Signs You Can't Control Your Drinking - Am I an Alcoholic?
Alcohol is a commonly used substance across the United States. As a legal drug, obtaining alcohol is relatively easy and most American adults will try alcohol at some point in their lives. However, regardless of the normalcy around alcohol, it is one of the most commonly abused and dangerous substances around.
Alcohol abuse varies between people and can manifest in many ways. This can add complexity to identifying when somebody is living with an alcohol use disorder. Many people have an idea of what alcohol abuse looks like - homeless, jobless, and obviously drunk are conditions associated with the condition. This is a risky misconception that can lead to many people living in denial about their own disorder, or that of someone around them.
In this blog we are going to look at some common signs of alcoholism and how to spot when things have gotten out of control.
What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?
An alcohol use disorder describes a pattern of drinking which exceeds a healthy limit. There are many different ways an alcohol use disorder can take effect, and it can impact people to varying degrees.
Problem alcohol use includes drinking that puts your own health or safety at risk or that of those around you. Generally, somebody with this condition will struggle to cut down or limit their drinking, they will have an increased tolerance to alcohol and they may experience withdrawal if they stop drinking. Some people with this condition would be classed as having alcoholism.
Somebody with an alcohol use disorder may take part in binge drinking on a regular basis. Binge drinking refers to any alcohol consumption above five or more drinks for men, and above four or more drinks for women, in the space of two hours. Binge drinking can bring some significant risks for the user, but crucially not everyone who binges has an alcohol use disorder.
A heavy drinking binge can lead to coma or death, even in people who do not have any addictive disorders.
If your drinking habits are negatively impacting your life and interfering with your ability to function, it's likely you are engaging in excessive alcohol consumption.
Alcohol use disorder has both physical and psychological impacts on the individual and can severely disrupt their life. 2020 research suggested that 28.3 million people in the United States had an alcohol use disorder in that year.
Signs Your Alcohol Consumption is Out of Control
Given that alcohol is so widely available and commonly used, it can be difficult to identify when somebody is experiencing alcohol dependence or abuse. An alcohol problem has wide-ranging impacts, it can cause social, emotional and health problems, as well as issues at work or school.
Here We Look at Some Signs You Can't Control Your Drinking:
You have tried to quit but can't
Maybe you have noticed some negative consequences from your drinking, or somebody has mentioned your drinking habits. Whether you have tried cutting back or cutting out altogether, or you've just thought about it, you find yourself continuing to drink.
This inability to take control can be damaging to a person's mental health and can send them into a spiral of shame and regret - sadly, often leading them to drink more.
Trying to stop drinking alcohol without the support of a mental health professional is extremely difficult, try not to let setbacks dishearten you, instead reach out for specialist help.
You've stopped finding joy in things you previously did
Maybe you have stopped taking part in things you previously did such as hobbies or spending time with friends because you are spending more time drinking or hungover.
Furthermore, even if you are in those situations it might be difficult to enjoy them because you are preoccupied with obtaining or drinking alcohol.
Deliberately Reducing Social Contact in Order to Drink
You may also deliberately avoid spending time with people who love and care about you to avoid confrontations about your alcohol use. This may be conscious, turning down invites, or making up excuses, while other times you may not realize what you are doing.
For friends and loved ones it can be extremely difficult to manage, they are likely to feel on one hand hurt by your actions, and on the other hand, worried about your well-being.
Being isolated is likely to make your drinking worse and make it more difficult to give up. The good news is, reaching out to someone you trust can turn things around. Good friends and family members will want to see you making choices that support your physical and mental health. It can feel scary to reach out but it's one of the best things you can do.
Your tolerance has gone up
An increased tolerance to alcohol is a common indicator that you are facing problematic alcohol use. You may recognize that it now takes more alcohol for you to feel the effects, and you may finish your drinks more quickly in order to feel drunk faster. This ultimately means you are more likely to drink heavily every time you consume alcohol.
This may also be reflected in the alcohol choices you make. Rather than drinking beer or wine which have lower alcohol content, you may choose liquors such as vodka and whisky to feel the impacts faster.
This may also mean you don't actually know how much alcohol you are drinking. Being completely unaware of the units you consume, and frequently drinking a lot more than you thought is a sign of alcohol abuse.
You put yourself or others in harm's way
If you frequently find that heavy drinking is putting you or those around you at harm, it could indicate you are living with an alcohol use disorder. This could mean driving a vehicle while under the influence, having unprotected or risky sex, going home with people you don't know, or getting into physical fights.
Alcohol use affects brain function, reducing coordination skills, balance and judgment. This results in activities like driving or using heavy machinery while under the influence being extremely risky, not only for the individual but also those around.
If this sounds familiar, it can be difficult to take steps out. There are support options available and you don't have to continue down this path.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Excessive alcohol use causes the body to become used to the presence of alcohol. This means when there is no alcohol in the system the body finds it hard to function normally, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms range in their severity but can include; aggression, depression, anxiety, headaches, seizures, vomiting, nausea, and tremors.
The diagnostic and statistical manual includes criteria that indicate alcohol dependence. Experiencing withdrawal when not drinking is one of the main criteria.
It's common for individuals to continue drinking to avoid these distressing withdrawal symptoms, which unfortunately only increases the problem. Professional addiction treatment can help you safely manage these symptoms so that you can proceed to the next stages of recovery.
Strong Cravings and urges to drink alcohol
It's common for people with an alcohol use disorder to experience strong cravings to drink, which can inhibit their ability to lead normal lives. Somebody who is engaging in excessive drinking may spend a lot of their time thinking about how to obtain alcohol in order to manage their cravings.
Urges to drink alcohol may come early in the morning when it is definitely not an appropriate time to drink.
Being unable to fulfill school or work commitments
If you are seeing your school or work commitments impacted by your drinking, this could indicate an alcohol use disorder. This might mean regularly turning up hungover or calling in sick due to feeling alcohol-related sickness.
You may also fail complete work assignments or miss important meetings. Furthermore, when you are there you may be distracted due to cravings, illness, or an alcohol-induced mental health disorder.
Relationship problems as a result of drinking
There are many social implications as a result of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Maintaining relationships with friends or family members may become difficult due to fears of judgment or confrontation. Additionally, loved ones may feel hurt that you are not taking on their advice or support.
It is common for people with alcohol addiction to lie to friends or family members in order to hide their drinking problem or to hide any mental health problems they are experiencing as a result.
Additionally, when a person drinks it can change their behavior and personality. This can lead to disagreements, aggression, or feelings of confusion. Some people may choose to isolate themselves rather than face these issues and unfortunately, that can lead to increased alcohol use.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is a significant sign of alcohol abuse. They are usually experienced when an individual stops drinking, but some people will have withdrawal symptoms even when they haven't quit for good. Managing distressing withdrawal is often what causes somebody to continue drinking.
Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on how long you have been drinking, how much alcohol you consume, the presence of other substances, and a number of other factors.
Commonly, the first two days after quitting alcohol are when somebody experiences the most intense symptoms. However, some symptoms will persist long into recovery. This is why it is crucial to continue accessing support even after detoxing.
Some Common Symptoms of Withdrawal Include:
High blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Weakened immune system
Although distressing and painful, these symptoms are not usually fatal. Often they can be eased with medication and alternative treatments.
In addition to these milder symptoms, there can be some severe impacts of quitting drinking. Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe symptom of alcohol withdrawal, and it can have life-threatening impacts. If somebody is experiencing DTs they must seek medical advice right away. This condition can impact the senses and cause organ failure.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include hypertension, restlessness, excessive perspiration, aggression, extremely high blood pressure, hallucinations, and a dangerously fast heart rate.
Another serious risk of alcohol abuse and alcoholism is liver disease, caused by high levels of fat in the liver. Heavy drinking can lead to permanent damage and scarring of the liver.
Tips to Reduce Drinking
Professional help should always be sought for individuals living with an alcohol use disorder However, there are some things you can be doing personally to help cut down on drinking.
These tips can be employed by people who are at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, for example, people who are binge drinking or engaging in excessive drinking, or people who have a fully-fledged alcohol problem.
Surround Yourself with Positivity
To maintain your recovery goals and prevent relapse you need to have a strong community around you. Try to assess who in your life truly has your best interests at heart, will honestly tell you if you are slipping back into old habits, and makes you feel good and comfortable when you are around them. People who don't fit these criteria are not likely to support your onward journey of sobriety.
Acknowledge How You Feel
If you have been living with alcohol addiction for any period of time, it's likely that alcohol has been your solution to any difficult feelings. Acknowledging, accepting, and respecting how you feel, even in difficult emotions, is the first step to managing. Notice when you feel sad, stressed, or overwhelmed, and try to understand where those feelings come from. This can lead you to establish healthier coping strategies for the future.
Take a Holistic Approach to Your Mental Wellbeing
Taking care of your body and mind can lead you to make better life choices. If you feel physically well, you are more likely to preserve your well-being and avoid alcohol. Emotional health empowers you to say no to alcohol, avoid triggers and possess the self-confidence to maintain your recovery progress.
Coming out of treatment can be an amazing feeling, returning back to everyday life, a healthier version of yourself. But it can also be scary and anxiety-producing. Triggering people, places and situations can lead you back down a path you don't want to go. Take control and remove those things from your life, whether that means forming new routines, removing certain people from your life, or choosing alcohol-free socializing settings.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can result in altered brain structure and function. As a significant mental health condition, it's important you seek professional support to detox.
In a rehab facility, doctors may engage you with medical treatment, using medications to ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms during detox. Once the alcohol and its toxins have left the body, it becomes possible to focus on the psychological aspect of addiction.
There are a wide number of therapies that have been successfully used in the treatment of alcohol addiction, many people will benefit from a combination of therapies.
It is common for individuals with substance abuse conditions to have co-existing mental disorders. For example, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and antisocial personality disorder have all been linked with alcohol misuse. Accessing a treatment program that addresses both conditions is crucial to sustained recovery.
Usually, addiction is treated via a residential setting or inpatient treatment. However, some people will benefit from transitioning from there to outpatient. Your treatment program may signpost you to additional support groups which can be an excellent way to maintain the care and community you need to stay sober.
Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you, or someone you love, are stuck in a cycle of substance abuse, it can be impossible to see a way out. The good news is, help is available and things can improve. At Vita Recovery we understand how difficult it can feel to move forwards, but as experts in the field, we have the experience to help you find a way out. Using evidence-based treatments our staff takes a person-centered approach to recovery and tailors your treatment package to your specific needs.
With extensive experience in treating addiction to alcohol and other substances, we are ready to help you start your recovery journey. Get in touch with Vita Recovery today to find out more about our admissions process and our treatment programs.
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