When Drinking Becomes a Problem: 11 Warning Signs
Last Updated: November 1, 2023
If alcohol use is impacting your life, consider reaching out for help. Experts have identified 11 signs of misuse that let you know there’s an issue.
Recognizing when drinking becomes a problem can help connect an individual to life-saving support before alcohol dependence progresses. Whether it’s using alcohol to cope with stress or mental health concerns or an increase in tolerance, alcohol misuse can progress before you realize it has become harmful.
What Are the Warning Signs of Alcoholism?
People vary in the symptoms and severity of alcoholism they present with. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a person is diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) if two or more of the following symptoms have been present in the last 12 months.
- End up drinking longer or consuming more than you planned
- Tried to stop or reduce your drinking, but haven’t been able to
- Preoccupied with alcohol and/or spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol, drinking or dealing with hangovers
- Craving alcohol
- Drinking or hangovers are interfering with your work, family or daily life
- Continuing to drink despite it causing relational issues
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable to you or passing them up in order to drink
- Drinking while engaging in physical activities that increase risk of injury (e.g., driving or swimming)
- Continuing to drink while knowing it’s causing you physical or psychological harm
- Having withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol wears off (e.g., depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, restlessness, nausea, sweating or trembling)
- Building up an increased tolerance to alcohol
What Are the Physical Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder?
- Unexplained weight changes
- Shakes or tremors
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Slowed movements and speech
- Impaired coordination
- Bloodshot eyes
- Fluctuating blood pressure
- Sleep disturbances
- Puffy or red face
- Excessive sweating
- Decreased energy
- Poor hygiene
Impact of Excessive Drinking on Health & Safety
Alcohol misuse can have long-lasting negative effects on an individual’s well-being. Possible alcohol-related health issues include liver disease, cancer, gastritis, pancreatitis, heart disease or brain and nerve damage. Heavy drinking also puts individuals at a higher risk of injury due to accidents and risk-taking behaviors while under the influence. This might look like driving, having unsafe sex, swimming or operating machinery while drinking or hungover.
AUD also impacts the people around you. It can strain personal and professional relationships, leading to a loss of support. If you’re pregnant, drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome for your unborn baby.
How Loved Ones Can Help Identify a Drinking Problem
When you notice warning signs of alcohol misuse in a loved one, consider reaching out to a professional intervention specialist. They can help you and other friends and family members plan and carry out an intervention. These are supportive meetings where an individual is confronted about their alcohol use and encouraged to seek treatment.
When speaking to the individual, try to be honest and supportive when expressing your concerns. Avoid shaming them, but establish clear boundaries if needed to protect your well-being. This may include stating that you will not buy them alcohol or allow them in your home when they’re under the influence. You can also offer to help the individual find treatment options. Supporting a loved one facing alcohol dependence can take a toll on your well-being. Consider attending individual therapy or Al-Anon family groups to find connection and support for yourself.
Get Same-Day Admission for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one are searching for AUD treatment, The Recovery Village Atlanta is here to help. Our physician-led facility offers same-day admission for medical detox, residential rehab and a partial hospitalization program. Reach out today, and one of our Recovery Advocates can help you start treatment.
“Alcohol Use Disorder.” Cleveland Clinic, June 2, 2021. Accessed September 2, 2023.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” 2022. Accessed September 2, 2023.