When the topic of alcoholism arises, most think of the behaviors that accompany alcoholism. However, physical symptoms can often be quite apparent, especially in those who struggle with chronic alcohol abuse. Knowing how to spot physical symptoms, like an alcoholic face, can help you recognize alcoholism in others or even develop greater awareness of your own addiction. However, the conversation around physical symptoms of chronic alcoholism isn’t without its own unique set of challenges.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at alcoholism, the physical symptoms like face changes that come with chronic alcoholism, and why context and taking a look at the whole picture matters when it comes to the physical symptoms of alcoholism.
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alcoholism, also referred to as alcohol use disorder, is a medical condition characterized by an inability to get a handle on or put a stop to alcohol use, even if individuals face consequences related to their health, their relationships, or their professional lives.
Speaking to the health side of alcoholism, chronic alcohol use can manifest physically in a number of ways, causing weight gain, changes in coordination, and changes in the face. It’s important to remember that alcoholism is a complex disease, and while it can exhibit certain symptoms, to believe that someone is an alcoholic alone based on symptoms that could manifest in a number of other conditions could be dangerous.
Alcoholism can only be diagnosed when all or most of the systemic symptoms are present. More importantly, those who are struggling with alcoholism will only get help when they are motivated and ready to.
Common Physical Signs in the Face Associated With Chronic Alcohol Abuse
Numerous physical symptoms can manifest in the face as a result of chronic alcoholism.
The most commonly associated face issues that occur due to alcoholism include the alcohol flush reaction that’s caused by the body’s inability to digest all the alcohol one has consumed as well as spider veins caused by over-dilated blood vessels. However, other symptoms often include swelling due to water retention (and a larger face due to overall weight gain), excessive sweating, infections and skin sores due to skin dryness and a reduced immune response, and jaundice caused by liver problems.
While many struggling with alcoholism are focused predominantly on the mental and social or professional challenges presented by their addiction, there are those who recognize the symptoms in their face, identifying changes like jaundice and an overall unhealthy appearance that only changes with treatment.
Limits in Identifying Alcoholism Based on Appearance
All substances that are commonly abused produce some sort of physical changes over time. Health problems are inevitable with alcohol abuse. But while alcoholics may exhibit physical symptoms that are visible in their faces or elsewhere in their bodies, you can’t diagnose alcoholism solely by these traits alone.
The reality is that many conditions can share common physical symptoms, and misdiagnosing can subject individuals to unwanted stigmas that are not true in their case. For example, those who have tremors are not necessarily alcoholics. They could be suffering from a neurological disorder that prevents them from moving around steadily. Equally, jaundice in the face or eyes could be a result of issues with the liver that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption. Even more importantly, some alcoholics may not display the same physical symptoms that others do, proving it’s not always a reliable indicator for everyone.
While physical appearance can be helpful in identifying alcoholism when other common traits and symptoms are present, chronic alcohol abuse requires a professional diagnosis in order to avoid misdiagnosing others and getting them the proper care they need.
Impact of Stereotyping and Stigmatization
Shame often accompanies alcohol abuse, but the internal shame that one may experience is vastly different from the social ostracization, stigmatization, and mistreatment that’s delivered by those around them.
Misidentifying someone as an alcoholic can do a number on their mental health. Not only does it make them feel more self-conscious as they have physical struggles that you’ve now associated with alcoholism, but they may feel cut off from relationships and ridiculed behind their back by the people who take the idea and run with it. Even if you recognize an alcoholic based on symptoms and your assumptions are true, judging them can cause them to sink further into their addiction instead of encouraging them to get the help they need.
The topic should be approached with extreme care, and, should someone be struggling with chronic alcohol abuse, empathy and support in order to help them take the next steps toward recovery so they can live the lives they deserve.
When to Seek Help
So, what do you do when you have someone in your life who you think may be struggling with alcoholism because of physical symptoms? Being kind and having a conversation about those physical symptoms can be an excellent first step, allowing you to learn more about what they’re going through and whether or not it’s associated with alcohol abuse.
If they do open up and confide in you, letting them know that you’re there for them and that there are resources that can help them get the help they need can give them the strength they need to start overcoming their addiction. Remember not to be judgemental or assume how they feel or what they’re going through. Instead, be the helpful listener who shows them that help is available and that they can depend on you as they embark on their healing journey.
Alcoholism is a disease that affects an individual on every level, including their physical appearance. But while health issues and changes in the face can be an indicator of chronic alcohol abuse, it’s not the perfect indicator on its own. Being sensitive about health issues and realizing that a proper diagnosis and rehabilitation are needed makes it easier to broach the topic without judgment or assumptions.
Are you or someone you know struggling with an alcohol addiction? If so, Live Free Recovery is here to offer the support you or someone close to you needs, regardless of whether it comes in the form of detox, inpatient care, or outpatient care. Contact us today to begin your journey.
Published on: 2023-12-20
Updated on: 2024-01-18