The ten warning signs of alcoholism can help you recognize the differences between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. While both alcoholism and alcohol abuse can cause similar problems, the main difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse is Dependence.
Alcoholism is when one’s body is physically addicted and dependent on alcohol. An alcoholic will have severe to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms while the alcohol abuser may not have the same severity of symptoms if they do not have the drink.
The symptoms of alcohol dependency can vary greatly between an alcoholic and an alcohol abuser. However, it can be very easy for an alcohol abuser to become an alcoholic, since the more and longer they continue to drink, the more likely they are going to build up their tolerance and dependence on alcohol.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be becoming an alcoholic, these ten warning signs of alcoholism that may help you determine what stage of alcoholism or “pre-alcoholism” one may be in.
Ten Warning Signs of Alcoholism:
1. Want Becomes Need: There is a difference between an alcohol abuser wanting a drink and an alcoholic who needs a drink. An alcoholic needs a drink in order to stop their hands from shaking, their stomach feeling nauseated, severe levels of anxiety to be alleviated. An alcoholic usually needs a drink to get up out of bed in the morning and needs another drink to fall to sleep.
2. Attempting to Cover-Up/Hide One’s Drinking: When someone begins covering up and hiding their drinking, it shows that they may be aware that they are drinking more than what is “socially acceptable” or that their drinking problem may cause others to get upset.
Someone who is not physically dependent on alcohol would not have the same need to drink that they would go to great lengths to cover up how much they are drinking. It can be hard to recognize signs of someone covering up their drinking problem.
3. Drinking Alone: For most people who are not addicted to alcohol, drinking is mostly a social thing – a glass of wine with dinner when out with friends for example. When someone begins drinking alone, it shows that alcohol begins taking precedence over family and friends and doing other healthy activities instead.
4. Inability to Stop: One drink, two drinks, three drinks, floor is a phrase many people have heard before. Usually non-alcoholics can tell when they are drunk and when they should cut themselves off or stop. An alcohol abuser often participates in binge drinking on a regular basis, however an alcoholic will binge drink everyday. Their dependence and tolerance to alcohol has made it so they cannot tell when they’ve had too much to drink at once.
5. Failure to Care About Personal Appearance: An alcoholic will often neglect personal hygiene and their personal appearance. Drinking alcohol has become so predominant in their life that changing out of dirty clothes or showering regularly does not become a priority.
6. Violent/Angry Behavior: Even those who are typically not violent or angry when drinking will eventually begin displaying angry and aggressive behavior when their drinking gets out of control. Angry outbursts, extreme aggression, throwing chairs, furniture, and even physically hurting people the alcoholic loves are all violent behaviors that show one’s drinking is out of control.
7. Excuses for Drinking: An alcoholic will always have an excuse to drink – no matter what time or day or reason it may be. Everything is a reason to drink for an alcoholic – whether good or bad. Making these excuses is a way for the person addicted to alcohol to rationalize their drinking is not as bad as it really is.
8. Poor Work Performance: An alcohol abuser can often still function in day to day responsibilities such as going to work. However, an alcoholic may drink while working, and may have attendance, behavior, or other issues that may even result in them losing their job.
9. Legal Problems: Someone with more than 1 DUI or disorderly conduct or other legal charge against them for drinking is usually borderline for becoming an alcoholic. Most people who are not physically addicted to alcohol would stop or change their behavior to avoid getting in trouble with the law. Since an alcoholic cannot stop, legal problems continue to mount, and a court order can often be the only reason an alcohol abuser or alcoholic seeks any treatment at all.
10. Memory Loss: Blacking out and the inability to remember things that have happened are common for alcoholics to experience. Someone who only drinks occasionally may be able to remember everything they did when drinking, or at least be able to recall where they were. An alcoholic may have no recollection of the past day or past few hours of events.
If you or someone you know are concerned about the ten warning signs of alcoholism and believe you may have a problem, our page on where to find help lists many resources you may find useful.