Signs of Alcoholism
As many as 16 million adults in the United States struggle with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction disorders. In order for alcoholism to be treated, it has to first be diagnosed. Knowing and recognizing the signs of alcoholism can be the first step toward personal recovery or the recovery of a loved one.
Common Physical Signs of Alcoholism
Often, when discussing the signs of alcoholism, it is the physical signs that get the most attention. That’s because to the outsider, these are the easiest and most obvious to spot. However, not all those who struggle with alcoholism have the same physical signs.
When individuals are under the influence of alcohol, they might manifest certain physical symptoms. A lack of coordination is common, and they may be prone to more falls or slips than normal. Red, flushed cheeks, even when sitting still, may also indicate the presence of alcohol.
Another very common physical sign of alcoholism is bloodshot eyes. Red lines on the whites of the eye, along with changes to pupil size, can relay a dependence on alcohol as well as the likelihood of a severe hangover.
Changes to Appearance
Things like bloodshot eyes and a lack of coordination can be common signs of alcoholism, but there are many more changes to a person’s appearance that can be clues to addiction. As alcoholism takes over, individuals may worry less about their appearance. Everything from weight to clothing choice can change in a short amount of time.
Drastic and unexplained changes to weight can definitely point to addiction for some individuals. In some cases, individuals who struggle with alcoholism will gain weight. This might be from an increase in alcoholic calories, a decrease in physical activity or an increase in unhealthy foods that might stave off the effects of a hangover.
Losing weight is perhaps even more common among those struggling with alcoholism. Alcohol can be an appetite suppressant, and it can lead to significant health problems. These health concerns, particularly when they are chronic, can lead to malnutrition and a decrease in appetite.
Those dealing with an addiction to alcohol might also start to spend less time on their grooming or hygiene. Someone who normally takes time to put on makeup, or who dresses professionally for work, might start to make changes to save time each day. Some individuals may bathe less frequently and simply stop making their hygiene and their appearance a priority.
Changes to Personality or Mood
In some ways, addiction to alcohol can feel like a roller coaster. When individuals are drinking, they might be outgoing, loud and funny. The next day, they could be sullen, quiet and depressed. There is no denying that alcoholism can impact personality and mood in a number of negative ways.
It is important to note that no two alcoholics have the same personality or suffer from the same types of moods. Instead, the biggest way to tell if a person is dealing with alcoholism is to look for the changes.
An outgoing young woman who likes to chat with coworkers and be the life of the party might, over time, transform into a quiet person who exhibits signs of depression. Alcoholism might be the cause of this transformation. Alcohol addiction might also turn a studious, stoic man into a person who is silly, joking and prone to outbursts, as long as he has a drink in hand.
Changes to Social Patterns and Habits
Some of the most common signs of addiction, and of alcohol addiction in particular, can be seen when you look at a person’s social interactions. Alcoholism is an isolating disease, and that can impact how individuals act and interact.
As one example, take a man who is normally a loving husband, son and father. Family might be the center of his world, until alcoholism takes over. Alcoholism could lead to guilt and shame over behavior when drunk, which leads the man to avoid his family members whenever possible.
A woman who has a tight-knit group of friends might spend less and less time with them in favor of nights at the bar. Instead of waking up early to head to the gym with friends, she might be nursing a hangover and feeling too embarrassed to talk about it with anyone. Once again, it is drastic changes to social patterns that will be the biggest red flag that alcoholism is becoming a problem.
Risky Behavior and Avoidance of Responsibilities
The illness of alcoholism can be all-consuming. It means that individuals who are struggling with alcohol addiction will have one overall focus: The procurement and consumption of alcohol. Everything else becomes secondary. Often, this leads to an increase in risky behavior and an abdication of responsibility.
Whether or not alcoholism is involved, most people feel comfortable with various levels of risk. Some individuals love to seek adrenaline and try new things, and others are eager to enjoy stability.
Alcoholism, however, can reduce inhibitions on a regular basis. Individuals may no longer see the benefits of avoiding risk, and their behavior might reflect that. People showing signs alcoholism are more likely to engage in drug use, unsafe sexual behavior or irresponsible and illegal actions. For example, individuals under the influence of alcohol might find it appropriate to drive a vehicle despite being visibly drunk.
Alcohol also impacts how people handle their responsibilities. People dealing with alcoholism are more likely than the general population to avoid their responsibilities, be unaware of their responsibilities or simply ignore the right choice in favor of the more appealing short-term option.
This avoidance of responsibility is why it is so challenging for an alcoholic to hold down a full-time career. Hangovers, the desire to stay out late and drink and the short-term appeal of absenteeism are all factors that can detract from the responsibility of clocking in at work each day.
Recognizing the signs of alcoholism is only the first step. It is also vital that those who struggle with alcoholism get the appropriate treatment and care in a program that targets addiction and encourages sobriety.