Alcohol dependence is not always easy to spot. Since light to moderate drinking is socially acceptable, people can overlook or dismiss warning signs. Recognizing the symptoms of alcohol addiction in one’s self can be even more challenging. This is especially the case if someone is using alcohol to cope with trauma or stress. While sometimes the signs of alcohol dependence can become obvious, learning how to identify more subtle symptoms can save someone from further health complications.
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What Are the Signs of Alcohol Dependence?
- An increasing or high tolerance
- Hiding evidence of drinking or alcohol
- Increase absences from work, social commitments, or school
- Increased mood swings and irritability
- Avoidance of situations where alcohol is not present
- Dangerous or reckless behavior
Increasing tolerance for alcohol is one of the most common signs of growing alcohol addiction. Although it is not unusual for anyone to develop increased tolerance as they drink, someone who can drink more than others could signal a problem. Someone with alcohol dependence will often continue to drink when others stop or drink despite others voicing concerns.
Another typical symptom of alcoholism is a person who drinks in situations when it is not socially acceptable. Think sneaking alcohol into coffee while on the job or trying to pass off vodka as a cup of water at school. The person may also attempt to hide evidence that they were drinking or sneak off to drink.
Other signs include skipping out on obligations, calling in sick more to work, and rapid mood swings. Someone who is increasingly unable to tolerate being around others tends to isolate more, or someone who avoids gatherings without alcohol can indicate a problem. An increased willingness to engage in dangerous behaviors such as driving under the influence and putting oneself in harm’s way could also signal an issue.
Screening Questions for Alcoholism
Some of the questions someone can ask one’s self or someone else include:
- Do you feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking habits?
- Do you lie to yourself or others about your drinking?
- Do you need to drink to feel relaxed or better about your life?
- Do you blackout or forget what you’re doing while you drink?
Another question to ask is whether someone regularly drinks more than he or she intended. This can signal developing or established alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction. Professional screening tools include the CAGE and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) sets of questions. It is not uncommon for someone with alcoholism to have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety.
What Are Some of the Risk Factors for Developing Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol dependence is usually developed due to a variety of risk factors. A single risk factor, such as a family history of alcoholism, does not necessarily mean someone will develop it. A combination of genetics, family environment, traumas, and coping mechanisms can either increase or decrease a person’s risk. Alcohol abuse, whether occasional or chronic, also does not necessarily lead to alcoholism. Alcohol dependence can occur spontaneously due to a trigger like a job loss or develop over time as the person uses alcohol to self-medicate his or her anxiety disorder.
Should I Seek Help From Northern Illinois Recovery?
If you or someone you care about shows any signs of alcohol addiction, seeking professional treatment can help avoid serious complications. Sustained alcohol dependence and alcoholism can lead to health problems, including liver failure and personal injury. Contact us at 855.786.1978, and we’ll get you on the road to recovery.
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.