Alcohol use disorder, known by many as alcoholism, is a serious condition where a person cannot manage his or her alcohol consumption. People that suffer from alcoholism are addicted to alcohol and are unable to use this substance in moderation. Unfortunately, this is very harmful to the physical and mental health of the person abusing alcohol. Therefore, it is important to know the warning signs of alcoholism to prevent this condition from taking over your life or the life of someone you love.
First, it’s important to know what alcohol addiction is. Many adults drink alcohol, and this substance is often present at social events or used during pastimes. Therefore, it can be difficult to understand where the line between moderate alcohol use and alcohol abuse is.
When someone is addicted to alcohol, that person drinks to function normally. This is because, first, the body develops a physical dependence on alcohol. This physical dependence is often borne of an individual’s frequent drinking or binge drinking.
Left untreated, alcohol addictions can spiral out of control and affect every part of a person’s life. Alcohol use disorder ranges in severity and is usually classified into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Concerningly, an alcohol use disorder is often progressive and will get worse over time.
A person with a moderate alcohol addiction may eventually develop a severe addiction. This is why early intervention is so important. And to intervene, it’s helpful to know the warning signs of alcoholism.
How an Alcohol Use Disorder is Developed
Alcohol addiction begins when a person fails to moderate his or her alcohol use. That person may drink more than the recommended daily amounts or drink during inappropriate times. However, there are also other factors that may influence whether a person develops an alcohol use disorder or not.
In some cases, an alcohol use disorder can result from the following factors:
- Drinking from an early age: People who begin drinking from a young age are likely to have an alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives.
- Family history of alcoholism: Individuals who have a family member with an alcohol use disorder are likely to develop one themselves. Therefore, early intervention may help prevent the development of alcoholism among people who have family members with the condition.
- Mental Health problems and trauma: Mental health problems and early traumatic experiences may make people more vulnerable to drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Why People Turn to Alcohol
Often, this disorder starts when a person uses alcohol as a way to cope with the stress of life. They may also drink to relieve boredom, socialize or relax after a tough day. Unfortunately, this coping mechanism can transform into a serious addiction that negatively impacts the addicted individual’s wellbeing.
The most common reasons people turn to alcohol include:
Stress is one of the main reasons people turn to alcohol. Problems at work or in a relationship can all contribute to a need to escape from these feelings. The more a person tries to escape from these problems, the bigger they become, though, as alcohol can cause behavioral issues which make problems worse.
Relief from Anxiety
People who suffer from anxiety may try to use alcohol as a way to escape their anxious feelings. Alcohol can actually make these feelings worse, though. As a person drinks, he or she feels less anxious at first, but the alcohol will soon wear off and they are left with more anxiety problems than before drinking began. Oftentimes this leads to drinking more to try to escape the feelings which have been amplified by alcohol consumption.
Coping with Loss
Some people who turn to alcohol do so after the loss of a loved one. This is a time of extreme emotional distress, where a person feels as if they have no control over their happiness. Alcohol can provide a temporary respite from these feelings and give the person a way to cope with the pain which they are going through.
After a traumatic event, some people are able to drink alcohol in moderation, with no problem. But for others, they are unable to control their drinking and end up spiraling out of control. This can lead to an addiction, where the person is constantly trying to escape the memories which haunt them due to a past event that has traumatized them.
The Early Signs of Alcoholism
While alcohol use disorder is a serious condition, early intervention can improve outcomes for people in recovery. Concerningly, the early signs of alcoholism often go unnoticed until the individual develops a problem. Therefore, knowing the early signs of alcoholism can be helpful in identifying this problem in yourself or a loved one. If you are concerned that you or someone close to you is suffering from alcoholism, these are the early warning signs to look for:
Increased Alcohol Tolerance
Over time, the person requires more and more alcohol in order for them to feel its effects. This is because the human body will adjust to the constant consumption of alcohol so that it can become accustomed to the presence of alcohol in your system. Once this tolerance rises, it becomes more difficult for the person to control their intake and they will generally be drinking more in one sitting than they may have done in the past.
Increased Amounts of Drinking
A common early sign of alcoholism is when someone starts drinking more often or drinks larger amounts in one sitting. For example, it is common for a person who is in the early stages of addiction to start drinking early in the morning or increase the number of drinks per night.
Loss of Control
A loss of control while drinking is another one of the early signs of alcoholism. An addicted individual may promise to control their drinking, but prove to be unable to when it comes time to do so. Further, while intoxicated they may make promises to stop drinking or drink in moderation, but when they are sober they often find it difficult to follow through on these agreements.
Continuing to Drink Despite Problems it Causes
Alcohol consumption can cause a host of social, behavioral, physical, and mental problems. Despite these problems, an addicted individual will continue to drink. They may make various resolutions to stop consuming alcohol, but find themselves drinking again shortly after.
Denial of the Problem
While many warning signs of alcoholism are evident to others, an alcoholic will often deny that he or she has a drinking problem. An addicted person might blame problems related to him or her by drinking on something else, like stress at work.
Experiencing withdrawal indicates that a person has developed a physical dependence on alcohol. Usually, a person who drinks enough to become addicted to alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms if he or she suddenly stops drinking. Such common withdrawal symptoms include experience:
How Alcohol Abuse Affects the Body
The importance of recognizing the early signs of alcoholism often goes beyond social issues or relationship problems caused by drinking. Concerningly, the physical health of someone with an alcohol use disorder is in jeopardy if he or she does not get the traffic or treatment he or she needs.
Alcohol abuse can lead to a number of adverse health effects. One example is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol abuse makes the heart work harder to pump blood around the body, which can lead to high blood pressure or an enlarged heart. As people continue to drink heavily over time, their risk of developing cardiovascular ailments increases significantly as the heart becomes more and more damaged.
Other health risks of alcohol use disorder include:
- Weakened immune system
- Liver problems or diseases, such as cirrhosis
- Risk of contracting infectious diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia due to a weakened immune system
- Memory loss
- Fetal alcohol syndrome or stillbirth among pregnant women who drink
- Increased risk of violence
- Alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk for cancers such as those of the throat, mouth, or esophagus
How Alcohol Abuse Affects Mental Health
Alcohol abuse also hurts one’s mental health when done while suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. When not treated early on, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. This is why it’s important to understand how to recognize the warning signs of alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse may also make mental health conditions worse. Individuals who already suffer from anxiety disorders or depression are at a much higher risk for alcohol addiction. This can make it very challenging to stop drinking early on. For example, someone with an anxiety condition may be too nervous or otherwise uncomfortable to face his or her alcohol craving early on, which makes it even harder to break the cycle of alcohol abuse.
Other effects of alcohol abuse that harm mental health include:
- Inappropriate behavior
- Violent mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options
Alcohol use disorders, while serious, can be treated. As with other addictions, alcoholism is a life-long condition. Luckily, though, alcohol addiction treatment provides addicts with the tools that they need to manage it.
The earlier you recognize the warning signs of alcoholism, the quicker you can seek treatment. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster you can return to a sober and balanced life.
The treatment options for alcohol addiction include:
It is never recommended for an alcoholic to stop abusing alcohol on their own. Instead, medical detox is needed to avoid serious complications of alcohol withdrawal.
Outpatient alcohol addiction treatment programs offer a combination of individual therapy and group counseling sessions. These programs are ideal for those who have busy schedules or who do not feel they need to be away from their homes and work environments just yet.
These substance abuse treatment programs provide individuals with 24-hour medical care. The same therapies and counseling that are offered in outpatient care are also available in inpatient programs. However, these programs are better suited for patients who have more severe addictions or patients who require a higher level of care.
Overcoming Alcohol Addiction with Live Free Recovery
Alcoholism is best defined as an addiction to or dependence on alcohol. There are warning signs of alcoholism, and they must be recognized so treatment can be sought out early. The earlier a person receives help for his or her drinking problem, the better chance that person has of stopping the problem in its early stages before it becomes a serious issue in both health and social situations.
If you recognize the aforementioned early signs of alcoholism in yourself or someone you love, there is help available. Here at Live Free Recovery, we offer a wide range of services to help you overcome alcohol addiction. If you’re ready to explore these options, contact us today.