Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can take hold in subtle, insidious ways. Early detection of the disease is challenging but critical, as it allows for intervention before alcohol abuse leads to crises. This article outlines the physical, behavioral, psychological, social, and relational signs that may indicate alcohol use disorder (AUD). Recognizing these symptoms can motivate those affected to seek help, restore health, and regain control of their lives.

The path from casual drinking to alcoholism follows a gradual slope rather than an abrupt dive. Mild to moderate consumption slowly escalates in frequency and quantity over time. The health consequences, social problems, and addictive behaviors characteristic of alcoholism take years to develop and become evident. This makes the condition easy to minimize or deny in the early stages. However, paying attention to the constellation of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social signs can reveal alcohol use disorder at work. Catching alcoholism early and accessing treatment leads to much higher recovery success.

Physical Signs of Alcoholism on Your Body

Chronic excessive drinking causes detectable changes in physical health and appearance:

  • Gastritis signs like bloating, heartburn, loss of appetite
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes, dilated pupils
  • Tremors, slurred speech, impaired coordination
  • Frequent cold or flu symptoms
  • Unexplained injuries and bruises from accidents while intoxicated
  • Weight loss from nutrition displacement and poor absorption
  • Skin issues such as flushing, spider veins, and pale complexion
  • Sleep disturbances and chronic fatigue

The Less Obvious But Significant Changes to Physical Health

The internal damage of prolonged alcohol abuse also emerges through associated diseases:

  • Liver disease evidenced by jaundice, abdominal swelling, nausea
  • Pancreatitis indicated by abdominal pain and vomiting
  • High blood pressure and irregular heartbeat
  • Sexual dysfunction and hormonal imbalances
  • Vitamin deficiencies causing anemia, nerve damage, and osteoporosis

Routine primary care visits allow doctors to recognize these physiological indicators of alcoholism early. Voicing concerns empowers the patient to reflect honestly on their drinking habits.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain, Behavior and Emotional Responses

Alcohol impacts cognitions, emotions and behaviors in noticeable ways:

  • Sneaking drinks, drinking alone, hiding alcohol use
  • Making excuses to drink at unusual times
  • Abandoning past hobbies and social circles to spend more time drinking
  • Displaying disproportionate resentment, anger or defensiveness when confronted about drinking
  • Experiencing blackouts where intoxication causes memory lapses
  • Regularly drinking more than intended, beyond moderation levels
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back on alcohol despite wanting to
  • Drinking to relieve stress, anxiety, boredom or difficult emotions

These behavioral changes occur gradually as AUD develops, though loved ones often spot them faster than the drinker. Paying attention helps cue discussions around alcohol use early.

Emotional and Psychological Indicators

The mood disturbances and thought distortions caused by alcoholism offer further clues:

  • Increased anxiety, depression, irritability, and defensiveness
  • Difficulty processing emotions and managing stress
  • Lack of motivation and feelings of hopelessness
  • Declining performance at work or school
  • Impaired judgement, decision making and concentration
  • Aggressive or impulsive behavior and emotional volatility
  • Suicidal thoughts in severe cases as drinking exacerbates depression

Counseling helps identify any underlying mental health conditions like trauma that contribute to excessive drinking. Mood stabilizing therapy and alcohol treatment can alleviate these psychological symptoms in tandem.

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Social and Relational Impact

Alcoholism strains the familial, social and professional roles people occupy:

  • Neglecting household duties or parenting responsibilities
  • lateness and absenteeism at work impairing career
  • Conflicts with friends and family over problematic drinking
  • Withdrawal from social activities to drink alone
  • Financial issues like debt or bankruptcy due to money spent on alcohol
  • Legal consequences like DUI charges that threaten livelihood and freedom
  • High risk behaviors like drunk driving that endanger lives

The accumulated damage from these issues motivates many with AUD to change their trajectory. Supportive interventions from loved ones can further spur help-seeking.

Why Seeking Help Early in the Early Stages of the Disease is Critical 

Catching alcoholism early, before major crises hit, leads to better recovery outcomes. Some action steps for those observing symptoms in themselves or loved ones:

  • Documenting specific incidents, patterns and changes that reflect unhealthy drinking
  • Expressing concern and care for the person without shaming or lecturing
  • Offering to accompany them to meet with a doctor, counselor or support group
  • Presenting treatment options and verbal encouragement when they do decide to seek help
  • Attending counseling together to rebuild family and relationship dynamics
  • Exploring one's own role in enabling behaviors and committing to change
  • Accessing support like Al-Anon groups for concerned significant others

With loving honesty and patience, we can intervene on alcoholism early and restore hope.

Contact Crescent Moon Recovery for Help with an Intervention

Noticing the diverse physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social impacts of alcoholism allows for early intervention. The consequences of prolonged alcohol abuse emerge gradually, but paying attention helps cue meaningful discussions around problematic drinking. Catching alcoholism in early stages can motivate people to pursue treatment before major crises hit - saving health, families, careers and lives in the process.

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