Recognising the symptoms of alcoholism is vital to diagnosing and accessing appropriate treatment and recovery. Many people believe that alcoholism symptoms are more than obvious but unless you’re a trained alcohol and addictions counsellor, recognising the difference between someone who may be drinking heavily from the alcoholic whose drinking has progressed to the point that they have become alcohol dependent can be confusing.
If you live with or are frequently in the company of someone who’s drinking is becoming damaging to themselves or others recognising the symptoms can be vital in helping the alcoholic to seek professional help and enter a recovery programme.
One of the more obvious symptoms include repeated efforts on the part of the alcoholic to moderate or change their drinking habits such as changing the type of alcohol they consume i.e. switching from liquor to beer only, or changing when they consume alcohol, drinking only after a specific time of the day or limiting consumption to weekends only. For alcoholics these efforts that end in failure are diagnosed as ‘attempts to control’ and ‘loss of control’. These symptoms are critical events in defining the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Other alcoholism symptoms may include:
Increased tolerance, alcoholics can “drink their friends’ under the table” seemingly with little loss of control. People who develop alcoholism symptoms continuing to drink in spite of repeated warnings from others that their drinking has become a problem.
Alcoholics drink to the point where they experience “Black Outs”. They are unable to remember significant events that occur when they are drinking. Sleeping problems; alcoholics don’t have healthy sleeping habits, they pass out and then wake up frequently at odd hours unable to return to sleep.
People with alcoholism have problems with authorities when drinking, hospitalisation, traffic accidents and driving while under the influence. These signs may all be alcoholism symptoms that require detoxification and treatment at an alcohol rehab centre.
Some of the myths surrounding signs and symptoms of alcoholism:
MYTH: Alcoholics are unemployed homeless people.
FACT: Left untreated an alcoholic may eventually lose everything and become destitute but this is not a reliable alcoholism symptom in itself. Many if not most alcoholics, in spite of their drinking, still manage to hold down a job, own property and maintain many of their affairs with some degree of proficiency.
MYTH: Alcoholics drink all day, every day.
FACT: Many alcoholics are capable of staying sober for extended periods of time, some as long as several months. The true symptom of the alcoholic is that once they start drinking they cannot stop.
According to NIDA, North America’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following within a 12-month period:
Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;
Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;
Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk;
Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking.
Alcoholism is defined as having the above symptoms together with an enormously strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over amounts drunk, and/or physical dependence.
Again, this alcoholism symptom is one of the diagnostic criteria for being determined alcoholic – ‘loss of control’. People who drink heavily and abuse alcohol are able to regain control, through reducing their alcohol intake thereby reducing the negative consequences of drinking in their lives are not alcoholics, they abuse alcohol.
Part 2 of this alcoholism symptoms article is found by clicking on the link in this sentence.