symptoms of alcoholism

Symptoms of Alcoholism

If you suspect you or someone you love may be developing an addiction to alcohol, it’s important to understand some of the symptoms of alcoholism earlier than later.

This will ensure you’re able to identify a potentially life-threatening health issue in need of attention.

In this article, you will discover some of the more common symptoms of alcoholism.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

If left unchecked, those early warning signs can progress into the full list of symptoms associated with alcoholism. These symptoms include physical, mental, social, and even legal consequences of alcohol use. A person with AUD is likely to experience some or all of the following symptoms of alcoholism


A person who has become physically dependent on the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream will experience physical, mental, and emotional discomfort when transitioning to being sober. These withdrawal effects can occur anywhere from several hours to a couple of days after the last drink, and typically include headache, shaking anxiety, and irritability.


A person with AUD may swear of off drinking on Monday, only to be back at it, come Wednesday. What is happening, in this case, is that, once the alcohol has been fully purged from the system, the desire to refuel it creeps back in. The intensity of the craving to consume alcohol can make any previous resolutions seem inapplicable.

Self-Destructive Behavior

A hallmark of a substance abuse disorder is the stubborn persistence of continuing to use the substance, regardless of the potential for negative consequences. The nature of addiction is that it overrides common sense and good intentions, and prompts a person to forego all else in pursuit of the high. An addicted person will ignore consequences if it means getting to drink once more.

Alcohol addiction is a tricky problem in our society. On the one hand, the use of alcohol is glorified in the media as being the sign of having a good time. On the other side of the equation is the fact that over  

14 million adults in the United States suffer from an alcohol use problem. While the science of addiction is an ever-increasing field of study, there is yet no concrete evidence of what it is that determines whether a person will go on to develop a problem with alcohol. 

Early Warning Signs

It is most often that signs of an alcohol problem will be noticed long before a person goes in for an official screening. One of the first things to watch out for is the presence of a pattern of excessive drinking behavior. There is a difference between enjoying the occasional drinks with friends and feeling a need to consume alcohol every night before bed. The severity of intoxication that occurs during pattern drinking should be closely monitored, as well, as there tends to be a gradual slide into consuming more alcohol than was initially intended.

Paying attention to how you feel and behave during and after the drinking is another way to determine if you are heading for a problem. Waking up with hangover symptoms, even after only drinking what you consider a moderate amount, can be the body’s way of alerting you to the fact that the drinking is not for you. Spending time going over what you said and did while drinking the night before is also a warning sign that you are in danger of developing the negative mental health effects of anxiety and guilt that are associated with problem drinking.

Variability of Risk Factors

One of the factors which may play a role in developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the age of first use. Whether it has more to do with changing the developing brain chemistry or with initiating habits that will persist into adulthood is unclear, but studies have shown that over 70% of adults with a substance abuse problem began their use while under the age of 17. Setting the stage for alcohol addiction during youth can make it difficult to manage, as an adult.

Arrangement of chromosomes can also play a role in the determination of response to alcohol use. Genetic studies have revealed that those carrying the Y chromosome have a special enzyme in the stomach which can better process and eliminate alcohol from the body. Without that enzyme, more alcohol remains in the bloodstream, and higher levels of intoxication occur. It may not seem fair, but XX folks simply cannot get away with drinking as much.

Researchers are finding that genetics may go even further when it comes to risk factors in developing a drinking problem. Scientists have isolated certain gene variations that appear to not only play a role in developing alcohol dependence but may play a role in influencing the desire to drink, in the first place. The presence of certain genes appear to decrease the risk of alcohol addiction, and the absence of certain genes appear to increase that risk.

While the previously mentioned risk factors are still in a constant state of analysis, experts in the study of risk factors have overwhelmingly determined that underlying mental health disorders are at the core of many substance use disorders. The presence of poor mental health – which includes both mood and personality disorders – can both influence the desire to engage in addictive behaviors, and the ability to escape the addiction. Addictions that include both substance abuse and a mental health disorder are known as co-occurring conditions. Successful treatment in such cases often depends on both the alcoholism and the mental health problems being addressed, simultaneously.

Degrees of Severity

The line between acceptable – and unacceptable – alcohol use can be difficult to discern. For this reason, determinations can range from simple use, to abuse, to dependence and addiction. While one person can express drinking a few beers every night without a problem, another person can experience negative consequences for doing such. The risk factors involved will play a part in what behaviors are determined to be problematic, as will the person’s level of honesty with self and others.

In order to qualify for an official diagnosis of AUD, a screening list of questions is administered. As can be noted, the nature of the questioning is highly dependent upon the subjective experiences of those involved. A person will be asked whether he or she believes the drinking to be a problem, whether those around have indicated that the drinking is a problem, and whether there have been any tangible consequences surrounding the alcohol use. If the drinking is determined to be a cause of concern for the drinker, or for those around the drinker, a diagnosis can be provided. The qualifiers for the diagnoses can range from mild to severe, depending on the questions which are answered in the affirmative.