In 2015, 15.1 million Americans had an alcohol problem.
While moderate alcohol consumption will not affect you physically or psychologically, heavy drinking can have many lasting impacts. Liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and cancer are just some of the long-term side effects of heavy drinking. Struggling with alcohol is also a trigger for mental illness.
Alcoholism can affect your blood pressure, circulatory system, and immune system. It shrinks the brain, making your memory worse over time. And, while it seems to offer a temporary escape, alcoholism can also be the cause of severe depression and anxiety.
If you are wondering if you have an alcohol problem, you should start by asking yourself a few questions. Here are some signs of alcoholism.
1. High Levels of Alcohol Consumption
While it may seem obvious, those with an alcohol problem consume a lot of alcohol, and they may continue to drink even when they feel depressed or anxious. They often end up drinking more than they initially intended to.
Individuals with an alcohol problem may drink even though they know that doing so will put them in a situation that could harm themselves or others. They may make poor decisions, such as drinking and driving because they cannot limit their intake.
More than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men is considered to be heavy drinking. While many drink too much once in a while, those with a problem always feel that they need more alcohol to relax or feel good. They have difficulty controlling how much they drink.
2. Drinking Routines
Individuals with drinking problems have ritualistic drinks throughout the day. For example, they may have an “eye-opener” when they first wake up or drink before and after meals or work.
You may find that you become very irritated or guilty if someone comments on the number of drinks you have throughout the day. If you have a problem, you will become increasingly annoyed if there is no alcohol available as your ritualistic drinking times approach.
3. Drinking Impacts Your Work or Social Life
Those with a drinking problem may miss work or school due to a hangover or upset stomach. Consuming extra alcohol inflames the lining of your stomach, causing nausea or indigestion. Long term, this can increase your risk of ulcers, gastric heartburn, and gastritis.
If you are putting your job or your GPA at risk because of your drinking, chances are you may have a problem. In doing so, you are sacrificing your long-term goals for your drinking. It is now something that is beginning to control the rest of your life.
4. Others Are Noticing
You may spend a lot of time talking about your drinking or thinking about where you are going to get your next drink. Others may comment on this, which can make you feel annoyed or guilty. It may lead to your becoming increasingly isolated from them.
If you lie often to your friends and family about how much alcohol you consume, it is possible that you struggle with alcoholism. Those who truly care about you will support you through your recovery.
5. Extreme Mood Changes
Alcohol slows your brain’s synapses and alters your serotonin levels. These chemical changes cause your emotions to get out of control. Selfish, aggressive, and egotistical behavior are all common in those with alcohol problems.
Alcoholism can bring on feelings of depression after you drink, and even when you are sober. The physical stresses it puts on your nervous system can also make you more anxious.
6. Drinking in Secret
When you drink socially, others can see the number of drinks you consume. They may comment if you have one too many and keep you in check. Drinking in moderation is fairly harmless.
If you are drinking when no one else is around, however, it may be easier to consume large amounts of alcohol without incurring judgment from others. And you may not be owning up to how much alcohol you are actually consuming.
7. Changes in Appearance
Alcohol dehydrates your skin, which may cause you to wrinkle and appear older than you are. It also depletes your body of Vitamin A, which helps with cell renewal and turnover. Your skin will have a more dull, gray appearance if you have an alcohol problem.
If you drink for a long period of time, alcohol can affect your vision and overall eye health. It can also lead to problems with hair growth. If you drink often and excessively, your face and stomach will begin to bloat due to a build-up of toxins.
Help Is Only a Phone Call Away
If you think you may have an alcohol problem, there is good news. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can get back on track toward achieving your real goals and dreams.
Many alcoholics turn to 12-step programs to help them kick their habits and return to a normal lifestyle. Others choose vocational or residential rehab programs that allow them to participate in individual counseling, group therapy, and relapse prevention. Many find it helps to have medical and psychological help close by while they experience the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol detox.
Don’t Ignore the Signs of Alcoholism
Many wonderful professionals can help you on the challenging road to recovery. If you believe you have the signs of alcoholism, it is time to pick up the phone and change your life forever.
- “Alcohol Facts and Statistics” – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Feb. 2021
- SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Table 2.17B – Alcohol Use in Lifetime among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Age Group and Demographic Characteristics: Percentages, 2018 and 2019.
- “Alcohol use: Weighing risks and benefits” – Mayo Clinic