Am I An Alcoholic Or Just A Casual Drinker?
In the United States, and almost every other country, drinking alcohol is a common pastime. People go to bars with friends or to meet people. Couples drink wine on dates. Communities drink beer at get togethers. Drinking is an accepted aspect of most cultures.
Unfortunately, while alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, millions of people around the world become addicted to drinking. More than 15 million Americans suffer from an alcohol use disorder of some sort.
Because drinking in moderation is so accepted, and because many people enjoy getting drunk somewhat regularly, it can be difficult to determine whether or not your drinking is a problem. Are you an alcoholic, or do you just get drunk a little too often? It’s a question you may not be able to answer all that easily.
To help you determine whether your alcohol use is problematic, these are the symptoms of alcoholism that should be red flags.
Internal Warning Signs
Although many addicts struggle with denial, there are usually some internal warning signs when you dig beneath the surface.
Ask yourself the following:
- do you feel guilty about how much you're drinking?
- do you end up drinking more, or for longer, than you planned?
- have you tried cutting back but were unsuccessful?
- do you worry about how much you're drinking?
These are all signs that you believe you have a problem. It is possible that you feel guilt about your drinking because of associations from when you were growing up. However, it should encourage you to ask the relevant questions. If you're actively trying to cut back, or are drinking even when you intended not to, then signs point to an alcohol use disorder. You may not be suffering from alcoholism just yet, but if you are unable to manage your drinking now, you will have even less control when the problem grows.
Social Warning Signs
Friends and family members can put you on the defensive by asking questions about your drinking. Your instinct may be to brush them off or react with anger. However, their questions should lead you to introspect on whether or not they have something to worry about.
- are friends and family members concerned about you?
- do you hide your drinking from them?
- are your relationships suffering because of your drinking?
- have you created a new social group to drink with?
Family and friends may not be the experts, but when you're allowing tensions to creep into your relationships, and don’t want to change your drinking habits, there’s a good chance your drinking is becoming problematic, if it is not already.
Situational Warning Signs
People struggling with alcoholism often find themselves in situations which would not come about if not for their drinking.
- have you found yourself in dangerous or compromising situations because of your drinking?
- are you struggling at work or school due to hangovers?
- do you miss deadlines or take days off because of your drinking?
- is much of your time spent drunk or hungover?
- has drinking taken over much of your thinking?
- do you drink even when you know it will lead to bad consequences?
While on vacation or in a safe environment, your drinking might not set off any warning signs. But when it affects your day-to-day life, it is easier to see that there is a problem.
Alcoholism is both a physical and mental condition. Some of the most pressing signs that you have a problem are physical symptoms.
You may be experiencing the following:
- you crave alcohol
- you need to drink more to get drunk
- you need to drink more to satisfy your cravings
- you experience withdrawals when you don’t drink, such as:
- trouble sleeping
- a racing heart
- seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren't there
If you're experiencing these symptoms, your body is already somewhat dependent on alcohol. By continuing to drink, these symptoms will get worse, as your body needs more and more alcohol to get by. Eventually, the alcohol will start damaging your organs, leading to major health problems.
Alcoholism Quizzes or Tests
There are various quizzes or tests designed to help you decide whether or not you have a problem. Some are short and simple, while others are more detailed and accurate.
The CAGE Alcohol Assessment, for example, asks 4 questions. However, it is too simplistic to use for proper diagnoses. It ideally encourages people asking the question to seek a professional opinion.
The MAST Alcohol Assessment, on the other hand, has over 20 questions (in various versions). This makes it more difficult to administer briefly, but its results are more detailed and more conclusive. However, it has other diagnostic problems, as its long-term approach means it may not identify alcoholism in its early stages.
The AUDIT Alcohol Assessment was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has 10 questions. These questions ask in detail about how much you drink and what sort of consequences your drinking has had on your life.
There is no one test that is foolproof or that doesn’t have its flaws. But the fact that you are asking the question means that you have noticed some symptoms of alcoholism in yourself. At the very least, further introspection is urged.
If you find that you can identify multiple symptoms of alcoholism, you should seek help as soon as possible. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner your recovery can begin.
Alcoholism can be frightening, but the fact that you are questioning your drinking shows your intent to get better. Alcoholism can be treated successfully. Take the steps to get help and work towards getting your life back on track.