Millions of adults in the US endure alcohol use disorder (AUD) at some point in their lives. You may worry that you drink too much or too regularly. A simple reflection on your drinking patterns and habits can help you reveal the truth. Take our “Am I an Alcoholic” quiz to see the signs before they devastate you or your community of loved ones.
What is Alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
Alcoholism describes a severe dependence on alcohol for people who can’t regulate their moods or feel a sense of calm satisfaction with life—without first taking a drink. Because of their reliance on alcohol, they suffer serious mental health and medical problems. But, the specific term “alcoholic” isn’t in the clinical vocabulary.
Rather, doctors and treatment specialists use “alcohol use disorder” (or “alcohol dependence”) to describe, diagnose, and treat the problem. These best practices open up more classifications with more nuance that help them achieve the best recovery outcomes possible.
To receive a diagnosis, patients must show many of the symptoms outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-V) that tells clinicians which disorder is most descriptive and appropriate for each patient’s unique experience.
Heavy, Binge, and Excessive Drinking in Alcoholism
When it comes to treating and identifying alcohol use, professionals usually suggest two kinds of excessive drinking be analyzed:
- Heavy drinking could be how much you drink in seven days. Two drinks per day (or more than 14 drinks per week) makes a heavy drinker for those under 65. Over 65, drinking once per day (or more than seven per week) makes a heavy drinker.
- Binge drinking could be how much you drink in a few hours. Drinking five or more drinks within two hours describes a male binge drinker. Female binge drinkers consume four or more drinks in the same period.
Heavy, binge, or excessive drinkers are sometimes those with an alcohol use disorder, but this isn’t always true. A key difference is the ability to quit and stay sober. When an excessive drinker cuts drinking, they quickly and easily improve their lives, work, and relationships.
By contrast, someone with alcoholism or alcohol use disorder can’t seem to stop drinking. They often relapse into the habit of excessive drinking and endure its consequences. They may have more emotional, mental, and physical dependence than excessive drinkers.
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcoholism
Our society seems to promote alcohol consumption from ads to celebrations. If drinking is a problem in your life, this can be confusing encouragement. After you complete our alcoholism quiz, concern yourself with these warning symptoms of alcohol substance abuse:
- Keeps drinking despite personal and professional consequences
- Feels intense and severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Loses their interest in activities without alcohol
- Prioritizes drinking above others or responsibilities
- Cannot remember what happened the night before
- Loses control of when and how much they drink
- Has strong irritable moods and shifts in feelings
- Feels unable to stop drinking on their own
- Engages in secret drinking in the morning
- Feels guilty about drinking
- Craves alcohol
Everyone’s experience of alcoholism varies, but these are common warning signs of a problematic relationship with alcohol. If you see these markers of an alcohol use disorder, contact immediate help and discuss your situation with a professional.
If you feel more comfortable learning on your own, explore your drinking through our quiz. You’ll see how these experiences can be relevant to your life situation and whether you need to take a closer look with professional help.
Medical and Mental Health Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol use disorder usually develops over time, slowly overtaking the unsuspecting drinker who once had an unintrusive relationship with alcohol. Instead of enjoying the occasional drink, they now find themselves faced with mental and medical complications of their substance use—including dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Examine these symptoms and signs of alcoholism that show up in many cases of substance use disorders. You’ll see there are mental health indicators as well as physical manifestations of the disease to be considered.
Mental Health Signs of AUD
- Solitary drinking
- Neglected hygiene
- Defensiveness about drinking
- High tolerance for intoxication
- Forgotten work or school duties
- Poor habits of eating and appetite
- Many excuses for continued drinking
- Reduced non-drinking programming
- Legal, work, school, and family issues
- Unable to remember activities after drinking
- Lost control of alcohol usage
Medical Signs of AUD
- Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndromes (nausea, vomiting, shaking, and more)
- Cravings for alcohol that won’t subside and persist
- Lost memory and blackouts after drinking
- Tremors and shakiness during drinking
- Cancer, disease, and infection
Withdrawal Signs of AUD
- Feeling anxious or restless
- Having shakes, nausea, and vomiting
- Experiencing intense headaches
- Feeling a racing heartbeat and sweating
- Getting high blood pressure or a fever
- Experiencing convulsions, seizures, or hallucinations
Pervasive Risks of Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism is associated and related to many seriously negative outcomes for people with the addiction as their families and communities. The immediate effects it can bring on include everything from accidents and injury to domestic violence:
- Accidental injury and death (car crashes, burns, drownings, falling, etc.)
- Domestic violence and assault
- Fatal alcohol poisoning
- Miscarriages and fetal alcohol disorders
- New pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection
Those with an active disorder also risk long-term effects to almost every part of their body, mind, and experience of life. Without effective treatment, they face steep, negative consequences in mental and physical health:
- Liver cancer, throat cancer, colon cancer, mouth cancer, and more
- Liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even stroke
- Multiple forms of illness and infection from a weakened immune system
- Continued issues at home, work, school, and between others
- Struggles with mental health challenges like anxiety and depression
- Lowering performance in all areas due to learning and memory difficulty
The true consequence of unchecked alcohol use disorder across the nation is incalculable—but staggering. You can start to ward off some of these consequences when you know what you are up against, take our alcoholic quiz, and start exploring relevant treatment options for your unique experience with alcohol use.
Five Kinds of Alcohol Use Disorder Experiences
To make treatment as personal and effective as possible, clinicians often group alcoholics into different categories from mild and moderate to severe. They also use general categories on types of drinkers to understand the best course of treatment for them. See how these categories might help you understand your own drinking.
Young Adults with AUD
Of all those addicted to alcohol in the US, young adults compose one-third. They may consume alcohol less frequently than other categories, but they tend to binge in heavy drinking sessions. And, while they may not come from a family of alcoholics, they still engage in binge drinking without proper intervention.
Those young drinkers with alcoholism may also have a dual diagnosis like an antisocial personality disorder. This means they act impulsively and show a lack of responsibility for the consequences of drinking and beyond. In lifestyle, there is little regard for effects on others.
Functional Adults with AUD
Despite the usual stereotypes of the alcoholic in the US, many remain in denial about their drinking because they come from good families and hold down decent jobs. Still, one-fifth of adults with AUD suffer from what clinicians sometimes call functional alcoholism.
Adults with Immediate Family AUD
A generational predisposition to using alcohol can force some to experience the extra burden of depression alongside their addiction. In their lives, they may struggle to cope with cravings and have a persistent sense of despair about the outlook of their lives while turning to alcohol.
Adults with Chronic Severe AUD
Usually, the rarest form of alcoholism shows itself when a person began drinking in youth and has other forms of dependency. They often have multiple diagnoses and a family history of alcohol use in more than 75% of cases.
Recover from Alcoholism at Haven New England
The ideal alcohol and drug use disorder treatment begin at the individual level. The Haven New England uses evidence-based treatments and therapies to help those like you (or those you love) recover. According to each client’s needs, effective treatment begins with medically supervised detox, residential programs, and aftercare planning. Draw on your strength and make the call for a more full experience of life free from addiction to alcohol. Contact The Haven New England at (844) 933-4145 to begin your recovery journey.
Let’s get you or a loved one help with a few simple steps.