How to Tell if You’re an Alcoholic
Are you an alcoholic? For some, this question is easily answered. Though, for many others, it can be nearly impossible. The reason that it can be difficult to identify whether or not you have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) – known as alcoholism – is because alcohol use is very common. Because so many people consume alcohol, knowing when you’ve crossed the line can be unclear. You may have AUD and yet drink less than others. However, if you are even asking yourself if you’re an alcoholic, odds are good that your drinking has become a problem.
Signs You Might be an Alcoholic
Alcohol Use Disorder has some clear symptoms. These are used by doctors and therapists to diagnose someone with AUD. These symptoms are:
- Excessive alcohol use.
- Lack of control over drinking amount.
- Alcohol cravings.
- Preoccupation with alcohol.
- Failure to meet responsibilities due to alcohol use.
- Continued drinking in spite of problems surrounding alcohol.
- Using alcohol in risky situations.
- Increased alcohol tolerance.
- Withdrawal when stopping alcohol use.
Having any of these could be the signs that you struggle with AUD. Having all of them almost certainly means you’re an alcoholic. We’ll explain each one in detail so you can decide if you might have AUD.
How do I Know if I’m an Alcoholic?
There’s a risk factor for alcoholism that isn’t always part of the diagnosis. That is having alcoholism in your family. Merely because someone in your family is an alcoholic doesn’t mean you are. However, it does increase the chances that you could develop AUD. This risk is greater if they are part of your immediate family. If your parents or siblings have AUD, you’re at much greater danger of developing it yourself. But it is only by looking at your relationship with alcohol that you can answer “Are you an alcoholic?” Here’s how to tell:
Excessive Alcohol Use and Lack of Control Over Drinking
These are the first two signs you might be an alcoholic. Using a lot of alcohol doesn’t automatically tell you that you are an alcoholic. It only becomes a problem when you drink more often than you wish. It can also mean that you drink more alcohol than you intend to when you do drink. For example, if you decide to drink a beer or two, then find yourself drinking six, you’re using more than you intended. If you decide you’re going to stop drinking for a week, and yet find yourself creating reasons to drink, that is what is meant by excessive alcohol use.
People who don’t have AUD rarely crave alcohol. That is to say, they don’t feel like they “need” it. They may want it, but are able to stay sober if they decide to. This isn’t the case with people who have AUD. Alcoholics actually have a different brain than non-alcoholics. What happens with AUD is the brain gets hijacked by the disease. This causes the person to feel like they need alcohol. These cravings lead to a lack of control over their drinking. Thus, it is a good sign your brain is wired like an alcoholic if you have cravings.
Preoccupation with Alcohol
Along with cravings, people who struggle with AUD are obsessed with alcohol. This is another sign that their brain has been taken over by the disease. They are obsessed with alcohol. They think about drinking when they aren’t. Often, they will feel better merely by having alcohol in the house. Being close to alcohol makes them feel like they can satisfy their cravings at any time. This provides a sense of peace. Anyone who finds themselves thinking about alcohol on a regular basis could have AUD.
Failure to Meet Responsibilities
When someone is preoccupied with alcohol, they often drink at inappropriate times. This causes them to fail to meet responsibilities. These responsibilities include:
- Missing work or school in order to drink or recover from alcohol use.
- Failing to go to social gatherings, or leaving gatherings early in order to drink.
- An inability to attend family functions – such as children’s activities or family obligations – in order to drink or recover from drinking.
- Losing a job or source of income because of drinking.
- Missing doctor appointments due to drinking.
Anytime drinking interferes with the necessary functions of life, it’s a sign that alcohol has become a problem.
Continued Drinking in Spite of Problems
Missing work once in a while due to a hangover can’t tell you “Are you an alcoholic?” However, when you consistently miss work or fail to meet other responsibilities, and then continue to drink, it’s a sign your brain has AUD. This is especially true of alcohol is causing major problems in your life. Some problems surrounding alcohol include:
- Loss of a job or dropping out of school due to alcohol use.
- Overspending on alcohol while failing to pay rent, utilities or other important bills.
- Legal problems surrounding alcohol such as being arrested for driving while intoxicated.
- Engaging in fights or arguments while drinking.
- Losing a marriage or partner due to your alcohol use.
- Health problems associated with alcohol, including high blood pressure, cirrhosis, kidney disease or other alcohol-related illnesses.
This is not a complete list of the problems that can come from alcohol. Anytime alcohol has created problems in your life, it is a bad sign. If you continue to drink in spite of these problems, it means alcohol is taking control.
Using Alcohol in Risky Situations
There’s many times in life where drinking is inappropriate. There’s others where it is downright dangerous. If you are drinking while driving or operating machinery, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk. If you are drinking at work, you’re likely risking your job. Should you be unable to stay sober while caring for children, the elderly or the sick, you’re probably drinking too much. If you’re putting your life at risk by drinking while engaging in physical activity – such as swimming – then you likely have a troublesome relationship with alcohol.
Increased Alcohol Tolerance
If you find that it takes more alcohol to get intoxicated, you’ve developed a tolerance. This means you’ve drank so much that your body is getting used to the alcohol. Therefore, you constantly need more. If you need to drink to feel “normal” it’s likely because you are dependent on alcohol.
With the increase in alcohol use comes withdrawal. Withdrawal means that you feel sick when you stop using alcohol. Here’s some of the symptoms common with alcohol withdrawal:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and depression
When stopping alcohol makes you feel any or all of these, your body is craving alcohol. If you’ve crossed the line to where you feel sicker sober than you do drunk, it’s a safe bet you’re drinking too much.
Are You an Alcoholic? Is it Time to Get Help?
Are you an alcoholic? Hopefully you now have an answer to this question. If you found that you had any or all of the symptoms listed, it might be time to get help. Battling AUD is a difficult process. Your own brain is going to work against you. That’s why coping with AUD requires aid.
Our staff is adept at treating AUD. We develop treatment plans to help you cope with life sober. We work with every patient to find the best way to combat their alcoholism. From treating the disorder itself to treating other mental health issues, our recovery program is comprehensive. We can help you detox safely to limit withdrawal symptoms, and create a structure to make it easy for you to live sober. Don’t suffer with alcoholism any longer. Reach out now and take back your life!