Closet Alcoholic Signs and Symptoms

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Discover the Common Closet Alcoholic Signs and Symptoms

Based on the findings of the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, just over 15 million Americans aged 12 and older were classified, according to the DSM-V, as having alcohol use disorder – the clinical term that described problematic drinking. Alcohol abuse is a persistent problem in the United States, affecting people from all walks of life. What makes it such a difficult disease to beat is the active avoidance of treatment in many alcoholics. Even if they know deep down that there is a problem, they may still carry on drinking, hiding it from those around them. To that end, we will discuss the common closet alcoholic signs in this article to better understand what to look for in a loved one or friend. 

Learn more signs that someone is a closet alcoholic here.

How Much Drinking is Too Much?

One of the signs of an alcoholic is, of course, the amount that they drink on a regular basis. But how much is too much? While you may not always be able to tell exactly how much a person drinks because one of the signs of a closet drinker is that they tend to hide most of their drinking from others.

That being said, there are dangerous drinking levels that more often than not result in the formation of alcohol use disorder if the amount or frequency doesn’t reduce. The following are considered one standard drink in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 2-3 ounces of liqueur, aperitif, or cordial
  • 12 ounces of normal beer
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, cognac, or brandy
  • 3-4 ounces of fortified wine such as port or sherry
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor

One of the signs of an alcoholic is if they drink more standard alcoholic drinks than what is considered to be safe and low-risk drinking. Risky drinking, or drinking that has a high chance to form alcohol use disorder, is when a person has more than:

  • Men – More than 4 standard drinks in a day, and more than 14 in a single week.
  • Women – More than 3 standard drinks in a day, or more than 7 in a single week.

Staying within these limits, according to NIAAA research, results in only 2 out of 100 people forming alcohol use disorder.

The Signs of a Closet Drinker

By definition, the closet alcoholic signs are difficult to find because the person is most likely making an effort to hide their drinking problem from those around them. However, such a devastating problem cannot be hidden completely and signs can be abundant if you know where to look. We will therefore explore the common closet alcoholic signs in the following section to help you in your investigation.

Hiding Alcohol

One of the closet drinking signs is when a person tends to hide alcohol around the house or any place that they often visit. This means that they are putting it in places that you wouldn’t expect to find alcohol such as bathroom cabinets, closets, suitcases, boxes, top shelves, and a number of other similar locations.

You may also find several empty bottles of alcohol in the same hiding places, and may discover a number of empty bottles in the trash as they attempt to dispose of the evidence that was piling up.

Drinking in Secret

Of course, one of the most common closet drinking signs is drinking in secret. Alcohol abuse for an alcoholic becomes something that they must do every day in order to function and cope. Hiding alcohol helps them to achieve their secretive drinking, and alcohol may be stashed in their car, home, office, and any place that the person frequents. They may disappear at a party and have several drinks at their car and return with those around them unaware of just how much they are drinking.

Alcohol may also be added to coffee, energy drinks, cool drinks and the like, allowing them to drink in plain sight without people being aware. One of the giveaways is that there might be the smell of alcohol on their breath, although they may hide it with some type of breath freshener.

Vodka is Their Preferred Drink

In line with the previous two closet alcoholic signs, vodka becoming their preferred drink may also be a sign. This is because it is a colorless liquid that has a faint odor, making it ideal to put into other beverages to hide their drinking. The best way to tell if vodka has been added to a coffee or other beverage is to taste it yourself, or by finding bottle store receipts with unaccounted for vodka as an item.

Excessive Excuses to Drink

An alcoholic doesn’t need a reason to drink other than to sustain their habit, but to others around them, they may frequently make up excuses as to why they need a drink. When these excuses reach the level of excess, then there may be problematic drinking present.

Tardiness and Frequent Absences

One of the characteristics of alcohol use disorder in the DMS-V is that drinking often interferes with important responsibilities at work, school, in their social life, and at home. If the person in question is often late for work, meetings, or any scheduled date, or often misses events and work altogether, then it may be one of the closet alcoholic signs as their priority is on their alcohol abuse.

Physical Signs

There are also physical signs that someone may be an alcoholic such as their hands may begin to tremble uncontrollably, their face may appear flushed with red patches across their skin. They may complain about headaches, be anxious, and depressed – all signs of alcohol withdrawal.


Memory loss is common in people who drink excessively. If the person often forgets about conversations you had with them just the night before, or they forgot about incidents and events entirely, then it’s likely due to their drinking which is causing memory loss and blackouts.


Isolation can be a sign that alcohol use disorder is present because the abuser is often aware that they have a problem and tend to isolate themselves from those who don’t support their alcohol abusing way of life to make it easier for them to get away with it.

Isolation may reveal itself in the loss of interest shown in activities and hobbies that they once enjoyed, but are now giving up in favor of drinking and recovering from alcohol.

If you fear that your loved one or friend has become an alcoholic, then don’t hesitate to contact Better Addiction Care at 1-800-429-7690 to speak to a rehab advisor who will assist you.