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What Are the Symptoms of an Alcoholic?


The term “alcoholic” is commonly used, but what are the actual symptoms of an alcoholic? Many professionals require a consensus on what different levels of alcoholism constitute an alcohol use disorder.

Some people state that signs of alcohol withdrawal are symptoms of an alcoholic, while others believe that physical signs of alcoholism are the only way to determine this.

There is a document entitled “DSM-5 ”, which is a publication of the American Psychiatric Association.

It provides professionals in the mental health field information to diagnose the symptoms of an alcoholic.

It can allow them to identify the various mental health disorders that include alcohol use disorder.

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Symptoms of an Alcoholic Use Disorder

No two individuals experience alcohol abuse the same. Symptoms of an alcoholic use disorder do go along with 11 factors from the DSM, but they can emerge in different ways.

If you have experienced at least two of the 11 factors in the past year, then you may suffer from symptoms of an alcoholic use disorder, known as an AUD

If you suffer from two or three symptoms of an alcoholic use disorder, then you will be considered to have a mild use disorder.

Four or five symptoms are considered to be moderate symptoms of an alcoholic use disorder, while six or more is considered severe.

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If you are looking to understand a few of the possible symptoms of an alcoholic, consider the following situations.

  • Interference with work, school, family, or other responsibilities due to alcohol consumption.
  • Continuing to consume alcohol despite there being a negative impact on relationships.
  • Engaging in risky behavior after drinking, might include fighting, swimming, driving, having unprotected sex, or operating machinery.
  • Requiring more alcohol to achieve the desired intoxicating effects, known as an increased tolerance.

Warning Signs

There are many warning signs that can help to detect potential symptoms of an alcoholic. Many of these signs are easy to recognize, while others are more difficult to identify. The severity of alcohol abuse always plays a role in the symptoms of an alcoholic.

If someone tries to cover their alcoholism, they might try to drink in private and begin isolating themselves. This can make it challenging for family or friends to help their loved one. Additionally, mild alcohol abuse can be easily overlooked. Even though it may seem like a minor issue, it can eventually become more dangerous over time.

Never ignore the early symptoms of an alcoholic. Seeking treatment sooner rather than later will allow you to get healthy and free of your alcohol use disorder.

Common Symptoms of an Alcoholic

If left untreated, the symptoms of an alcoholic can spiral out of control. When alcohol begins to affect your life, it will also cause harm. At this point, it will be diagnosed as an alcohol use disorder.

Being able to recognize the symptoms of an alcoholic is essential to make a difference in someone’s recovery process. Despite there not being a specific way to determine if someone is an alcoholic, there are common symptoms.

  • Blackouts
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Signs of irritability
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Making excuses for drinking, might include to relax, to deal with stress or feel normal
  • Choosing drinking over other responsibilities
  • Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family members
  • Drinking alone or in secrecy
  • Feeling sick when not drunk
  • Changing appearance suddenly
  • Changing friends or the group of acquaintances you hang out with

Regardless of how big or small your drinking problem may seem, symptoms of an alcoholic should never be ignored.

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Symptoms of an Alcoholic vs Problematic Use

Moderate use of alcohol is associated with both the frequency as well as the intention of drinking. This means if you have a mental or emotional attachment to drinking, then it may mean you are at a higher risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.

Typically problem drinking is associated with loss of control. This means that alcohol will interfere with your daily life. You may display signs of the DSM-5 factors discussed.

You typically will also show at least three to five of these symptoms, so considered a moderate use disorder. At this stage you may or may not be physically dependent on alcohol, meaning you will not show withdrawal symptoms.

An Attachment to Drinking

If you have an attachment to drinking then it may mean that you need drinking to have fun. This means you may develop problematic drinking habits, which can eventually lead to an alcohol use disorder. Once dependence on alcohol sets in, then it will turn into a physical difficulty to stop drinking. This is due cravings for alcohol and withdrawal symptoms.

Never Go Cold Turkey

Although it may seem like the easy way out, most addiction professionals agree not to go cold turkey. This includes not going through an at-home detox. Instead, you should go through a medical detox process in order to detox safely, with the help of an addiction counselor or mental health professional.

Medical Detox

The need for a medically supervised detox depends on a few factors:

1. Length of alcohol abuse
2. Typical volume of consumption

In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can create more risks for the user. You may be at risk for fatality or painful symptoms should you not go through a medical detox. It is recommended that anyone seeking to detox from alcohol consult a medical professional before doing so.

Severe Symptoms of an Alcoholic

Out of the 11 factors set forth in the DSM-5, it is good to note that having six or more is considered a severe need for treatment. Although some of the negative symptoms of an alcoholic can include poor health, conflict with family, and other options, there are a huge number of highly functioning alcoholics. These individuals are able to go to work, exceed expectations, and meet all required financial obligations to survive.

Around 20 percent of individuals who abuse alcohol are considered to be high functioning. This means that the symptoms of an alcoholic associated with heavy chronic drinking, do not appear in these individuals until later down the line.

Severe symptoms of an alcoholic include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Anemia
  • Dementia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Cancer
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Nerve damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gout
  • Infectious diseases

How to Determine is Alcohol is the Cause

Alcohol abuse might make these conditions worse, but not cause them. For example, alcohol may be a component cause of a condition,but ongoing alcohol use will cause the condition to flare up.

There have also been cases of alcoholism that are directly related to diseases and conditions. This might include mouth cancer in a person with heavy symptoms of an alcoholic.

In the unfortunate event that a chronic drinker develops a serious health condition, you will need to go to a doctor to understand if it is one of the symptoms of an alcoholic, or if it has another cause.

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Getting Help

The symptoms of an alcoholic and have terrible consequences.

Despite ethos, alcoholism is treatable.

Even if some of the symptoms of an alcoholic cannot be reversed, sobriety can ease them.

Sobriety is always the end goal when it comes to alcoholism.

Contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health to learn about the treatment we offer, as well as our free insurance verification for treatment.

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