Symptoms of Alcoholism
So, how can you tell if you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or an alcohol addiction? What even is alcoholism? Alcoholism, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence are three terms, with very similar definitions, that often are used interchangeably and essentially lead into one another. Alcohol abuse typically has an onsetting factor, which normally begins with a pattern of binge drinking or drinking for fun. This drinking turns into a dependence that requires further drinking to feel ‘okay’ or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Defined as a pattern of drinking that brings an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above a 0.08 g/dlm, or greater, binge drinking often expands beyond one night of heavy partying, although it may begin in just that manner.
Once you start binge drinking on a more regular basis, you begin to form a pattern. Soon you are binge drinking every weekend, and as your tolerance levels toward alcohol grow, so does the amount you drink and before you realize it, you soon have an alcohol dependence problem, which left uncheck, can evolve into alcoholism.
There are different symptoms that occur at different stages of alcoholism. Some of these symptoms can be physical, some mental, and both can have long-term and short-term effects, with varying severities. So here are a few symptoms to look out for if you think you, or your loved one, may be struggling with alcohol addiction, or are developing a alcohol abuse problem.
Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism
The chances are, even if you have used alcohol moderately for most of your life, you have experienced some of the physical side effects it can produce. Now, imagine those side effects if you weren’t able to let them wear off, where you just continue to drink, and those physical effects only continue to grow more severe, making basic physical life tasks difficult to accomplish. It could be rather dangerous right? Right. The physical symptoms of alcoholism can range from mild, to moderate, and severe. The most common physical symptoms of alcoholism include:
- Impaired motor function.
- Taking part in activities that can be unsafe while drinking, like driving and swimming.
- Spending a large amount of your time drinking.
- Developing a high tolerance to alcohol.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when effects of alcohol begin to wear off – like nausea, headaches, sweating, shaking, vomiting.
- Developing health conditions linked to your alcohol use – like liver damage, seizures, bone damage, heart and digestive issues, increased risk of cancer, and more.
Psychological Symptoms of Alcoholism
There are also many psychological symptoms that can accompany alcoholism. These symptoms again can range in a variety of severities, often linked to how often you drink, and how quickly you consume alcohol in any given setting. Psychological symptoms of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as physical symptoms, and often include:
- Increased depression.
- Panic attacks.
- Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol.
- Mental withdrawal symptoms – like restlessness, mood swings, hallucinations, and increased anxiety.
- Believing everyone is judging you for your drinking.
- Not being able to cut-back on the amount of drink you have, even though you continue trying to quit using altogether, or not as much, multiple times.
- Self isolating.
The psychological symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction can be rather trickier to decipher at times. Some of these symptoms can be a direct effect of alcohol consumption, like paranoia and mood swings for people who are currently drunk, and other effects can occur when an individual is more sober, assuming that their family and friends are against them, or judging them for their struggles, or as they try to reason with themselves that they actually do not have a problem.
Like any other kind of addiction, it is important to remember that alcoholism is a disease. And like any other type of disease, it can be hard to pin down to treat, and requires a great deal of love and patience to get a person through it. But remember, you and your family members and loved ones, are worth the time spent working towards recovery, it just may take some time, and it could be frustrating along the way, just do not give up! You and your loved ones deserve to live your lives, free of addiction, happily and healthily, with a great support system dedicated to helping you get better.
Other Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse is complicated. It may seem very much like one factor influences the other, and in a sense, it does, but there are so many other factors that contribute to a person’s habits with alcohol, and not just their over drinking, that relate to alcoholism. Thus, there are also other symptoms of alcohol abuse that can be a mixture of psychosocial and physical effects. Some of these “other” symptoms include:
- Social isolation and socialising issues.
- Problems occurring at or with work, as a result of drinking habits.
- Problems occurring at or with school, as a result of drinking habits.
- Financial struggles or instability.
- Marital or relationship conflict or loss.
- Alienation from friends, family, and even children.
- Loss of drivers license (if caught while driving under the influence).
- Cutting back on hobbies, or other “extracurricular” activities outside of work, school, and family obligations, to make more time for drinking.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a side effect, sign, and a symptom. Oftentimes, when it comes to addiction, symptoms can lead into signs, which can lead into side effects, or be caused because of side effects. Don’t panic! When it comes to determining whether or not you, or a loved one, is suffering from an alcohol addiction, you can normally see an overall pattern of:
- Drinking too much.
- Being drunk too often.
- Having severe adverse effects or mood swings while not drinking.
And generally caring poorly for oneself, or one’s family and friends they are responsible for. Remember, you don’t have to be 100% sure you, or someone you know, is engaging in alcohol abuse to talk with them about your concerns, or seek out help. Part of alcohol abuse is being diagnosed with the disorder, after a thorough medical examination, just like any other type of addiction diagnosis and treatment processing. At the end of the day, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Long-Term, Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Now, it should not come as a surprise to you, to learn that drinking alcohol excessively can have long-term effects on your body. Some of these effects can seem pretty straight forward, like the development of an alcohol addiction, but many of these effects are probably concerns you may have never considered. Also, it is important to note here, that you remember, the effects of alcohol abuse can take on a wide variety of severities. Just like other types of addiction, alcohol abuse effects vary depending on the individual, what may constitute drinking in excess for you, may not constitute drinking in excess for your great uncle Rodney who lifts 300 pounds daily, and is built like a lumberjack.
Nonetheless, any long-term effect of alcohol abuse can be very uncomfortable, dangerous, and even in some situations, potentially life threatening. Typically, long-term effect of alcohol abuse include:
- Increased risk of developing diabetes.
- Increased risk of developing further complications to diabetes, if you are already diabetic.
- Development of liver damage.
- Increased potential for liver failure, or cirrhosis liver.
- Significant weight gain, and the bodily complications that surface with obesity.
- Development, or increase in mental health issues, including thoughts of suicide.
- Alcohol addiction, alcoholism, or alcohol dependence.
- The development of other types of substance abuse.
- Sexual performance issues.
- Cancer – of the stomach, bowels, breast, mouth, throat, liver, oesophageal, or others.
- Fertility issues – in both men and women.
- Birth defects.
- Higher risk of stroke.
- Higher risk of developing dementia.
- Brain damage, or severe brain-related conditions developing.
- Heart damage.
- Higher risk of a heart attack.
- High blood pressure.
- Social and financial issues can also persist, in a wide variety of degrees, but most severe – such as loss of a marriage, loss of home, or loss of job.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
If you drink alcohol, even occasionally, you already know about how quickly alcohol begins to affect your senses. The short term effect of alcohol use is also subject to change on the individual, how high their tolerance is, and their typical drinking habits. These types of effects also normally come in different waves, and as the individual becomes more intoxicated, the more severe and dangerous the short-term effects become. If left unchecked, short-term alcohol abuse effects can lead into long-term consequences, some life-threatening in nature. Otherwise, some of the most common short-term effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Binge drinking.
- A heightened feeling of well being (in the beginning stages).
- Being more talkative (in the beginning stages).
- Feeling more confident (in the beginning stages).
- Feeling more relaxed (in the beginning stages).
- Accidental injury to self, or others.
- Intentional harm to self, or others.
- Alcohol poisoning.
- Engaging in unprotected sex, or unwanted sex.
- Driving or being involved in an accident because of excessive alcohol use.
- Memory loss or blackout.
- Possible loss of consciousness.
- Loss of coordination.
- Possible loss of bladder control.
- Feeling sleepy.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Mood swings.
- Increased anxiety.
- Higher potential to experience a panic attack.
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired vision.
- Impaired reflexes.
- Reduced inhibitions.
- Impaired judgment.