How do you know if you're an alcoholic?
How do you know if you’re an alcoholic? Here are the signs, risks, and resources you need to know if you think you might be an alcoholic. The typical stereotype of an alcoholic as someone who drinks too much and who is teetering on the verge of falling apart is not always accurate. It can be difficult to know who is or isn’t an alcoholic as our behavior appears to be normal even though we may be suffering from alcohol abuse. Addiction experts identify these individuals as “functional” or “high-functioning” alcoholics. This begs the question: ‘How Do You Know If You’re an Alcoholic? Are you an alcoholic even though you’re living a wonderful life on the outside with a great job, home, family, friendships, and social network’, says Sarah Allen Benton, a licensed mental health counselor and author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic. Now officially called “alcohol use disorder,” many still refer to it as “alcoholism” or “alcohol abuse.” Alcohol Use Disorder is a condition that ranges from mild to moderate to severe.No matter where an individual falls on this spectrum their behavior is still considered problem drinking and they need to be aware of the risks associated.
Heavy Alcohol Use
The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as:
- Men: consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week
- Women: consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week.
NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent – or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or higher. This pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female) for a typical adult, in about 2 hours.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.
Alcohol and the Problem of Denial
Denial presents a challenge for many to acknowledge and accept they are suffering from alcohol use disorder and require help. A functional alcoholic might not behave the way you would expect him or her to behave. They might be responsible and productive. They could even be a high achiever or in a position of power. The reality is, all of this success might cause others and even themselves to overlook the drinking problem.
They could also be in denial and assume that because they are successful in many life areas, the problem doesn’t exist.
According to Robert Huebner, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, no one “can drink heavily and maintain major responsibilities over long periods. If someone drinks heavily, it is going to catch up with them.”
What are the Top 10 Signs that You’re an Alcoholic?
There are signs in your thoughts and behaviors that indicate whether or not you are an alcoholic. If you drink more than the daily or weekly limit, you’re at risk of abusing alcohol. That’s not the only way to tell if you or someone you care about needs help. According to experts, here are some signs to look out for:
- Deny drinking, hide alcohol, or get angry when confronted about drinking.
- Say you have a problem or joke about alcoholism.
- Not keep up with major responsibilities at home, work, or school.
- Lose friendships or have relationship problems due to drinking, but you don’t quit alcohol.
- Legal problems related to drinking, such as a DUI arrest.
- Need alcohol to relax or feel confident.
- Drink in the morning or when you’re alone.
- Get drunk when you don’t intend to.
- Forget what you did while drinking.
- Cause loved ones to worry about or make excuses for your drinking.
The Risks of Being an Alcoholic
The risks of being an alcoholic can have immense impacts on many areas of your mental and physical health and overall quality of life. Functional alcoholics may appear to have their lives together from an outside perspective, but they may put themselves and others’ safety and wellbeing at risk by drinking and driving, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, or passing out due to overconsumption. There are serious health risks of drinking including pancreatitis, liver disease, cancer, brain damage, high blood pressure, and memory loss. Being an alcoholic can also put you at risk of dying from fatal situations like suicide or car crashes. Furthermore, alcohol abuse can lead to domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect, and can threaten the life of an unborn child including fetal alcohol syndrome. If not treated, not only can alcoholism impact your own life, but it can have serious effects on your friends, family, and co-workers.
Alcohol Use Assessment
Take an expert Alcohol Use Assessment. Our assessment, which is based on screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services. It is used for:
- Persons with substance use disorders
- Persons whose use is at higher levels of risk
Primary care centers, Sober Living Environments (SLEs), treatment facilities, schools, clinics, and other community settings can provide safe and effective opportunities for early intervention and care for those suffering from alcohol abuse, especially coupled with a strong recovery education component like Pobal’s Ascent program and Arc community support app. If you think you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse disorder, the Pobal community encourages you to seek the help and resources you need, starting with an initial assessment, such as our S-Birt Alcohol Use Assessment.
Sources cited: National Library of Medicine; SAMSHA, NIAAA. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.