Alcoholism can be difficult to identify. Overconsumption is commonplace and stereotypical images of alcoholics paint a picture of someone whose life is in shambles because of it. In truth, alcoholism can range in severity and many people who struggle with it appear to be fine on the surface. They have jobs, friends, relationships, and hobbies they engage in, but “high-functioning” alcoholics still struggle with substance-related issues. These issues may not show themselves in the way you anticipate.
It is also not uncommon to see the issue of alcoholism dismissed because other aspects of a person’s life are put well together. There’s an element of denial that grants a kind of permission to keep overindulging because you still have it together in some ways. While you may be able to balance responsibilities with overconsumption for some time, it will eventually all catch up.
Signs of Alcoholism
There are numerous indicators that may suggest a person is struggling with alcoholism. While there are plenty of people who are able to use alcohol without developing a dependency, not everyone is able to do so. Some behaviors can worsen over time and lead to the development of an addiction. Some indicators that casual use may be turning into something else may include:
- Drinking alone: While some people may have a drink alone to unwind after a stressful day, regularly engaging in this behavior alone can indicate a deeper issue is emerging. Compared to having a drink with friends or family, drinking alone is usually a method of coping with unwanted feelings. It usually indicates that a problem exists that the person may not want to address. Rather than facing it, alcohol is a means of escaping it. It serves as a form of self-medication, but ultimately worsens a person’s state of being.
- Binge drinking: Although binge drinking is popularized in college culture, the act of binge drinking is incredibly dangerous. Overconsumption of alcohol in a short period of time can pose serious health risks for the person and may endanger those around them as well. Binge drinking can cause serious health problems that may have life-long consequences.
- Using alcohol to cope with stress: Alcohol is often used as a means of coping with stress. While it may provide temporary relief, it can actually worsen a person’s experiences. Alcohol is a depressant that can cause negative side effects on its own. Combined with how a person is feeling while they are consuming it, it can actually exacerbate symptoms. Using alcohol as a means of escaping negative emotions does not allow a person to fully process them and work through them. Rather than developing healthy coping mechanisms, they seek an escape through alcohol that does more harm than good.
- Increased tolerance: Drinking large amounts of alcohol will increase tolerance over time. This means that a person must consume larger quantities of alcohol in order to achieve the same effects. Because of this, a person is more likely to develop a dependency or health issues related to alcohol consumption.
- Risky behavior: Dependency on alcohol can cause a person to engage in dangerous behaviors. Driving under the influence, drinking heavily the night before an important day, or increased conflict in personal relationships may indicate a problem is developing, especially if you continue to use in spite of this.
Am I An Alcoholic?
There are numerous other signs or indicators that a person is struggling with alcoholism. Some of these may include:
- Experiencing legal trouble as a result of drinking
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling the need to drink
- Experiencing cravings for alcohol
- Having withdrawal symptoms
- Not having control over consumption
While not all of these symptoms have to be present to indicate a problem with alcohol, the more a person struggles with these, the more likely professional help may be needed. Those who struggle with alcoholism tend to spend a great deal of time acquiring, using, or thinking about it, often sacrificing other responsibilities in favor of it.
However, not everyone who struggles with alcoholism will exhibit extreme symptoms. Some may be able to still fulfill responsibilities simultaneously. It is important to note any changes in a person’s life that may indicate that alcohol has become a priority. With alcohol abuse, early intervention is crucial to circumventing life-long problems.
If you feel like your drinking is interfering with your motivation at work, relationships with friends or family, legal or emotional well-being, your safety or just life in general, it may be worth reaching out for help. Whether that help is therapy, outpatient treatment, counseling, or just someone to listen, seek more information so you can have your questions answered and get the help you need.