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What Does Alcoholism Look Like?

Today, we know that the symptoms of alcoholism can vary from one person to the next. Because the condition is progressive, these symptoms may increase over time in terms of the number of symptoms, their severity, and their impact.

Early Symptoms

Early signs of alcoholism can include:

  • An established pattern of heavy drinking

  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as when driving

  • Frequent intoxication

  • Planning activities around alcohol consumption

  • Thinking about alcohol more frequently

Other early signs of alcoholism include blackout drinking or a drastic change in demeanour while drinking, such as consistently becoming angry or violent.

Progressive Symptoms

Progressive symptoms of alcohol abuse occur when you continue to drink after your drinking reaches a level that causes recurrent problems. These symptoms can include:

  • Consuming more alcohol than planned

  • Denying the existence of a drinking problem

  • Drinking first thing after waking

  • Experiencing mood swings and personality changes

  • Experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

Physical Signs of Alcoholism

Alcohol use can have physical effects. Some of the physical signs that can develop include:

  • Broken capillaries on your face and nose

  • Dry skin and brittle hair and nails from the dehydrating effects of alcohol, which can result in an increased appearance of ageing and wrinkles

  • Poor hygiene

  • The frequent smell of alcohol on the breath, which can continue for hours after heavy drinking

  • Weight loss due to the neglect of eating in favor of drinking

  • Yellow eyes and skin due to liver damage

Is Alcoholism Genetic or Hereditary?

While the exact causes of alcoholism are not known, a number of factors can play a role. The condition is likely the result of a combination of genetic, social, psychological, and environmental factors.

  • Family history: Alcohol may have a genetic component, since people may be more likely to develop alcohol use disorder if they have family members with the condition.

  • Mental health conditions: People with a mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression, are more likely to develop problems with alcohol. People may sometimes turn to alcohol to cope with symptoms of a co-occurring mental health condition.

  • Social factors: Having peers, partners, co-workers, and parents who consume alcohol regularly or excessively may make it more likely that a person will develop an alcohol use disorder.

  • Stress: People may turn to alcohol to deal with feelings of stress or difficult emotions, such as anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness, or anxiety.

How Is Alcoholism Treated?

Treatment for alcoholism often involves a combination of therapy such as CBT, family support, detox, abstinence, mindfulness training, willpower, and hypnotherapy. If you think you might have an alcohol use disorder or if you are worried that your alcohol consumption has become problematic, it is important to talk to your doctor to discuss your treatment options.

  • Detox: Detox involves going through the alcohol withdrawal process. If your alcoholism is severe, you may need to go through medically supervised detox in order to manage your symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Detox may be inpatient or outpatient and involves the use of medications to control withdrawal symptoms and complications.

  • Therapy: Psychotherapy treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy, can help you better understand the thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to your alcohol misuse. These treatments can also help address symptoms of co-occurring psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to getting professional treatment and support, there are things that you can do to help feel better and improve your chances of recovery.

  • Know your triggers: In order to recover from alcohol use disorder, it is important to learn to recognize the things that tend to trigger your cravings for alcohol. These can be internal feelings or thoughts, or they can be external things or situations, such as people or places. Other common triggers can include relationship problems, work stress, or financial worries.

  • Manage stress: Look for ways to cope with stressors that don't involve consuming alcohol. Mind-body strategies, such as meditation, mindfulness, visualization, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation, may help you feel more relaxed and able to cope.

  • Practice health habits: Good self-care is an important part of alcoholism recovery. Getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep are all things that you can do that will help you feel better both in the short term and the long term.


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