Spotting the Warning Signs of Alcoholism

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Learning to spot physical warning signs of alcoholism as well as more subtle functional alcoholic symptoms

Alcohol is one of the most socially accepted substances in the world. From celebrations to casual dinners, its presence is rarely questioned, but what happens when drinking stops being a treat and starts being a necessity? When an addiction develops, warning signs of alcoholism are present, but they can only be recognized if you know what to look for. Do you know the social and physical signs of alcoholism?   

Alcoholism, or alcohol abuse disorder, is officially diagnosed when drinking causes physical or emotional harm and creates disruptions in a person’s life. These disruptions are warning signs of alcoholism and can include:

  • Health problems
  • Relationship issues (romantic and non-romantic)
  • Financial difficulties
  • Poor job stability
  • Erratic behavior due to frequent intoxication

Alcoholism can range from severe to mild, and those with a milder form of alcoholism are often referred to as “functional alcoholics.” So-called functional alcoholics actually make up 75 to 90 percent of people who suffer with alcohol use disorders. Functional alcoholic symptoms are essentially the same general symptoms as “full blown” alcoholics, but on a smaller scale, making them easier to hide or dismiss as unrelated to their drinking.

The physical signs of alcoholism vary, but one of the tell-tale symptoms is the development of tiny red blood vessels, known as spider anigomas for their shape. Caused by dilated capillaries, these are generally permanent and are also a sign of many of the liver diseases to which alcohol abuse is linked. Other changes in an alcoholics’ skin can, caused by nutritional deficiencies when alcohol replaces food or impedes nutrient absorption, are also warning signs of alcoholism. These changes can include the development of dull or dry-looking skin, flakiness, frequently flushed, red skin, or hyperpigmentation (dark spots). Other physical warning signs of alcoholism are the result of the alcoholic failing to keep up with expected hyenine due to their drinking. For instance, the failure to brush their teeth after repeatedly blacking out or even the damage caused by repeated vomiting after drinking can cause tooth decay and yellowing as well as bad breath and gum disease. It doesn’t help that beer and wine have high sugar content, adding fuel to the bacteria in the mouth. The high sugar content of alcoholic beverages, as well as the lack of inhibition that drinking enables, can also cause weight-gain in alcoholics. Unfortunately, a higher weight only leads to greater alcohol tolerance and further complicates the medical issues that alcoholics so often struggle with. Each individual is unique and there are a wide variety of other physical warning signs of alcoholism, so reviewing a reputable source to learn more about physical signs of alcoholism is advisable.

There are also behavioral warning signs of alcoholism, during both periods of drinking and times of sobriety. While drinking with an alcoholic, one may notice they have an unusual or increased level of tolerance for alcohol, meaning that the drinker needs more and more alcohol to achieve the same level of inebriation as a non-alcoholic. They may also drink more than is appropriate for the situation or more than they had originally planned to drink. This inability to stop at one drink is a hallmark sign of an alcohol use disorder. Emotional distress while drinking or immediately afterward is also a possible addition to the array of potential functional alcoholic symptoms. Secrecy or attempts to hide their drinking are especially telling functional alcoholic symptoms, as their “functional” classification depends on their ability to continue their life as normally as possible while sustaining their addiction.

These behavioral and physical signs of alcoholism present themselves in functional alcoholics and severe alcoholics alike, making it easier to identify whether or not someone is beginning to develop an alcohol use disorder and begin the process of directing them towards help. Of course, it is important to remember that only a medical professional is able to diagnose someone with an alcohol use disorder, but you can still voice your care and your concerns to direct them towards seeking professional help.

If you think that you or someone you care about is exhibiting warning signs of alcoholism, the time to act is now. Better Addiction Care is available to help you search for the perfect rehab facilities. For more information call us at (800) 429-7690.