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Recognizing the Symptoms of Alcoholism

An alcoholic is someone who has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a chronic disease marked by an inability to regulate or stop drinking despite the adverse effects on one's health, relationships, and obligations. This syndrome can progress to physical dependence on alcohol, in which the body becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is absent. Psychological dependence can also arise, manifesting as a strong urge to consume alcohol as a means of dealing with stress, emotions, or everyday challenges.

28 Minutes Read | Published Sep 28 2023 | Updated Jun 20 2024 Expert Verified
Edwin Gomez
Reviewed by
Edwin Gomez
Reviewed by

It is crucial to be able to identify the symptoms of alcoholism, as catching it early on and taking action can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery. Individuals or their loved ones who are aware of these indicators are more likely to seek professional help, which can reduce the long-term health risks connected with alcohol addiction, such as liver damage, cardiovascular difficulties, and mental health disorders.

Addressing alcoholism early also helps to reduce its considerable social consequences. Alcoholism can have detrimental effects on relationships and productivity and may result in legal and financial difficulties. People who acknowledge the symptoms and actively pursue therapy have the opportunity to rebuild their lives, improve their overall well-being, and minimize the social and economic burdens associated with the illness. Getting the proper treatment is crucial for helping individuals overcome addiction and stay sober. This often involves a personalized approach that combines therapy, support groups, and, when necessary, medication.

What are the Symptoms of Alcoholism?

Recognizing alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), entails detecting a variety of symptoms that can be classified as behavioral, somatic, or psychological signs.

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral signs include a struggle to moderate drinking patterns, as people with alcohol addiction may have difficulty managing or reducing their alcohol consumption despite their wish to do so. Regular alcohol intake causes people to forget their responsibilities, which could lead to their neglecting obligations to their family, employment, or education. Another sign is risky behavior, which covers careless acts like driving drunk or having unprotected sex. Drinking covertly—that is, drinking alcohol on one's own and hiding one's real drinking patterns from others—is also relatively common. The person continues to drink alcohol, indicating that they continue to do so despite the apparent detrimental effects on their health, relationships with others, and jobs.

Physical Symptoms

Physical indications of alcoholism include increased tolerance, which implies that the person requires more alcohol to achieve the same benefits that they previously obtained with less alcohol. When someone stops drinking, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shivering, nausea, and anxiety. Memory lapses after drinking, also known as blackouts, are an obvious physical indication. Long-term alcohol addiction causes weight loss, liver damage, cardiovascular issues, and reduced immune function.

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms involve intense cravings, which are marked by a powerful and sometimes overwhelming desire to consume alcohol. Individuals struggle to regain control once they begin drinking. It is quite common for individuals to experience persistent thoughts about alcohol, be constantly preoccupied with it, and make plans for their next drink. Signs of the psychological effects of alcohol usage include mood swings, including anger, despair, or anxiety.

Here is a summary of common symptoms:

Symptom

Type of Symptom

Withdrawal Symptom

Treatment

Medical Emergency

Inability to limit drinking

Behavioral

No

Behavioral therapy, support groups

No

Neglecting responsibilities

Behavioral

No

Counseling, life skills training

No

Risky behavior (e.g., drunk driving)

Behavioral

No

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Yes (if involving accidents)

Secretive drinking

Behavioral

No

Individual therapy, support groups

No

Continued use despite problems

Behavioral

No

Motivational interviewing, relapse prevention programs

No

Tolerance (needing more alcohol)

Physical

No

Medical supervision, medication (e.g., naltrexone)

No

Sweating

Physical

Yes

Detoxification, hydration, medical supervision

No

Shaking (tremors)

Physical

Yes

Medical detoxification, benzodiazepines

Yes (severe tremors or seizures)

Nausea

Physical

Yes

Anti-nausea medication, medical detoxification

No

Anxiety

Psychological

Yes

Counseling, medication (e.g., SSRIs), relaxation techniques

No

Depression

Psychological

No

Therapy, antidepressants

No

Cravings

Psychological

Yes

Medications (e.g., acamprosate), support groups

No

Blackouts

Physical

No

Abstinence, therapy, medical evaluation

Yes (frequent blackouts)

Weight loss

Physical

No

Nutritional support, medical evaluation

No

Liver damage

Physical

No

Medical treatment, lifestyle changes, medication

Yes (severe liver disease)

Cardiovascular problems

Physical

No

Medical treatment, lifestyle changes

Yes (severe cardiovascular issues)

Poor immune function

Physical

No

Nutritional support, medical evaluation

No

Obsessive thoughts about alcohol

Psychological

No

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness practices

No

Mood swings

Psychological

No

Therapy, mood stabilizers

No

Blackouts

Physical

No

Abstinence, cognitive rehabilitation

Yes (if frequent or severe)

Remember that encouraging people or loved ones to seek professional care may depend critically on their recognition of these indicators in many spheres of their lives. With the appropriate therapy and support, this can finally result in improved outcomes.

How Can You Recognize Your Own Symptoms?

Recognizing your own alcoholic symptoms might be difficult, but self-awareness and honesty are essential steps toward admitting and addressing the problem. The CAGE questionnaire, a popular screening method for identifying potential alcohol use disorder, is an excellent self-assessment tool.

To begin, reflect on your drinking habits. Take note of whether you usually drink more than you intend to or whether it is tough to reduce or stop drinking entirely. Consider how alcohol intake affects your duties at work, school, or home and whether it leads to unsafe behaviors such as driving under the influence. Significant behavioral symptoms include:

  • Drinking alone frequently.
  • Feeling the need to hide your drinking.
  • Continuing to drink despite negative outcomes.

Additionally, physical symptoms such as experiencing withdrawal without drinking, having frequent blackouts, developing health problems due to drinking, or needing more alcohol to achieve the same effect should not be considered. Mood fluctuations caused by alcohol intake, intense desires to drink, and feelings of guilt or shame after drinking are all important psychological signs.

To detect your symptoms, take the CAGE Assessment, which asks the following questions to identify probable alcohol problems:

1. Cut down: Have you ever felt you should reduce your drinking?

2. Annoyed: Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

3. Guilty: Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?

4. Eye-opener: Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (an "eye-opener")?

Answering "yes" to two or more of these questions indicates a high risk of alcohol use disorder and requires further evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Is It Important to Take Action?

Yes, if you detect signs of alcoholism, you must take action, both for your current and long-term health. Ignoring the symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD) can result in gradually deteriorating physical, mental, and social issues. Thus, early intervention is critical. Long-term alcohol misuse can cause major health problems such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, as well as cardiovascular problems, a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal troubles, and neurological damage.

Furthermore, alcohol abuse raises the risk of accidents and injuries, which contributes to a larger possibility of trauma, such as falls or vehicle accidents. Mental health can deteriorate, increasing the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric illnesses, which are frequently exacerbated by alcoholism. By acting quickly, you can avoid these serious health issues and enhance your overall quality of life.

Alcoholism can put a burden on personal relationships, resulting in confrontations, breakdowns in family dynamics, and social isolation. It frequently leads to disregarding tasks at work or school, which might compromise employment, educational chances, and financial security. Seeking help allows you to rebuild damaged relationships, regain the trust of loved ones, and restore your capacity to fulfill your commitments properly. Taking

action will enable you to regain control of your life. Professional treatment can provide the tools and support needed to overcome addiction, including therapy, counseling, and support groups targeted to your specific requirements. 

Early intervention improves the chances of effective recovery, allowing you to live a happier, more satisfying life. Furthermore, treating alcoholism early on helps reduce the social and economic costs associated with the condition, helping not just the individual but also their family and community. Recognizing the significance of taking action emphasizes the value of obtaining treatment and support to battle alcoholism. Individuals can protect their health, maintain their relationships, and create a brighter, more stable future.

Why You Should Decide to Quit?

Quitting alcohol can change your life, health, and well-being. This choice is appealing because it promotes physical well-being, mental and emotional stability, and social and professional success.

Health benefits are a primary reason to avoid drinking. Chronic alcoholism can harm the liver, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and brain. Quitting alcohol reduces the likelihood of these illnesses and helps your body repair. Physical benefits include improved liver function, cardiovascular health, and immunological response, and they also enhance sleep, energy, and fitness. It stabilizes mood and reduces brain fog.

Finally, quitting alcohol allows you to restore and deepen relationships with your family and friends. Alcohol-free social connections are more authentic and meaningful. In conclusion, quitting alcohol is a tremendous commitment to your health, mental and emotional well-being, and social and professional life.

 

Resources

bullet Mayo Clinic
"Alcohol use disorder"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
bullet WebMD
"Do I Have an Alcohol Problem?"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
bullet Wiley: REVIEW
"Acute withdrawal, protracted abstinence and negative affect in alcoholism: are they linked?"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
bullet Elsevier
"Alcoholism and inflammation: Neuroimmunology of behavioral and mood disorders"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
bullet WebMD
"What’s the CAGE Assessment?"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
bullet NIAAA
"Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
bullet Springer
"Comprehensive review of Wernicke encephalopathy: pathophysiology, clinical symptoms and imaging findings"
Retrieved on June 20, 2024
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