Signs, Symptoms, and Recognizing an Alcohol Use Disorder

Many consider alcoholism, or alcohol use disorders (AUD), to be the worst of all addictions for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is its availability; anyone who’s at or above the legal drinking age can buy and consume alcohol at his or her leisure. With so many people able to buy and keep alcohol on hand, it inevitably follows that a lot of adolescents and teens have fairly easy access to alcohol.

However, the most significant reason why alcoholism is widely considered the worst addiction is due to the intense physical dependence a person’s body forms to the substance. After a prolonged period of severe alcoholism—which is typically used to indicate a person who drinks frequently and very heavily—a person could be so addicted to the substance that it would be dangerous for him or her to abruptly stop drinking alcohol.

Due to its severity, it’s important for everyone to be knowledgeable of the most common signs of alcoholism. This is a disease that puts a person’s mental and physical well-being as well as the well-being of his or her loved ones. The implications of an addiction to alcohol are dire; people lose their careers, relationships, opportunities, interests, hobbies, and overall health. By being able to identify some of the warning signs of alcoholism, it becomes possible to intervene and encourage him or her to seek the necessary treatments for the disease. Therefore, the following are some signs that someone is struggling with an alcohol use disorder.


The mind of an addict is very complicated, having been warped by the disease that causes people to behave in ways that contradict their better judgments. In effect, the structural and functioning changes that addiction causes in the brain essentially block out a person’s survival instinct and aversion to behaving in ways that will bring them harm or repercussions.

However, the addict him or herself doesn’t quite see it that way. Although chronic substance abuse is a behavior that the average person would recognize as being harmful, those who abuse alcohol typically deny that they’re unable to control their alcohol consumption. When someone accuses them of drinking too much or asks other probing questions, they can sometimes become incredibly defensive, quickly justifying their alcohol consumption by insisting that they’re in control, they only drink to alleviate stress or help them to sleep, or that they’ve earned the right to have fun. Unfortunately, this defensiveness is a very common characteristic among those who are struggling.

Making Excuses to Drink

As mentioned, when people who have an AUD are asked or confronted about their alcohol intake, they often become defensive or even aggressive as they make up excuses in an attempt to justify their drinking behavior. One of the most common ways that they try to rationalize their alcohol intake is by explaining that they need to drink in order to alleviate their stress. However, the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism is also a major red flag for alcoholism.

Another common excuse is the tendency to assert that they’re in control of their drinking behavior and that in the instances when they drink incredibly high volumes of alcohol, it wasn’t because they were out of control; rather, they claim that they consciously chose to drink that much. Additionally, the person with alcoholism often makes the claim that he or she has earned the right to drink, which often means that alcohol has become a reward for completing a day of work or getting the kids ready for school. Virtually anything even mildly strenuous is enough for them to feel a sense of entitlement as if he or she has earned the right to drink.

Choosing Bad or Inappropriate Times to Drink

A hallmark sign of alcoholism is the point when a person’s drinking behavior starts to negatively affect other aspects of his or her life. What’s more, the individual will consciously choose to drink alcohol at times the worst or most inappropriate times, such as before work, family gatherings, kids’ soccer games, interviews, and so on. These individuals are completely aware of the fact that drinking alcohol will directly interfere with something important, but they drink the alcohol anyone because they’ve become unable to resist.

Seems to Be Letting Himself or Herself Go

Developing an alcohol use disorder entails much more than physiological and behavioral changes. Additionally, people who are developing drinking problems will start letting themselves go, becoming less and less concerned with their physical appearance. In many cases, they’ll either not have the energy or simply don’t care. As such, it’s often noticeable when a person is struggling because he or she will begin to appear more unkempt than he or she was ever known to be.

Unable to Fulfill All Responsibilities and Obligations

Most people have a number of responsibilities and obligations to fulfill throughout each day, many of which must be completed within a certain timeframe. However, as a person develops a drinking problem, budding alcoholism begins getting in the way of fulfilling one’s responsibilities. For instance, those with an AUD often begin getting to work late or missing altogether, forgetting to pick the kids up from school, and so on.

In most cases, it’s not that the person is consciously choosing not to go to work or fulfill other duties. Instead, it’s typical that excessive drinking leads to becoming incapacitated and losing track of time, or being too ill from the previous night of drinking.

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