Alcoholism is a nonclinical way to describe an alcohol use disorder (AUD). When people believe they may be suffering from alcoholism or consider themselves an alcoholic, it actually means they have AUD. Alcohol is a difficult addiction to tackle and identify because it is often used as a way for people to socialize, bond, and celebrate. It is often used to help groups of people unwind and celebrate great events. This connotation around alcohol blurs the line between recreational drinking and AUD.
Alcohol is not considered unhealthy or dangerous when consumed in a moderate amount and for recreational use (hanging out with friends, at a special event, etc.). AUD is different from social drinking because the amount increases exponentially, and there is a reliance on alcohol. The craving and dependence can be physical, emotional, or both. If you are unsure if you may be suffering from AUD but suspect it, here are some common signs:
AUD is not always easy to see. You may feel you are perfectly fine and functional throughout the day. Drinking may have started out as something that was sociable and fun, but social drinking can quickly turn into signs of AUD. Early signs of the disorder are usually characterized by excessive drinking, which takes place in two forms: binge drinking and heavy drinking.
Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in two hours for me and four or more drinks in two hours for women.
Heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks in a week for women and 15 or more drinks in a week for men.
Drinking excessively can occasionally occur due to the celebratory nature of alcohol, and having five or more drinks at a wedding does not mean you have AUD. It does, however, mean you are more susceptible to developing the disorder. Individuals that struggle with excessive drinking can engage in risky behavior and become emotionally unstable. It is important to have a friend or family member keep you informed of any alcohol abuse they may have noticed from you.
If You Are An Excessive Drinker, Here Are More Warning Signs:
There are certain characteristics associated with excessive drinking. If you have one or more of these symptoms, it is likely excessive drinking is not a rarity in your life. It is also more likely that you have AUD.
- You have alcohol breath.
- You have noticed weight loss and it can be correlated to replacing food with alcohol.
- You have noticed a decrease in skin, hair and nail quality. You also feel as if you have aged prematurely. (Alcohol dehydrates your body, lowers vitamin levels and collagen levels. This causes the skin to lose elasticity and appear duller, a natural occurrence of aging).
- Burst blood vessels on your face and yellow eyes (a sign of liver damage).
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on AUD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a product of the American Psychiatric Association and is often referred to when classifying mental disorders. AUD is considered a mental disorder, and the DSM-5 has listed 11 ways to identify AUD.
According to the DSM, people who struggle with AUD will often drink an amount of alcohol that is disproportionate to everyone else’s or what an event calls for. An example of this is having over ten shots at a wedding where everyone is drinking leisurely.
If you are on this page, it is likely you believe you may suffer from AUD. A lot of AUD sufferers realize they suffer a dependence on alcohol or at least suspect it. Another symptom of AUD is wanting to cut down on their alcohol consumption but being unable to. Individuals with AUD spend the majority of their free time drinking and feeling the aftereffects of alcohol. In their daily life, they will also experience intense cravings for alcohol. These behaviors have likely caused issues in their daily life and relationships. And despite being aware of the connection between their issues and drinking, they continue to drink.
If you feel like a lot of things you once found interesting or important have now been lost because of drinking, that is also a sign of AUD. You have also noticed an increase in risky behaviors either while drunk or facing its aftereffects. You are feeling severely mentally depleted and out of control from drinking but continue to do so. You have also noticed that you require more alcohol to reach the same level of drunkenness as before. Symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, depression, and nausea are common if you are not drunk (signs of withdrawal).
If you have related to two of the eleven bolded symptoms, you likely suffer from mild AUD. It is best to seek medical help from an addiction treatment center and a private practitioner before the AUD gets worse. Those that experience four to five symptoms suffer from moderate AUD, and those that suffer more than six symptoms have severe AUD.