Understanding alcohol addiction symptoms and warning signs are important if you suspect that a family member, friend or even yourself is potentially addicted to alcohol. It’s estimated that two million people a year worldwide lose their lives either as a direct or indirect result of excess and sustained alcohol consumption, whilst millions more lose their previous way of life of relationships, jobs and other life aspects begin to break down.
But it can sometimes be difficult to discern the effects of alcoholism from just the general outcomes of a night out or boozy lunch. Plus, those warning signs aren’t always physical – they can also be behavioural which can sometimes be allocated to general life stressors and the underlying issue of an emerging alcohol addiction mis-self-diagnosed.
As such, alcohol addiction symptoms need to be split into behavioural symptoms and physical ones.
First, here are the behavioural warning signs:
the root of most addictions is an emotional one and drinking to relax or as a coping mechanism for another emotional or stressful reason are warning signs to watch out for, especially if the behaviour is persistent.
Binge drinking once you start – feeling the need to finish the bottle or being unable to stop drinking after one or two alcoholic beverages are warning signs, again if they occur on a regular basis or the urge can’t be controlled.
Increase in alcohol tolerance – an easy way to tell if you’re drinking too much and too often is if you can drink more than you used to before feeling drunk, or even before losing memory and control.
Drinking at socially-unacceptable times – there are two strings to this, one being drinking at unusual times and the other drinking when it’s outright dangerous to do so.
For the former, drinking early in the morning, before or during work or before leaving for social engagements are warning signs. For the latter, drinking before driving or against doctor’s orders due to medication intake.
Lying about drinking habits – much like with guilty smokers or gambling addicts, lying about how much you drink when asked (and to yourself) is a clear sign of an underlying problem. If you have to hide your drinking too from friends and family, you need to recognise the behaviour and think about why you’re acting in that way.
Change in sex drive and performance – issues performing sexually whilst highly intoxicated are well known, especially for men, but a prolonged changing attitude and sex drive and consistent performance issues may be caused by the regular overconsumption of alcohol.
Next, there are some clear physiological warning signs and alcohol addiction symptoms you need to be aware of too. Experience one or two infrequently might be ok, but a combination on a regular basis should ring alarm bells that you need to address how much alcohol you’re consuming and not be afraid to ask for help as well.
These physical alcohol addiction symptoms include:
The hangovers get worse… – … and recovery time takes longer. Sure, this is often attributed to ageing, but if it coincides with persistent drinking then there’s a clear correlation too.
Body tremors – another clear sign you’re drinking too much and too often are body tremors such as uncontrolled handshaking. This can also lead to all-over body shaking if not addressed.
Agitation and anxiety – alcoholism and anxiety are closely linked. People who suffer from prolonged episodes of social anxiety or generalised anxiety can turn to alcohol for the relief of those anxious feelings. However, alcohol can increase anxiety within hours of consumption which can remain for a few days.
Insomnia – a large intake of alcohol has been shown to affect our brainwaves. Even though it might be easier to fall asleep when drunk, our brains remain ‘switched-on’ whilst asleep at a similar level too if you were resting on the sofa. The result is waking up feeling fatigued. Taking a step back, studies have also linked the development of alcohol addiction with issues with insomnia before excess drinking began.
Digestive issues – alcohol affects the ability of digestive muscles to work as they normally would, causing digestive issues. Plus, dehydration as a result of excess drinking means that this can occur quickly after eating as the body is not absorbing enough water to mix with food and process properly.
Higher blood pressure – harder to spot by yourself, if you have a blood pressure test by your doctor and they notice an increase, you could likely attribute that to over-drinking.
Pins & needles – alcohol can have a toxic effect on nerve tissue and circulation, causing pins and needles. Notice if bouts of numbness or a tingling sensation in hands and feet become common.
Why does alcoholism take hold and what to do about it if it does?
Some of the major contributing factors of alcoholism including environmental ones, mental health issues, life-stress and even your genetic predisposition too.
What’s important to remember though is that alcohol addiction/alcoholism is a disease and needs the right treatment to recover.
At Step 1 Recovery, we’ve helped hundreds of people turn their lives around and shake off the bonds of addiction, including alcohol addiction. Find out more about our alcohol addiction treatment here.