It is very difficult to stay objective when you need to figure out whether you, or a loved one has a drinking problem. Emotions could run high, denials and rationalizations could lead to confusion and it seems difficult to distinguish between what is acceptable and when things go too far.
Even though the boundaries are not clear, problems with drinking are classified as either problem drinkers or alcohol dependence.
Although problem drinkers are not fully addicted to alcohol, their drinking is probably taking its toll on their normal lives. The risk that they may become dependent later is also greatly increased. While many of alcoholism‘s warning signs are technically problem drinking signs, there is a lot of duplication, and recognizing either is concerning.
Here are ten important things to be on the lookout for in both yourself and your loved ones:
Hiding or lying about drinking.
People with alcohol problems often deny that they have a problem, so both alcoholics and problem drinkers regularly drink in secret, or lie about the quantity they drink to make it appear as if it is not an issue. This is difficult to spot for anyone except the individual, but it is nonetheless a sign of a serious problem.
Drinking to feel better or relax.
Nearly all people suffering from addiction abuse do so for emotional reasons. Whether it is depression, stress, anxiety or something else, using alcohol to ease negative emotions is risky as the relief it brings is fleeting at best, and it usually only makes things worse in the longer term. If you tend to drink more after a stressful day, or need a drink to really relax, it is a sign that you need alcohol as an emotional crutch.
Regularly blacking out.
Drinking to such an extent that you can’t recall what happened is a big red flag that there is a problem with alcohol. It simply means that you drank far too much. If this happens to you (or you realize it’s happening to somebody else), ask yourself why you drink so much. There is no need to black out in order to have fun, so there has to be another reason.
Not being able to stop once you’ve started.
If you always have to finish that bottle of wine once you’ve opened it, or drink all the beers you have once you start, it is a sign that you are not in control and you could have a problem.
Drinking in unsafe situations.
Do you drink when you know you shouldn’t? This could be before going to work, when you have to drive, or drinking even if your doctor advised against it. This could be an important sign that you have a drinking problem. Even if nothing has gone wrong yet, you run the risk of serious repercussions whenever you do this. Taking those risks regularly suggests that alcohol is a big priority for you.
If you experience problems at school, work, or with your family as a result of your drinking, there is no doubt that you have a drinking problem. You have crossed the line from the infrequent indulgence to a situation where your everyday functioning is seriously impacted.
Although this is linked to the previous point, in many ways it is more important. If drinking causes problems with friends, your family, or your significant other, it indicates that alcohol is more important than even the most significant people around you. As the last two symptoms are generally signs of an addiction, they might mean that your problem has gone past the problem drinker stage.
Drinking more than you used to without it affecting you.
Tolerance is always a key sign of addiction. If you are able to drink more than before and have to drink more before you get drunk, it is an indication that you are on your way to becoming an alcoholic. Your body experiences alcohol so regularly that it has changed to cope with its effects better.
Withdrawal symptoms are different from hangovers, as it is a reaction to the absence of alcohol, rather than excess alcohol. If you feel tired, irritable, nauseous, depressed, or anxious when you have not had a drink in a while, you could be going through withdrawal. Other signs include loss of appetite, sleeping troubles and trembling or shakiness.
Trying to stop but not being able to.
If you realize that your drinking is a problem (or a loved one has) and you’ve tried to change but have not been successful, you should seriously think about seeking professional help. If you decide to quit drinking, it means that you’re aware of how it impacts on your life. If you are not able to, it shows that there is a big possibility that you’re battling with alcohol addiction.
The last five symptoms on the list point to addiction, rather than problem drinking.
You should note that experiencing one of these signs does not mean for certain that you are an alcoholic or a problem drinker. Experiencing a number of them (or if you notice multiple signs in a loved one), indicates a strong likelihood that your drinking has gone too far.
The road ahead may not be an easy one, but you will one day see that the day you made the decision to seek help is the day your life started changing for the better.