Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

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People drink to celebrate, socialize and relax. Some individuals like to indulge in a beer while watching a football game or drink a glass of wine with dinner. They have no problem drinking moderately in social situations.  And moderate drinking, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  is one drink or less a day for women and two or less a day for men.

Others, however, have a lack of restraint when it comes to alcohol. For these individuals, it becomes a struggle to manage the power of alcohol. Despite being hungover frequently or developing problems at work, with their close relationships or with their finances, they continue to drink.

Although you may not see them as a sign of trouble, even just a few symptoms can indicate the beginning of a drinking problem. Therefore, knowing what the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse are can help you turn things around before you end up with physical substance dependence to alcohol.  When you continue drinking heavily, there’s more to worry about than trying to hide the alcohol on your breath.

Over time, the severity and number of your symptoms can increase and turn into an alcohol use disorder. Physicians consider an alcohol use disorder to be where your drinking is causing you self-harm, distress or general discontent.

Below are some signs and symptoms you should look out for that could signal you’re on your way to a drinking problem or already have one.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Risk-taking behavior: You have impulsivity, and are more inclined to engage in risky behavior to get more alcohol or because of alcohol.
  • Loss of control: You drink more than you want to, for longer than you wanted to or despite you telling yourself you wouldn’t drink so much this time.
  • Antisocial behavior or neglecting other activities: You stop engaging in activities you once found important like exercising, hobbies or hanging out with friends and family because of your alcohol use. Despite loneliness, you continue this behavior.
  • Secrecy: You hide the amount of alcohol you drink, your activities when you drink or unexplained accidents or injuries.
  • Relationship issues: Because of your alcohol misuse, you act out against your loved ones or friends, especially if they are trying to address your drinking. You may receive complaints from supervisors, co-workers, classmates or teachers.
  • Family history: Alcohol abuse runs in your family which can increase your predisposition to abuse alcohol yourself.
  • Changing appearance: Your physical appearance or hygiene seriously deteriorates. You may wear unclean clothing or fail to shower every day.
  • Continue drinking despite negative consequences: Although your drinking is causing you issues in things like your job, relationships, finances or health, you continue to drink.
  • Tolerance: As time goes on, your body will begin adapting to the amount you drink to where you’ll have to consume more alcohol to get the same effect.
  • Withdrawals: When you don’t drink you may struggle with certain symptoms like nausea and vomiting, sweating, trembling or shakiness, anxiety, depression, headache, craving or blackout loss of appetite, irritability or fatigue.

Unhealthy use of alcohol is where you are putting both your safety and health at risk or you are causing other problems that are alcohol-related. If your drinking is leading to problems with daily life functioning or repeated substantial distress, chances are you have an alcohol use disorder.

Regardless if you have a mild problem with alcohol, it can still escalate and turn into bigger problems., therefore, early treatment is essential. Reach out to your family physician, addiction rehab counselor, or mental health specialist if you recognize any of the above symptoms of alcohol abuse.


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