In 2019, 14 million adults suffered from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Perhaps you worry about your drinking and have asked yourself, “Am I an alcoholic?. See if drinking could be an issue for you, and take the quiz.
Defining Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder
In general, alcoholism means severe dependence on alcohol to regulate a person’s mood and to give them comfort. As a result, they suffer from important mental and physical problems. However society might use it, the word “alcoholic” is not a clinically useful term for treatment.
Addiction professionals and specialists, instead, use “alcohol use disorder” or “alcohol dependence” to describe, diagnose, and treat the problem. They can then work with more advanced ways of describing and defining problem drinking into mild, moderate, and high dependence categories.
In order to be described clinically as an alcoholic, you must show symptoms outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM-V). If they’ve appeared and been persistent over the last 12 months, the manual will show how severely you suffer from alcoholism. Our quiz is based on this model.
Heavy Drinking, Binge Drinking, and Alcoholism
Excessive drinking can also be described in more clinical terms by professionals who identify and treat alcoholism’s two forms of problematic drinking: heavy drinking and binge drinking.
Research uses the term heavy drinker very specifically. How much you drink during a one-week period could make you a heavy drinker. If you are under 65, having more than two drinks a day (or 14 drinks overall) qualifies. Over this age, drinking once a day (or seven drinks overall) defines a heavy drinker.
The second clinical possibility is a binge drinker. Binge drinkers are defined by how much alcohol they consume within hours (rather than days or weeks). Men having five or more drinks in two hours would be considered binging. Women with four drinks in the same timeframe meet the same standard.
Many heavy drinkers and binge drinkers do suffer from alcoholism and alcohol use disorder, but this isn’t always the case. When a simply excessive drinker decides to cut out alcohol, they see easy change in their life.
But, someone with true alcohol use disorder can’t stop just like that, and they often relapse into problem drinking if they do. They can have a greater emotional, psychological, and physical dependency than heavy or binge drinkers might.
Signs, Symptoms, and Warnings of Alcohol Use Disorder
Our culture supports and perpetuates drinking, so it can be understandable why persistent drinking can be a problem in an encouraging atmosphere. Still, you can spot alcoholism or alcohol use disorder by looking for certain warning signs of the addiction:
- Drinking despite legal, career, and interpersonal problems
- Feeling alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms
- Canceling other non-drinking activities
- Prioritizing drinking above other commitments
- Losing control of alcohol intake and patterns
- Being irritable and having mood swings
- Being unable to quit drinking for long periods of time
- Experiencing cravings for alcohol
- Engaging in private or morning drinking
- Feeling guilt around drinking habits and consequences
These are common symptoms of a bigger problem, but alcohol use disorder varies according to each person’s life experience and mental health. If you see these warning symptoms in you or someone else, seek guidance in addiction recovery and reach out to our specialists.
If you’re unsure, compare your experience with the criteria for alcohol use disorder through our “Am I an Alcoholic” Quiz. It can help you discover the relevance of alcoholism signs in your day-to-day experience and encourage you to take a closer look at your drinking patterns.
Medical and Mental Health Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
You may never suspect a toxic relationship with alcohol as an alcohol use disorder develops. Instead of taking the occasional drink socially, you can find yourself in the grips of painful withdrawal symptoms, engaging in day drinking, and going on disastrous binges.
Review the symptoms of alcoholism below. They show themselves in your mental as well as medical health. Using these factors, you can see if you (or those you know) may be suffering from alcohol use disorder.
Mental Health Symptoms of Alcoholism
- Drinking alone
- Losing personal hygiene
- Taking a defensive attitude about alcohol
- Having a high tolerance for alcohol intake
- Neglecting work, school, or family for drinking
- Having a poor appetite, diet, or habits
- Using excuses to justify drinking
- Cutting out non-drinking hobbies and activities
- Losing insight and control over drinking
- Drinking regardless of social and legal consequences
Medical Symptoms of Alcoholism
- Feeling withdrawal symptoms after hours or days without a drink
- Having intense and almost uncontrollable cravings to consume
- Blacking out and losing memory after bouts of drinking
- Experiencing tremors and shakes while drinking
- Contracting infection or developing illness
Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcoholism
- Feeling anxious or unable to sleep
- Getting shaky or feeling nauseous
- Having episodes of vomiting or headaches
- Feeling a racing heartbeat with intense sweating
- Experiencing high blood pressure or fever
- Possibly seeing hallucinations or having seizures
Immediate and Prolonged Risks of Alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder
In a short span of time, alcoholism can create risks for you, your family, and your community. Alcohol use disorder, left untreated, can bring serious consequences to your well-being and health—even in those near and dear to you. These can involve:
- Getting into accidents and sustaining injuries
- Engaging in violence or perpetrating assault
- Causing fatal alcohol poisoning
- Leading to miscarriages and fetal alcohol disorders
- Creating unintended pregnancy
- Contracting sexually-transmitted infections
Without effective treatment, the alcoholic also brings long-term risks to themselves in every organ and function of the body. Unless they seek help, people with alcohol use disorder often face:
- Throat, colon, breast, mouth, and more cancers
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and liver disease
- Weak immune systems open to infection and illness
- Problems with interpersonal relationships and responsibilities
- Mental health challenges related to anxiety, depression, and mood
- Struggling performance at school or with memory and learning
The rampant consequences of active addiction all show themselves within alcohol use disorder and alcoholism. These effects ripple out from the lives of millions of people in the US, and understanding whether you’re suffering from a problem with alcohol can be an initial insight leading to years of healing.
Take the alcohol quiz, and you’ll learn about the signs looked for by clinicians in diagnosing and treating addiction. Then, explore how addiction treatment understands alcoholics to return them to happy, satisfying, and productive living.
Five Common Levels of Alcohol Use Disorder
The experience of alcoholism is personal, but clinicians have noticed certain key traits in alcohol use disorder patients that help them make personalized treatment plans and assist recovery. See how your experience could compare to some of these alcohol use disorder categories.
Young Adult AUD
One-third of all alcoholics are young adults diagnosed with AUD. They consume alcohol less often than many heavy drinkers, but they engage in binge drinking often. They don’t usually come from families with a history of alcoholism, so discovering their challenge can surprise.
Young adult alcoholics often have a co-occurring diagnosis like antisocial personality disorder (APD). In their lives, they are impulsive, deceitful, and shrug responsibility. Their drinking lifestyle also shows a lack of regard consequences.
Someone with functional alcoholism challenges the stereotype of the alcoholic, and many are in denial about their drinking because of it. They usually come from good families, holding solid jobs, but they nevertheless make up one-fifth of all alcoholics in the US.
Immediate Family AUD
Generational alcoholism is a common experience in the US, and while many alcoholics in this category usually have decent jobs, they are often crushed by depression carried over from family medical histories. They struggle to cope with despair and turn to alcohol.
Chronic Severe AUD
The rarest form of alcoholism involves those who started drinking at a young age and present many other dependencies and addictions. They often have competing mental health disorders that complicate treatment. Almost 75% of them come from families with a history of alcohol use.
Receive Custom Care for Alcoholism
The best treatment for alcoholism is custom-fit to you as an individual with meaningfully different life experiences. Haven Detox offers evidence-based options according to your individual needs, including medical detox and residential programs with aftercare planning support.Improve yourself, attain freedom from alcohol, and heal the trauma of addiction. Contact Haven Detox at (561) 328-8627 to take the next step in your recovery.
Let’s get you or a loved one help with a few simple steps.