In today’s society, it’s both casual and common to engage in drinking alcohol. Anyone over the age of 18 has likely been offered alcohol or been around someone who drinks for fun. As a social recreational activity, alcohol consumption can sometimes get out of hand. How do you know when drinking becomes too much? What can you do if you think your loved one is becoming an alcoholic?
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that affects nearly 15 million people over the age of 12 in the United States. Although it can have many misconceptions and stereotypes, there are common signs to identify alcoholic tendencies within the family. Alcohol is a “family disease” that negatively affects the relationships, lifestyles, and physical health of those who abuse alcohol.
Many people have different tolerances to alcohol. This means that the effects of alcohol vary from person to person. Each person’s sensitivity to the negative effects of alcohol depends on a wide variety of factors, such as genetics, age, weight, mental health, and more.
Top 10 Signs of Alcoholism
Even though every alcoholic has different ways of managing (or not managing) their drinking, there are some huge red flags that we can all be aware of. Sometimes excessive alcohol abuse can become a problem, especially among families and close relationships.
1. The Person Hides Their Alcohol Consumption
One of the biggest warning signs someone is being taken over by alcoholism is that they begin to hide their alcohol use. This can mean they drink when they’re alone. They might also sneak bottles of alcohol into the closet, bedroom, or bathroom to drink without anyone seeing them. There becomes a sense of secrecy and shame about how much they feel a need to drink.
2. Lying About Alcohol Use
Along with hiding their drinking, a person might begin lying or minimizing the reality that they drink so much. They don’t want to get caught drinking too much so they lie or hide the truth about what they are doing. They might also start lying about where they go, who they hang out with, what they’re doing, or what they are spending money on.
3. They Say They Need to Quit, But Never Do
A huge sign someone is deep in the grips of alcoholism is that they start to complain they want to quit. They might say things like, “I’m going to start drinking less,” but then they continue to repeat the patterns of excessive drinking. They may continually say things but fail to take action.
4. Feeling the Need to Drink to Function
A person who is abusing alcohol becomes physically dependent on it. They might wake up and need to drink alcohol to prevent “the shakes” or to curb a bad hangover. If they don’t drink, they start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
5. Personality and Behavioral Changes
Alcohol changes how a person behaves and feels. If your loved one starts showing signs of ongoing aggression, apathy, or strange behavior, it could be because they are drinking too much.
One of the difficult signs to witness when someone is consumed by alcoholism is they frequently black out or experience time gaps in their memory. Alcohol can cause people to lose consciousness, called “blacking out”. The person might not be present in your life. They seem to be a “shell of a person” when they drink too much.
7. Loss of Interest in Life Priorities
Alcohol abuse makes the person lose interest in their priorities at home, work, school, and social life. They might start being irresponsible with money, neglect their self-care, and allow their mental health to dwindle.
8. Negative Effects on Physical Health
Although you might not be able to see immediate physical health consequences, they can be seen early and later on. Alcoholics often have kidney, liver, or digestive issues. They might smell of alcohol, vomit frequently, or show obvious withdrawal symptoms when they skip a drink.
9. Reckless Decisions
People who become delusional under the influence might display reckless behavior. They might drink and drive, think they are on top of the world, try to elicit dangerous scenarios, or get into fights.
10. Relationship Difficulties
If the relationships in the person’s life are deteriorating, alcoholism is taking a toll in more ways than manageable. Alcoholics start to have relationship struggles because they aren’t fully themselves anymore when they drink too much.
What to Do If Someone You Love is an Alcoholic
If you see the signs of alcoholism in your loved one, you might feel overwhelmed or not know what you can do to help them. Here are some basic steps you can take to at least offer the support they need in this difficult time.
Be Honest With Them About Your Concerns
Communicate honestly with your loved one about your concern over their drinking patterns. Express your care and love for them using “I” statements: “I am afraid for your health. I want to see you happy again. I feel hurt when you pass out drunk at dinner,” for example.
Offer Support for Getting Treatment
Before you try to get treatment for your loved one, do some research. What treatment centers take their insurance? Which local rehab facilities are the most ethical? Would inpatient or outpatient treatment be ideal?
Try a Family Intervention
Family interventions can help shed light on the reality of the damage alcoholism is causing in the family. Sit down with a professional interventionist and be honest with your alcoholic loved one.
Remember You Cannot Control Them
The sad reality is that we cannot force our alcoholic loved ones to get help. Ultimately, it’s up to them to seek treatment and choose recovery.
Find a Support Group
Even though your loved one needs support, so do you! Alcoholism is a devastating disorder and it can feel isolating and painful. Find a support group like Al-Anon or families of alcoholism.
If you or a family member needs help recovering from alcoholism or going through alcohol withdrawal safely, contact NDD. It could save their life.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.