If you’re wondering whether a loved one is an alcoholic, you might be reluctant to accuse them directly. You might not even be sure and don’t want to confront them if they might get angry or defensive. Alcohol is an addiction, and, of course, the signs are generally less obvious than heroin addiction. To get a clearer picture of your loved one’s relationship with alcohol, you can look at their consumption habits and how often they are hungover or sick from overindulging, among others.
Curious about the signs of alcoholism? Ask yourself these questions about a loved one:
- How are they acting? If you notice they act differently when they imbibe, or they say they want to drink to feel a certain way, this may be an early sign. You may notice your friend or family member get irritable and moody when a drink isn’t in hand, or they turn down event invitations where alcohol won’t be present. If they frequently blackout or get sick or hungover more often than not, you should take notice.
- Do they make excuses? Coming up with reasons why they need to drink, such as to relax, deal with stress, or have a good time, especially at unusual moments, is another sign. Another sign is they might continually isolate themselves from loved ones and make up excuses for neglecting them.
- Do they keep up with their responsibilities? If your loved one increasingly neglects their responsibilities, especially in favor of drinking, it should sound an alarm. Examples include neglecting work and/or school or consistently being late, or rarely getting involved in their loved one’s activities they used to attend. These are major differences you should note, as it is a possible sign of alcoholism.
- Do they have legal troubles? A DWI/DUI is a clear sign that someone has a troublesome relationship with alcohol, especially if they’ve already had a previous DUI and didn’t correct their behavior. This is alarming because a DUI comes with harsh penalties that most would make sure to avoid incurring again.
Screening Tests to Measure the Severity of a Drinking Problem
If you could answer “yes” to 2 or more of the “CAGE” screening questions, it’s a sign of alcoholism and that you or a loved one needs help.
The 4 CAGE questions are:
- Do you ever feel like you should cut back on your drinking?
- Have you been annoyed when criticized for drinking too much?
- Do you feel bad or guilty about drinking?
- Do you drink when you wake up to steady your nerve or to get over a hangover?
Medical professionals have specific guidelines to properly diagnose alcohol abuse by utilizing the gold standard of psychiatric diagnostics: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The answers to these questions are related to the past twelve months of alcohol use.
- Do you continue to drink even though it makes you anxious and/or it adds to another health problem?
- Do you ever drink more than you intend to?
- Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy since you started drinking?
- Do you have symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as cold sweats, nausea, or headaches?
- Do you crave alcohol?
- Have you had legal trouble because of your alcohol consumption, such as a drunk driving arrest?
Take the Time Now to Take Control
Help is available for alcohol addiction. Just like any addiction, alcoholism is a disease, not a character flaw. It’s possible to get sober and stay sober while living a more fulfilling life. If you or your loved one meets the above criteria, you should consider approaching them to express your concern.