For many people, drinking alcohol is a pleasant experience, especially those who are moderate social drinkers. When alcohol is used to avoid feelings or situations, it may be indicative that you have an alcohol problem.
Some of the symptoms of alcohol abuse, or that a person has a drinking problem, include:
- Lying about drinking
- Facing repeated legal problems because of drinking (i.e., DUIs, etc.)
- Needing a drink in order to relax
- Neglecting responsibilities at home, school, or work because of drinking
- “Blacking out” or forgetting what happened to you while you were drinking
- Regularly drinking more than you intended to
- Drinking even though it’s causing problems in your relationships
- Feeling guilty or embarrassed about your drinking
- Have family or friends who express worry about your drinking
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s dangerous (like drinking and driving)
Not all alcohol abusers are alcoholics; there is a distinction. Alcohol abusers can still set limits on their drinking. However, alcohol abuse is a dangerous step towards alcoholism. While alcoholism involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, it also involves the element of physical dependence on alcohol. If you rely on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, you are an alcoholic and should seek professional help.
Some of the symptoms of alcoholism include:
- Drinking even though you know it’s causing health problems
- Feeling as though you’re physically unable to stop drinking
- Giving up activities, such as a hobby or time with friends, to drink
- Tolerance – you need to consume more and more alcohol to feel its effects
- You’ve lost control over your drinking and drink more than you intended to
- Denial – blaming your problems on others, underestimating how much you drink, or downplaying the negative effects of your drinking
- Withdrawal – when you’re not drinking, you may suffer from anxiety, trembling, sweating, nausea, vomiting, depression, irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite, or headaches.
Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications and affect every organ in the body, including the brain. Abusing alcohol can lead to cancer, heart disease, and liver disease; it can also have devastating consequences on your social life, such as divorce, ruined relationships, financial crisis, loss of a job or career, and emotional trauma for those around you. Rehabilitation, self-help programs, or therapy are available for alcoholics or alcohol abusers. Regardless of which path you choose, you will need a support system!