Alcoholism Signs and Symptoms: What to Watch for in Your Loved One

Updated on May 7, 2019

Your loved one just isn’t the same anymore. They can barely get through a day without a drink, or two, or more.

If you think you’re noticing the classic alcoholism signs, it can be difficult to confront your loved ones. We’ve compiled some of the most common signs of alcoholism to help you best approach this difficult situation.

Recognizing Alcoholism Signs

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is a disease of the brain.

In the year 2015, over 15 million adults suffered from alcohol use disorder in the United States, alone. There were also over 600,000 teenagers with alcoholism that year.

Here are some signs of alcoholism to look out for.

Lacking Control

Have they gone beyond the drinking limits they set for themselves? For example, if your loved one said they were only going to have a couple drinks at the bar, and end up having 5 drinks, this might be a sign of alcoholism.

This could also be a long term sign. They may have said they wanted to drink less for the rest of the month. Failure to stay within the limits they set for themselves could indicate alcohol use disorder.

Drinking Despite Consequences

If your loved one’s drinking is having negative effects on other aspects of their life but they continue to drink, they may be dealing with alcoholism.

These consequences can be related to their professional life, like if they are repeatedly late to work after nights of drinking. Or, they could be related to their personal life, like if they are unable to spend quality time with their children or friends.

Sacrificing Old Interests

Has your loved one given up on their old hobbies or social activities as a result of their drinking? This could mean quitting a sports club, selling prized items, or refusing to go on social outings.

A lack of interest in things they used to enjoy might be a sign of alcohol use disorder.

Risking Physical Safety

Excessive drinking can impair a person’s ability to make safe decisions. Taking physical risks, such as driving under the influence, walking alone at night, or having unprotected sex, might be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

Finally, if your loved one is experiencing alcohol use disorder, they might go through some classic symptoms of withdrawal when they try to limit or stop their drinking altogether. These include:

  • anxiety
  • depressive thoughts
  • shakiness
  • nausea/vomiting
  • excessive sweating
  • trouble relaxing or sleeping

For more information on the effects of alcoholism, you can read more here.

Approaching the Situation

If your loved one shows any of the alcoholism signs discussed, you may choose to intervene. This may be by suggesting therapy, rehab, or seeing a doctor for suggestions.

However you choose to address your loved one’s alcoholism, be sure to do so with sensitivity. Remember that they are suffering from a brain disease that impairs their ability to think clearly about their own drinking.

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