the aforementioned warning signs varies depending on the level of addiction by a person.
Engaging in Legal Trouble
Engaging in legal trouble due to excessive drinking habits is the distinct most noticeable social sign of alcohol addiction. We are not referring to your one – time wrongdoing back when you are drunk but we are talking about your arrest for criminal charges or public intoxication as a result of being inebriated.
For instance, you assault someone while you were drunk or robbed a convenience store due to the alcohol influence when or else you never would have. Technically, you may be considered as an alcohol dependent person if the law is conscious of your bad drinking habit. In other words, your drinking lifestyle is unhealthy if alcohol has engaged you into legal problems.
It gives your family and friends a reason for serious investigation if you are charged with public drunkenness or arrested for driving under alcohol influence. Even though you were not considered addicted to alcohol and may be detained for drunk driving, it is almost obvious that if you are arrested twice for the same violation, you are already considered addicted to alcohol.
This notion derives from the truth that most people will do everything needed to assure that they will not be arrested again. You are already vulnerable to controlling yourself from drinking and will eventually drink and drive regardless of the risk of unfavourable consequences
Consider your priorities twisted if and when drinking alcohol prevails over your everyday life responsibilities. Failing to perform obligations at work or school making drinking a priority, despite your responsibilities, resulting in skipped work or school is a serious social manifestation of alcohol addiction. Furthermore, if you are considered as addicted to alcohol, you will lose track of your friendships and family time while prioritizing your drinking sessions.
Aside from that, you tend to make alcohol the central element of your life. For instance, you tend to avoid people or social situations where alcohol consumption is prohibited. Most of the time, you look for the company of those who share the same bad habits as yours and this involves drinking too much on a regular basis.
Spending a lot of money on alcohol even borrowing or getting seriously in debt to pay for drinks, spending a lot of time recovering from binge drinking such as having hangovers and going to great lengths to obtain certain types of alcoholic beverages are another ways of making alcohol as the central element of your life.
In other words, your entire life revolves around drinking alcoholic beverages and the gratification and personal satisfaction it gives you when consuming this product on a regular basis while leaving other important matters behind. Problematic drinking occurs while or instead of doing all other things whereas responsible drinking occurs once all other things are taken care of.
As an adult, alcohol should never prevail in meeting your duties and responsibilities and should never be a priority. Relentless cases include abandoning your family and friends due to drinking, wasting your money on buying alcohol, and/or preferring drinking over going to work. Drinking instead of participating in social events or replacing healthy hobbies with getting drunk which affects relationships are also negative repercussions of being addicted to alcohol.
When drinking starts to negatively impact your personal relationships, negative consequences will follow. It might begin with an annoyed wife/husband or partner who wants you to stop drinking, you might start neglecting your children slowly and if you don’t have kids or a significant other, maybe you are abandoning your friends. Worst case scenario, maybe you are not abandoning at all, but being unfairly violent instead. Drinking alcohol in excess causes you to be argumentative, irritable, and even rude toward others or to yourself.
The family life of an alcoholic person is rarely a happy one. Regular disagreements and hassle are to be anticipated due to your behaviour of being self-centred and capriciousness. Acting out in sexually unhealthy ways and recurring marital betrayal can be your common problems too.
You may be developing alcoholism or alcohol addiction if you find that your relationship with others, or with yourself, is being damaged by alcohol. You will have a propensity to depart from your old friends who do not drink peculiarly and from members of your own family. Drinking should never influence the way you live with the people you see regularly, particularly those you love.
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If you find yourself lying about your drinking habits to others, this is a warning sign of alcohol addiction. Those who are not at risk of developing an addiction to alcohol will feel no need to hide their drinking habits. This also ties into the previous sign, as lying will eventually corrode your relationships.
You will do whatever is necessary to preserve your addiction. If you acknowledged the seriousness of your addiction and the pain you are causing, you would have a difficult time continuing down the same path. Your logic becomes – “I need to do whatever’s necessary to keep people off my back so I can continue to drink. In turn, lying becomes a matter of self-preservation”.
Furthermore, you completely alter your life to the point you had become unrecognizable to yourself and to others. The reality of the situation is often too painful to face, so you construct a reality where your drinking habits really aren’t a problem. You usually say, “I can stop drinking at any point” when in reality, you drink to the point of blacking out every night. You say you had landed a great new job when in reality you are barely scraping by and are homeless.
You may say you have worked late when you really spent time at a bar or you may say you have only had one beer when you have actually had many more. Lying is common among people with alcohol addiction and this dishonesty can be intentional or unintentional on your part. You may lie to simultaneously maintain your drinking habits and your relationships with families and friends. You may also engage in evasion, deception and manipulation to distort the truth about your alcoholism and this is part of your addiction.
Your friends and family almost always confront you about your drinking problem. Your loved ones ask questions and in turn, get angry. The stress of confrontation is often overwhelming for you and because you often don’t have mature coping skills, addicts often do or say whatever it takes to avoid disappointing your loved ones.
In a society that stigmatizes alcohol addiction, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you lie to stay alive and keep your bad drinking habits safe. Due to alcohol addiction, you often want to avoid confrontation because you have used your addictive behaviour as a coping strategy for so long and you often don’t have other well-developed ways of dealing with the stresses of life. It is a part of your defence mechanism and the way you keep yourself moving forward.
Addiction is often accompanied by denial. Denial makes it possible for the addict to continue his habits in the face of serious negative consequences. Justifying excessive drinking can be pretty easy for an alcoholic. Basically, if you find yourself making excuses in order to drink more, there’s a definite chance you are developing a problem.
Under the influence of alcohol, you tend to employ a certain set of excuses when it comes to facing your destructive behaviour. The reason that you exhibit this behaviour may simply be due to the fact that you share certain personality traits and psychological vulnerabilities which drew you to alcohol in the first place. Thus, you have already suffered significant negative consequences from your drinking will honestly deny that you have a serious problem with alcohol.
One of your most denial mechanisms is asking “what is the problem?” which is one of the primitive and unconscious excuses. It is classified as a psychotic defence mechanism because it distorts reality itself. Technically, you are literally out of touch with reality. You are genuinely offended by what you perceive as irrational attacks from those who suggest that you have a problem.
In addition, another most common excuse of a person addicted to alcohol is “I’m not that bad”. Fundamentally, you work to minimize and downplay problems associated with your drinking habits. You may acknowledge negative consequences but will always adamantly maintain that you are not that bad.
In a culture where drinking alcohol is such a big part of socializing, saying no can make you feel left out or like you are not having as much fun. Thus, peer pressure is one of the fundamental reasons why you are engaged with alcohol addiction, especially for teenagers and young adolescents.
It is often difficult for you to ignore social pressures, and peer pressure can have a massive influence on your behaviours and actions and peer pressure can have a significant impact on your alcohol consumption which leads to addiction. If you find your friend group to consist of heavy drinkers, and if you find that you and your friends often get drunk when together, this may be an issue.
However, this is a different kind of social warning sign altogether. Friendships are acquired over a lifetime, and the issue of surrounding yourself with a bad company can be a touchy one. However, you should always be your top priority. If you find that you associate with people who drink often, take a timeout – or reconsider the friendships because you may have a problem with alcohol developing or waiting to develop.
Drinking heavily alone is arguably worse than drinking heavily with pals. Drinking alone, or isolating yourself because of your drinking, is an explicit warning sign of alcoholism and non-alcoholics rarely get intoxicated alone. We don’t mean that one time you bought a bottle of liquor because your ex dumped you and you drank it alone in front of the TV. We mean getting drunk alone for no good reason and solo drinking is already considered as problem drinking.
Sometimes, you take your drinks by yourself due to a sense of shame and guilt regarding alcohol. Aside from that, you also take solitary consumption to beat loneliness and hide from society. This severe form of social anxiety can lead you to an inability to function normally. When uncontrolled, your habit of drinking alone can result in alcoholism in such people.
People who drink alone can be dangerous for others around them. Drunk driving, drunken behaviour and fights (especially in men), and vandalism are some of the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. Without your friends or family around, these incidents are more likely to spin out of control.
The final social warning sign of alcohol addiction comes if and when you find your performance at school or work suffering due to alcohol. Replacing study time with that of drinking time, or being in a state of hangover thus you can’t function at work properly, could indicate alcohol. Evidence has found that alcohol, and in particular heavy drinking, increases the risk of unemployment and, for those in work, absenteeism.
Excessive alcohol drinking could have a huge negative impact on your work performance like that of increasing the risk of arriving late at work and leaving early or disciplinary suspension, resulting in loss of productivity, a higher turnover due to premature death, disciplinary problems or low productivity from the use of alcohol, inappropriate behavior such as behavior resulting in disciplinary procedures, theft and other crime, poor co-worker relations and low company morale. This links back to having twisted priorities. If your performance is poor because of alcohol, then it’s likely your drinking habits are poor as well.
Related article: How to Overcome Alcohol Addiction?
The physical warning signs of alcoholism are relatively straightforward. Although most of them could be exhibited by a non-alcoholic, this is why they are warning signs. Hence, it is imperative that you must pay close attention to this section as your health may be heavily affected by it. These physical warning signs include:
- High tolerance
- No limit
- Memory loss
- Drinking on a daily basis
- Risky business
- Changes in physical appearance
- Physical withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol can only be processed by the human body in limited quantities, but the body’s biochemistry is rather adaptable. People with a history of sustained alcohol intake are notably more resistant to drunkenness than are those who drink infrequently or in moderation and composure to alcoholic drinks can also be practiced to an extent.
Heavy alcohol drinkers will almost always exhibit high levels of alcohol tolerance and can avoid appearing obviously drunk once the alcohol sets in. This is not a superhuman quality by any measure but rather a natural biological response to high-volume alcohol intake.
If you have noticed you never seem to “get drunk” and you remain seemingly unimpaired following two or three drinks, it’s possible your tolerance has been strengthening as your will to abstain from alcohol has been weakening.
Recognizing as much is crucial were seeking treatment is concerned and none of this is to say that resistance to drunkenness is a definitive sign of alcohol addiction. A healthy, athletic body might also be less prone to inebriation than an unhealthy counterpart, as metabolism and muscle mass contribute greatly to human biochemistry.
Even so, a heavy drinker will generally have some awareness of their higher-than-average tolerance. If it does apply to you, register that awareness responsibly.
Building a high tolerance to alcohol is a very bad sign. This denotes that your body has become used to the presence of alcohol, and will require more and more to attain intoxication. The higher your tolerance, the more likely you are an alcoholic and it really is that blunt. Nobody should have to consume a huge volume of alcohol in his/her body in order to achieve a buzz.
Drinking more than you intended to is a sign of alcohol abuse. Drinking until you literally can’t drink anymore is a sign of alcoholism. Those in control of their drinking are able to set limits and not exceed them. Alcohol dependents are literally incapable of adhering to such limits.
If you find yourself constantly craving another drink, regardless of the intoxication level, check yourself. Alcoholism may be getting the best of you. Depending on gender, body shape, age, and other factors, limits are different for each individual. Hence, a person must know his/her own limits to prevent alcohol abuse.
Memory loss from drinking, whether for one night or for years, is a surefire warning sign of alcohol addiction. To blackout from booze means two things. First, you have consumed enough alcohol to give yourself temporary amnesia and second, you are well on your way to becoming an alcoholic. Memory loss is an extremely common symptom of alcoholism and with persistent heavy drinking over years, permanent forms of amnesia can develop.
Drinking on a Daily Basis
When you drink too much on a regular basis or become addicted to alcohol, you often experience far more life-altering effects as time passes. Sometimes, you may even find relationships, careers, and other major parts of your lives are falling apart because of how alcohol has affected your mood, your behaviour, and, more importantly, your choices.
If you drink alcohol on a daily basis, chances are you are alcohol dependent. Even a couple of beers, if consumed every night, are at least a warning sign of an alcoholic dependent behaviour. Nobody should consume alcohol every day – not even that fabled glass of red wine. This is one of the most common early signs of alcohol dependence and it is caused by the fact that you do not have a very stable state of mind to deal with life issues.
Furthermore, you could either reject responsibilities or avoid them altogether. This happens because you spend a lot of time in alcohol-related activities such as drinking, having hangovers, etc. and obviously can lead to serious problems in the long run if left unattended.
Medical studies are beginning to show how even that can negatively affect your health. If you find yourself getting drunk every day, then you absolutely are an alcohol dependent person. You need to seek help immediately, for your own sake.
When drinking has gotten out of your control, there are several risky behaviours that alcohol-dependent people will do. While alcohol can cause you to exhibit risky behaviours, it is when this becomes a daily occurrence for you that it needs to be investigated and addressed. Drinking behaviours are things you do while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol changes how your brain functions so you might commit hurtful or illegal acts unintentionally while drunk.
If you drink alcohol in dangerous situations or in places where drinking is inappropriate, this is a warning sign of alcohol addiction. The single riskiest behaviour associated with drinking is driving and driving under the influence is never acceptable. We mean repeatedly driving under the influence of alcohol.
Furthermore, things, like sneaking alcohol into the movies, going to school drunk, or secretly drinking at night when everyone is asleep, are warning signs. In addition, other risky behaviours that you may show are abusive acts including your emotional, physical and verbal abuse. Moreover, you are more likely to start fights or physical assaults with others, you become illogical and say hurtful things with no recollection the next day, irresponsible sexual activity such as unprotected sex and sexual assault and commit crimes among others.
Changes in Physical Appearance
If you are falling behind on your hygiene because of drinking, or if you find your appearance becoming shoddy due to drinking, you may just want to stop drinking. This is a sign of alcohol dependence.
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
If you find yourself waking up feeling hungover but did not drink the night before, you may be experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which is a very serious sign of alcohol dependence. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can have a wide variety of symptoms, depending on how much alcohol you normally drank, your body type, sex, age, and any underlying medical conditions.
If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s a sign that you are becoming physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependence is the most serious form of a drinking problem and can lead to a whole range of serious health problems and symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.
When you are suffering from alcohol dependence, you may experience a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink and feel you are unable to function normally without alcohol in your body system. You may encounter alcohol withdrawal symptoms that usually start within hours after you stop drinking, peak in a day or two, and improve within five days.
But in some alcoholic dependent individuals, withdrawal is not just unpleasant but it can also be life-threatening. You may experience signs and symptoms which include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, disorientation, anxiety, fatigue and occasionally seizures.
Related article: Alcohol Addiction Treatment That Works
Lastly, we have the emotional warning signs of alcoholism, which aren’t as obvious as, say, skipping work or drinking at church. These are signs that need to be evaluated in order to ensure that alcohol is the source. Otherwise, they may just be the result of something else in your life. The warning signs included in this category were as follows:
- Concerning others
- Emotional imbalance
- Emotional withdrawal symptoms
One of the first signs of alcohol abuse is that you tend not to acknowledge this problem and start to rationalize your bad behaviour. Drinking too much will definitely lead you to physical signs of alcohol abuse and you usually ignore the symptoms or try to convince others that everything is under your control. You also complain that your friends and relatives are exaggerating when pointing out this bad habit of yours.
There are other ways you tend to deny the issue and that is by blaming others for your various problems. In some cases, you point out a stressful job or relationship as the source for your bad drinking habits. In addition, you also try to rationalize this behaviour by finding lame excuses to get drunk such as going to a friend’s birthday party, attending a live event, etc.
Because denial is common, you may not feel like you have a problem with drinking. You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Hence, it is imperative that you must listen to your relatives, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help because they are just concerned with your well – being.
In addition, you may consider talking with someone who has had a problem drinking but has stopped so that you have a support group system who is someone who understands your situation.
Another noteworthy emotional warning sign of alcohol dependence is feeling shame about your drinking. If you feel this way, you have likely crossed the line from a drinker to an addict, and this applies to all substance addictions. Shame brought on by consuming a substance is a strong indicator of addiction. Shame is one of the most difficult emotions for many to cope with, and it is also one of the most traumatic.
While alcohol can temporarily mask shame with false feelings, it also causes many individuals to engage in reckless or foolish behaviours that can later cause them to feel even greater shame, which can cause a downward spiral. Shame brings with it a profound sense of separation from others and yourself. With shame, you lose touch with parts of yourself and you feel disconnected from everything.
Concerning others is another warning sign that actually has nothing to do with you. It involves those you know. If your family or friends or coworkers are concerned with your drinking, you may be considered an alcoholic. Sometimes it’s easier for others to see your problem and if you have others concerned for you, then you may want to take a closer look in your current condition.
Oftentimes, your family members and close friends feel obligated to cover your drinking problem. Hence, they take on the burden of cleaning up your messes, lying for you, or working more to make ends meet. Pretending that nothing is wrong and hiding away all of their fears and resentments can take an enormous toll. Above all, your children are the utmost sensitive individuals and can suffer long-lasting emotional trauma when you are an alcoholic or heavy drinker.
Alcohol dependent individuals tend to experience mood swings and to not be able to maintain one emotion for very long. You commonly find yourself having mood swings or being irritable, either because you feel guilty about your drinking habits or because you don’t like when people question your drinking habits. In alcoholics, the emotional imbalance will flare if you were unable to drink. If you feel your emotional balance being disturbed when not drinking, chances are you are developing an addiction.
If you have to literally defend your drinking to someone, provided that someone is reasonable, then you very well may be an alcoholic. In other words, you rationalize your actions and projects blame in an attempt to distance yourself from the consequences of your actions. No responsible drinker should have to argue for how much he or she has consumed. Defending your sobriety while drunk is even more indicative of an alcohol addiction problem.
In some situations, you find another defence based on self-pity. Because others usually have trouble excusing you for your behaviour and its destructive consequences, you usually become resentful and believe that no one really understands you. You typically use this reasoning as a defensive mechanism to excuse your more extreme behaviours.
Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms
Your clearest problem indicator of being alcohol-dependent is likely to privately experience alcohol withdrawals. These are your body’s involuntary responses to an absence of alcohol which can manifest both your psychological and physiological state.
You have emotional feelings of anxiety and depression which are common signs for those suffering from alcohol withdrawal. It is not normal to feel sad or upset without booze and you tend to crave drinking so much that without it, they feel depressed because the brain is malfunctioning
When these sensations follow even a brief period of alcohol abstinence, the signs of alcoholism are very much in evidence. Persistent withdrawal symptoms can result in poor overall health and an inability to maintain mental focus. They also lead to more drinking, as the temporary relief it brings can prove difficult to resist for many high-functioning alcoholics. You should not dismiss or outright ignore this most serious sign of high-functioning alcoholism.
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Treatment and Intervention
Treating alcohol abuse begins by helping you understand that you have a problem and needs help and intervention. Many people with alcohol-dependent disorder hesitate to get treatment because they don’t recognize they have a problem.
An intervention from loved ones can help you recognize and accept that you need professional help. Once you want to stop drinking alcohol, treatment can take place in various settings such as a hospital inpatient program where the treatment is much more intensive or an outpatient setting such as regular appointments with a counsellor.
Almost all treatment programs view alcohol dependence as a chronic, progressive disease, and most programs insist on complete abstinence from alcohol. If you are recommended for inpatient treatment, you usually begin with detoxification and will be supervised withdrawal from alcohol, usually with the help of medicine to ease you with the dangerous effects of physical withdrawal, including restlessness, agitation, hallucinations, delirium, and seizures. In its most severe form, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening.
Treatment for alcoholism also addresses the medical and psychological consequences of your alcohol addiction. Health professionals counsel you and your loved ones such as family and friends about the nature of addiction and help you find positive alternatives in drinking alcohol. Health professionals also help you cope with any emotional related problems, such as depression, job stress, legal consequences of drinking, or troubled personal relationships.
Maintaining sobriety, often called recovery, is a long-term process that can take many forms. Fellowship and support groups among your family members and friends that will help you during your treatment and intervention are a huge help.
Ongoing counselling and treatment with medicines also play a vital role. Oral medications may be an option for you who want to try a drug to help prevent them from drinking and these medicines disrupt the breakdown of alcohol in your liver, making you feel ill if you drink alcohol.
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