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Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcohol is probably the most used drug in the world. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 85.6% of US adults admit to drinking alcohol at least once in their lifetime.

Drinking alcohol can be fun and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bottle of wine or a couple of beers with friends. However, there’s also a dark side to alcohol. It’s a highly addictive drug that can take over people’s lives when they become dependent on it.

A Common Condition With Dire Consequences

The NSDUH survey suggests that nearly 15 million Americans had alcohol use disorder (AUD). Commonly known as alcoholism, AUD is recognized as a medical condition. People with alcoholism are unable to control their alcohol intake or stop drinking despite their habit causing problems in their ability to function in daily life.

Luckily, alcoholism can be treated with the right support, and those dependent on alcohol can make a full recovery. As continued alcoholism can lead to physical and mental health problems, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.

Being able to identify the symptoms of alcoholism and getting help quickly could prevent the downward cycle of addiction.

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Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism presents itself in many different ways and symptoms can be both physical and emotional.

Behavioral Symptoms of Alcoholism

Inability to Stop Use / Abuse of Your Own Volition

Certain times of the year see many people drinking more than usual. Getting together with family and friends to celebrate birthdays and Christmas is often an excuse to consume more than our usual amount of alcohol.

Drinking to excess now and again is OK as long as you frequently give your body a break. However, stopping or cutting down on your alcohol consumption can require willpower. If you have difficulty stopping for even just a day or two, it could be a red flag that something is wrong.

Morning Drinking

Christmas and vacations can make many of us feel the urge to have a drink earlier in the day than we typically would. However, if you frequently need to drink alcohol early in the day, it can be a sign of alcoholism.

Those with alcohol addiction feel the need to drink in the morning just to make it through the day. It’s also not just harmful to your own health, it’s also potentially dangerous for people around you. Chances are, there you’ll have responsibilities and tasks to carry out during the day. Driving to work or taking the kids to the swimming baths can put the lives of other people in jeopardy.

Participating in Dangerous Activities or Making Frequently Poor or Risky Decisions

Abuse of any substance, including alcohol, is often associated with an increased and frequent inability to make good decisions. Those in the throes of alcoholism often take risky chances with their health and well-being, as well as with relationships, their career, finances and more.


Drinking to excess is a clear sign of alcoholism and an inability to mediate and control use. This is overly apparent in situations where overdrinking or abusing alcohol can lead to social, work or other consequences. For example, drinking to excess despite knowing you have to be at work for a long shift early in the morning.

Secret Drinking and Denial

If you drink in moderation, then there’s nothing to hide from other people. But, lying about how often and how much you drink could be a tell-tale sign that something is very wrong.

People who drink in secret are often aware they’re drinking too much, which is why they keep it secret. However, they tend to deny that it’s a problem. The first step to getting help is acknowledging that help is needed.

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Emotional and Psychological Signs of Alcoholism

Problems Maintaining Relationships

Alcohol can have positive effects on relationships, giving people the confidence they need to speak with those they would not usually speak with. It can help couples make memories and bring people closer together.

Unfortunately, alcohol can also put a strain on relationships. When alcohol rules someone's life, they can become unreliable. They may forget appointments or experience problems in their professional lives, eventually letting down friends, partners, and employers.


After drinking heavily, you may have experienced a blackout, that feeling of waking up the following morning and realizing that you don’t remember what happened the night before.

Blacking out happens when we drink too much alcohol. For most of us, this happens once or twice in our lifetimes. If blackouts happen frequently, it’s definitely time to seek professional help.

Anxiety and Nausea

A hangover is as much a part of drinking as the enjoyment of the night before. Anxiety and nausea are symptoms often associated with the dreaded morning-after hangover.

For many, a hangover only lasts a short time. But, for those who have formed a dependency on alcohol, these symptoms will persist even after alcohol has left the body. If you or a loved one are constantly anxious and feel nauseous, there’s a good chance that intervention is required.

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Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism

Habits that individuals in recovery can employ to work on developing emotional sobriety.

Red Face

Blood pressure increases when we drink to excess which is one reason our face becomes red when we drink too much. This is usually temporary and our complexion returns to normal once the alcohol has left the body.

However, this redness can also be caused by broken capillaries giving the face a permanent redness. If someone is permanently red, especially around the nose and cheek areas, this could be a sign that they have a drinking problem.

Trembling Hands

Consuming too much alcohol can have a serious effect on the nervous system and cause nerve damage. As a result, one of the symptoms of alcoholism is an uncontrollable trembling of the hands.

Nerve damage could potentially lead to permanent damage. It’s important to see a doctor if you’re a heavy drinker and frequently have trembling hands.

Mood Swings and Change in Behaviors

Sudden or progressive changes in a person’s behaviors, demeanor and attitude can be a symptom of alcoholism. Similarly, abrupt mood swings, anxiety, aggression and more can all be an indication the person needs help.

Increased Depression and Anxiety

Persistent and increased anxiety and depression may be an indication of alcohol abuse. This may be exacerbated in those with a history of anxiety and depression.

A Yellowing of the Eyes and/or Skin

In more advanced stages, damage to the liver can cause jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes and/or skin.

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when to seek help

If you or a loved one have tried to stop drinking and failed, suffer from hand tremors, or are experiencing any of the other symptoms of alcoholism, it could be a sign of a problem. Tackling alcohol addiction is difficult to do alone and you should seek professional help.

Speaking to a physician is a great first step as they can put you in touch with the support needed to kick the habit and prevent alcohol from taking over your life.