Alcoholism, also known as “alcohol use disorder,” is a serious and potentially deadly medical illness that is characterized by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. For some individuals, alcohol can become their primary means of managing anxiety, depression, and other stressors, leading to a downward spiral of destructive behavior.
Fortunately, alcoholism is a treatable condition. But in order to treat it, it must first be identified. To help individuals recognize the signs and take action on their loved one’s behalf, it is important to be aware of the potential warning signs.
The most obvious physical warning sign of alcoholism is a change in the individual’s drinking habits. Pay close attention to whether the amount of drink consumed in one sitting increases, as well as whether they generally consume more or more often. If you notice an increase in the frequency of drinking, as well as an increase in drunkenness or blackouts, it is important to take notice.
The next warning sign to look for is the experience of physical withdrawal when the individual does not drink. There may be physical withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaking, and sweating that occur when they go too long without alcohol. This can be a sign of physical dependence on alcohol and should not be ignored.
Additionally, watch out for a decrease in the individual’s motivation and energy. When alcohol becomes the primary way of coping with life’s stressors, it can cause the individual to lose interest in activities that once brings them joy. You may also notice them become more irritable or depressed when they are not drinking and they may express a great sense of relief when they can drink again.
Finally, if all of these warning signs are present, it is important to reach out for help. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has an online referral page that can direct individuals to treatment centers that specialize in treating alcoholism. If possible, talk with a rehabilitation specialist and arrange for a medical evaluation and intervention plan.
Alcoholism can be a devastating experience, but with treatment it does not have to be. By becoming aware of the warning signs of alcoholism, understanding the impact it can have on an individual’s physical and emotional health, and getting help as soon as possible, individuals can take steps towards recovery.