Physical Signs of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease that is commonly stigmatized by society, and for this reason, many people who abuse alcohol and those close to them deny or overlook overt signs of abuse. This is a destructive and potentially life-threatening approach, however, as abuse can rapidly turn into an addiction, and devastating health, legal, social, and financial consequences can occur at any time.

Physical signs of alcoholism include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Flushing appearance and broken capillaries on the face
  • Brittle hair and fingernails
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Premature aging such as wrinkles and age spots
  • Intoxication-related bruises due to accidents or violence
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) indicating liver dysfunction

If you or someone you are close to is exhibiting these signs, an addiction to alcohol may be developing or full-blown. It’s critical that alcohol abusers and their loved ones identify the warning signs of alcoholism and seek help before it’s too late.

Hiding or Lying About Drinking Habits

People who have a drinking problem tend to conceal and be deceptive about their habit, expecting that others might not notice or those who are suspicious will not garner enough evidence to be convinced that a severe problem is ensuing.

Moreover, those with a drinking problem tend to engage in the following behavior:

  • Drinking alone or hiding in their room or somewhere locked away to drink.
  • Lying about drinking habits.
  • Go to great lengths to be secretive, such as buying alcohol from different stores to avoid making people around them suspicious.

Not Being Able to Stop Binge Drinking and Experiencing Blackouts

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If a person regularly finds that he can’t stop drinking until alcohol is depleted, a blackout occurs, or he passes out, the person likely has a severe drinking problem. Not being able to regulate how much one drinks is a clear indicator of alcohol abuse.

If drinking results in a blackout and the person emerges from the episode with little or no memory of it, this indicates that he or she has drunk way too much. If these episodes are frequent, they point to a drinking problem.

Drinking in Risky Situations, Inviting Trouble, and Being Impulsive

If someone has an alcohol use disorder, she will drink despite knowing about (and even having experienced) the adverse consequences in which these actions may result. A person will often exhibit the following behavior:

  • Drinking despite a doctor’s warnings.
  • Consuming alcohol despite awareness of an underlying health condition – such as heart disease or liver cirrhosis – that the use of alcohol will exacerbate.
  • Drinking and driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery, sometimes even after being charged with a DUI or other crime involving alcohol use.
  • Drinking alcohol before going to work or school.
  • Stealing money or other items to obtain alcohol.

Such risky behavior reveals that the person is intoxicated to the point that he is less capable of understanding the consequences of his actions and prioritizes alcohol over personal well-being or the safety of others.


Hiding a drinking problem often goes far beyond deception and into straight denial. It’s extremely common for people who abuse alcohol to deny they have a problem or minimize it. They do so to justify their actions or to assure others that their habits are not concerning.

The following are common characteristics of denial:

  • Understating how much alcohol one consumes
  • Disregarding or minimizing negative consequences of drinking
  • Asserting that people who voice concern are exaggerating
  • Blaming drinking habits on other people, such as a spouse, or circumstances beyond one’s control
  • Believing that a drinking habit is not a problem because one is functioning in the workplace or at school
  • Contending that the habits of “real” alcoholics are worse than oneself (e.g., drinking liquor versus beer or drinking every day)

Alcohol Has Become the Focus of Life

The person who has a drinking problem has few things in mind besides alcohol and when she can have the next drink. These are signs that a person is becoming preoccupied with alcohol:

  • Spending excessive amounts of time seeking, obtaining, and consuming alcohol as well as recovering from the effects of drinking
  • Spending money on alcohol to the point of financial distress
  • Seeking out and attending only activities where alcohol is being served and consumed
  • Preferring to hang out with people who have a drinking or drug problem than family or loved ones who do not drink

Giving up Hobbies and Activities Once Enjoyed

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People who have an alcohol use disorder tend to forgo hobbies and activities they once considered enjoyable. These choices can be the result of physical symptoms, and it is also likely that after engaging in alcohol-related activities, these persons have no time or energy left for activities they once relished.

Drinking as an Escape from Life’s Stresses

Many people who begin drinking do so as a way to escape stressful conditions in their environment or to self-medicate away negative feelings such as depression, anger, frustration, resentment, or sadness.

These are common signs of a drinking problem:

  • Drinking due to stress or to ignore problems
  • Believing that just one drink can help one manage stress and feel better
  • Consuming alcohol to feel “normal” or to relax

Performance at the Workplace or School is Suffering

Chronic alcoholism takes over the life of the user. Focusing on and spending time on obtaining/using alcohol and battling the physical and emotional effects of alcohol use render a person far less capable of performing up to par in other areas of life.

The following consequences may indicate a drinking problem:

  • Falling or failing grades in school
  • Absenteeism at work or school
  • Worsening performance at the workplace

Neglecting Duties and Obligations

Those who abuse alcohol often neglect their personal and professional duties and responsibilities for the following reasons:

  • They are intoxicated or recovering from intoxication, they are physically incapable of completing the tasks required of them.
  • They are mentally incapable of concentrating on duties and carrying them out competently.
  • They would rather dedicate their time, physical energy, and focus on activities associated with alcohol use.

Maintaining Relationships is Challenging

People who abuse alcohol often find it difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships. Moreover, they may exhibit the following behavior that is detrimental to relationships:

  • They are deceptive about their drinking habits.
  • They are irritated, aggressive or violent with others who confront them with concerns.
  • They sometimes blame loved ones for their drinking habits.
  • They isolate themselves from others to hide their drinking habit or to avoid questions and accusations.
  • They voluntarily break ties with loved ones when they feel they are trying to interfere.
  • They neglect responsibilities, which puts a physical or financial burden on loved ones.
  • They may find themselves in legal trouble due to alcohol-related crimes.

Finally, covering up for the transgressions of a loved one or misleading others about a friend or family member’s alcoholism tends to strain relationships, especially over a long period.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism – Developing a Tolerance

Chronic alcohol use almost always results in the building of a tolerance, meaning that the person progressively needs more drinks to achieve the same level of intoxication. Increasing tolerance should serve as a clear signal that abuse is developing into an addiction.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism – Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms

The presence of withdrawal symptoms is another indisputable sign of alcoholism. The occurrence of these symptoms indicates that the body has gotten so accustomed to having alcohol in the system that it responds violently when drinking is discontinued.

The following are classic alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Tremors
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Depression
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances.
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite

Not Being Able to Quit Despite Numerous Attempts

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The physical and emotional damage that alcoholism can cause is well documented and backed up by a tremendous amount of evidence. Many people who have a drinking problem are informed about these potential consequences and as a result, genuinely want to quit.

Others wish to reclaim their lives, professional careers, or relationships that alcohol use has destroyed. Having the desire to stop drinking and failing/relapsing is a definite sign of alcoholism.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

People who experience alcoholism or drug addiction are encouraged to undergo a medical detox followed closely by a transition to long-term addiction treatment, which should include evidence-based approaches such as behavioral therapy and group counseling.

Treatment is offered by our center on an inpatient (residential) or outpatient basis. Regardless of format, our services are delivered by caring medical and mental health professionals who provide our clients with the skills they need to fully recover and experience happiness and sobriety for the rest of their lives.

You can reclaim your life and the wellness and harmony you deserve! Please contact us now!

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