If you have frequently been drinking or are worried about your dependence on alcohol, you may be exhibiting some growing symptoms of alcoholism. Addiction to alcohol is a subtle process that can either happen overnight or over years. There are many reasons you may feel an unhealthy dependence on alcohol, whether you are using it to numb emotions or simply because your body feels like it needs drinking to function properly. There is plenty of professional help available if you do need the support in breaking an addiction to alcohol. Regardless of your experience so far, you can assess your behavior in the following areas and ask for help if you need it.
You Don’t Want to Stop
If you frequently ask yourself or others, “Am I an alcoholic?”, you may suffer from a drinking problem. The difference between recreational use and an addiction to alcohol is that when you become addicted, you lose much of your motivation to stop drinking. The loss of motivation is the key factor in your future decisions around ditching alcohol or even drinking less. Healthy recreational use does not affect your ability to stop drinking after a few glasses or to attend events sober sometimes. On the other hand, alcoholism prevents you from wanting to stop and you may find yourself drinking more and more over time. If you’ve experienced recent situations where you could not stop yourself from drinking, you may be struggling with early stages of addiction.
You Prioritize Drinking
Another of the most obvious warning signs of alcohol use disorder includes the prioritization of drinking over other life choices. In a healthy environment, drinking is usually a supplement to social gatherings or events. In an unhealthy environment, you choose alcohol as the deciding factor in your participation or behavior over other things. For example, you may find yourself drinking before a social event and focusing on continuing to drink rather than socializing. You may stop attending events where you’d need to be sober. You may overspend on alcohol when you could otherwise be paying important debts or bills. If alcohol is the first thing that comes to mind or is a deciding factor as you choose to be social, you may be showing signs of an addiction.
Your Recklessness Increases
Alcohol addiction lowers inhibitions that may have damaging consequences to your life and your health. If you allow yourself to frequently drink to the point where you lose memory, cannot depend on yourself to make it home safely, cannot respond to an emergency, or hurt yourself and others, you are addicted. Recklessness often begins with smaller behaviors such as pushing the limits of your number of nightly drinks or getting into arguments, but can also lead to more dangerous choices like drunk driving. If you begin to act more dangerously due to your alcohol intake and are unable to control your choices, you are experiencing the addictive qualities of dependence on drinking.
Your Health Declines
Alcohol’s effect on the body can cause both immediate and gradual declines in your health. Experiencing frequent withdrawal symptoms such as major headaches, anxiety, shaking, or loss of appetite are the first warning signs that alcoholism may be impacting your health. If you are drinking over a long period, you may experience more serious consequences such as liver damage or even cancer. Alcohol can also cause changes in your weight or more serious issues that are comorbid with alcoholism including depression or suicidal thinking. Noticing these signs early on allows you to ask for the appropriate help from both your doctor and alcoholism treatment provider in order to stay as healthy as possible.
You Depend on Alcohol
The last and most obvious warning sign that you are addicted to alcohol is your reliance on drinking to function properly in life. Alcohol has addictive qualities that either force you to continue drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms, or that require you to need more and more of it to feel its effects. For example, you might begin to need alcohol to make it through the day without feeling withdrawal symptoms such as headaches or nausea. You might experience the need to drink before social events in order to feel social or fun. In more serious cases, you might even show up to work or major events drunk. If you find yourself relying on alcohol daily or to function in real life, consider detoxing through professional treatment centers to avoid dangerous withdrawals safely.
Asking yourself, “Am I an alcoholic?” is the first sign that there may be a problem at hand. Luckily, exploring these warning signs can educate you and help you decide if you need to seek professional treatment. By taking signs of alcoholism seriously early on, you can take the best care possible of your physica and mental health for life.