Addiction to alcohol shows up differently in people based on their habits, mental health, and reliance on alcohol. There are many physical and emotional reasons you may be predisposed to abusing alcohol and some of these are triggered by your environment. If you are concerned that you are developing an addiction to alcohol, know that there are resources available to help you recover. The first step to understanding your addiction is to learn the warning signs of alcoholism and ask for help.
Anxiety or Panic Attacks
Alcoholism impacts your brain in chemical ways that increase your likelihood of experiencing panic attacks or even triggering an anxiety disorder. You may sometimes experience withdrawal symptoms including shaking, panicking, or nervousness at otherwise normal times. This physical anxiety is partially due to malnutrition in your brain and is enhanced by dehydration. The habits that contribute to your alcoholism may also cause you to take less care of your mental health than usual. If you experience anxiety or forms of depression because of your alcohol drinking, consider receiving treatment to begin recovery.
Look out for:
- Mood swings
- Anxiety attacks or shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Depressing or suicidal thoughts after drinking
Alcoholism lowers inhibitions and may cause you to behave more recklessly than you have in the past. Noticing this change of behaviors can trigger you to pay attention to the warning sign before you act in a way that can hurt yourself or others. Alcohol causes the receptors in your brain to react slowly, inhibiting your judgement and response times to normal stimuli. This in turn affects your decision-making or behaviors that are unhealthy after a night of drinking.
Alcohol may be increasing your recklessness by:
- Causing you to overspend
- Causing you to drink more than you planned
- Increasing your emotional responses to normal situations
- Provoking you to fight or argue
- Inhibiting your self-restraint towards violence
Loss of Memory
If you’ve ever woken up in a panic after a night of drinking unable to remember the night before, you are not alone. Recent studies show that a quarter of adults partake in binge drinking frequently, which often results in memory loss after your body has more than it can handle. This damaging effect of alcohol on your brain can cause serious consequences in the long term if you do not take action to end the behavior. Loss of memory can also increase your chances of feeling anxiety or exhibiting recklessness when you are unaware of your own actions.
Get treatment if you:
- Often forget your evenings when you wake up after drinking
- Cannot safely make your way home or remember how you arrived
- Cannot stop drinking before you reach the point of memory loss
- Cannot remember emergencies or ask for help if you are drinking
Another warning sign of alcoholism is developing a daily reliance on it to function properly. If you need to drink on a daily basis to avoid symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, you have reached the point of addiction, as your drinking feels beyond your control. It can be tempting to drink more to avoid alcohol withdrawal headaches or stomach pains, but these symptoms worsen the longer you drink. You may also struggle with addiction if you rely on alcohol on a daily basis to “numb” emotions you do not want to tackle sober. This dependence for emotional support requires serious treatment if you want to recover.
You may have an unhealthy reliance on alcohol if you:
- Cannot make it through a day without drinking
- Drink alcohol to numb physical pain or emotions
- Prioritize drinking over other healthy habits
Concerned Loved Ones
The last major warning sign of alcoholism is the response of your loved ones to your changed behaviors. Drinking and driving is among one of the major red flags that can cause others to notice you may be more reliant on alcohol than you should be. Do not be afraid to reach out and consult with your loved ones for an outside perspective on your drinking habits. Perhaps they reach out to you after they notice something is wrong, so be open-minded and consider the possibility if someone is worried you have a problem. Calling the national alcohol helpline or starting treatment is the best response to hearing that your loved ones are concerned about your behavior.
Reach out for help if you:
- Prioritize drinking over time with loved ones
- Miss events or social time due to drinking
- Isolate yourself to avoid the conversation about your drinking
The warning signs of alcoholism may affect you in unique ways, so do your best to remain aware of major changes in your alcohol use. If you find yourself acting strange or relying too much on drinking, reach out for help and receive treatment as soon as possible. By learning the warning signs early, you can take the best care of yourself and begin a healthy recovery towards a better future.