9 Subtle Signs You’re Already an Alcoholic

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) happens when an individual drinks way too often and in large quantities. In such instances, their bodies become dependent and addicted to alcohol. Those who suffer from this type of disorder will keep on drinking even when it causes negative physical, emotional, and social consequences.

Treatment could involve abstinence from alcohol, counseling, support group therapy, and medication. If you or someone you love deals with an alcohol issue, then you might find this article helpful. Sometimes, recognizing the patterns is enough to set yourself on the right track. First, let’s see what an alcohol use disorder is!

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More about alcohol use disorder

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, AUD is defined as a “medical condition characterized by an impaired capacity to stop or even control alcohol use, despite adverse social, occupational, or even health consequences.

It also encompasses the conditions that some of us call alcohol abuse, dependence, addiction, or more colloquially, alcoholism.” AUD is also known as the medical term for something that’s considered to be a brain disorder, and it could be classified as mild, moderate, or even severe.

People who suffer from alcohol use disorder could engage in some behaviors as a result of their health condition. For instance, they could drink at different times of the day or even start drinking alone. They might even initiate skipping meals or eating less, mainly due to their excessive drinking.

Ultimately, the alcohol intake will start to affect their responsibilities, so they could decide to take more sick days due to hangovers or because they want to be free to drink. Their internal experiences could also include cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and even memory lapses.

AUD can also lead to liver damage, heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, and neurological damage. It has the potential to increase the risk of accidents and injuries. Treatment for AUD could include counseling, support groups, and medication.

Is alcohol use disorder similar to alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder is a very broad term that describes a wide range of drinking patterns, from problematic but not necessarily physically dependent drinking all the way to severe dependence. As a general rule, alcohol use disorder has been wildly known as alcoholism, alcohol abuse, or even addiction in the past.

Even so, the terms are somehow considered outdated now, because they stigmatize the individual and make it way more difficult for people to overcome certain treatment barriers, especially when these labels are placed on them.

The terms are completely falling out of use, and haven’t been considered diagnostic terms by medical professionals for a bunch of years now. Instead, doctors use diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5) to effectively establish whether alcohol use disorder is still present.

Other recovery groups, like alcoholics anonymous (AA), and others still rely on such descriptions when attending a meeting. However other support groups are starting to use the clinical and correct term AUD.

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder

People who suffer from AUD might have a hard time controlling their drinking and pursuing it even if it causes them financial, social, and physical issues. Plenty of different symptoms can be associated with AUD, varying in severity. At times, occasional or moderate drinking shouldn’t lead to such symptoms. Some of the most common ones include:


  • start drinking when you’re alone
  • needing to drink more before the effects of alcohol start to show (which means that alcohol tolerance sets in)
  • reacting aggressively or angrily when confronted about their drinking
  • neglecting their nutritional needs, eat poorly, or stop eating altogether
  • turning up late or missing work or school
  • becoming unable to control their intake
  • drinking even a series of issues starts to develop
  • making activities secondary to drinking
  • inventing endless excuses to drink

Physical symptoms:

  • strong cravings
  • experiencing blackouts, hangovers, and withdrawal symptoms
  • blacking out and short-term memory loss after a session of heavy drinking
  • withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and shaking
  • dehydration
  • involuntary shaking the next morning

Other illnesses

Other illnesses can also take place in the long term and depend on the individual’s overall health:

  • acidosis. This could potentially lead to malnourishment, especially if there’s been vomiting and decreased food consumption. It can cause the body to reduce its insulin production.
  • inflammation of the pancreas.
  • liver disease, such as cirrhosis
  • ulcers: as alcohol doesn’t directly cause ulcers, it can irritate and inflame the stomach lining, which can further worsen existing stomach or peptic ulcers. It can also cause irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining, especially if it develops into ulcers over prolonged periods of time. Continuous onsumption can also interfere with any healing of an ulcer, which worsens the symptoms.
  • ethylene glycol poisoning: this can start with intoxication, abdominal pain, and even vomiting, especially in the early stages of illness. It can also lead to headaches, decreased levels of consciousness, or seizures. If you don’t treat it, it can rapidly progress to kidney failure and brain damage.

Diagnosing alcohol use disorder

Doctors and mental health professionals could use the diagnostic criteria set out in the DSM 5 to establish whether AUD is present, but also to understand the severity of every case. In order for someone to get diagnosed with AUD, they need to experience the following symptoms over a year:

  • drinking more than they initially meant to;
  • wanting to stop drinking but having difficulty doing so;
  • getting alcohol, drinking, and recovering takes a huge part of their time;
  • experiencing serious cravings;
  • drinking that gets in the way of daily activities;
  • disrupting social or even interpersonal relationships;
  • taking over life activities that were prioritized before;
  • doing all kinds of risky things while drinking or because of drinking;
  • knowing it’s harmful but doing it anyway
  • developing high tolerance
  • experiencing symptoms of withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms could range from mild to severe. They generally begin within 8 hours after the last drinking session. Such symptoms can be seen in someone who has been drinking heavily for some time, but suddenly decides to stop or drastically decreases the amount of alcohol they are drinking.

In some instances, symptoms could appear as early as 4 to 6 hours, especially since the alcohol in the bloodstream returns to zero. Some of the most common symptoms include anxiety, sweating, increased heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, vivid dreams, shaking, headache, and fatigue.

Other, more severe symptoms could include hallucinations, agitations, tremors, confusion, disorientation, delusions, and even seizures. These symptoms can peak on the second day after the last drinking session.

Luckily, the acute phase is generally over by day four or five. Delirium tremens, or DT is a specific condition caused by alcohol withdrawals. This causes a rapid onset of confusion, hallucination, fever, high blood pressure, and a rapid heart rate.

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What causes such an use disorder?

A disorder generally develops over time. As a general rule, its use causes brian changes which are sometimes associated with booze intake with pleasurable feelings. This makes them want to drink way more often, even if it causes harm.

With ongoing use, the pleasant feelings go away. However, the individual gets withdrawal symptoms and keeps on drinking to prevent these symptoms. Some of the main risk factors could increase the chances of developing this condition, such as:

  • consuming over 14 drinks per week for males, and 7 drinks per week for females
  • binge drinking
  • a parent or a close family member with AUD
  • living in a family where alcohol use is accepted
  • repeating mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety
  • experiencing peer pressure as a young adult
  • high levels of stress
  • low self-esteem

If you found this article useful, we also recommend reading: 7 Alarming Signs You’re Going Through a Midlife Crisis




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