A 2015 study showed that over 15 million Americans over 18 have AUD or alcohol use disorder in the US. In addition, overconsumption of alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the US after smoking and poor diet/lack of exercise.
With all of that being said, what qualifies as an addiction to alcohol? Whether you or someone else is addicted to alcohol, knowing the signs of alcohol addiction is the first step to recovery and treatment. If you think that you may be suffering from alcohol addiction rehab, counselling, or a 12 step program may be able to offer you the assistance you need to overcome your demons.
If you are unsure if you or a family member has an alcohol addiction that requires treatment, the following information may shed light on the situation. First, we will discuss the signs of alcohol addiction. So, what does alcohol addiction look like?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the leading resource when professionals seek to diagnose AUD or alcohol use disorder in a person.
At this time, the DSM-V or DSM-5 is the most up-to-date version of this manual. According to the DSM-V, 11 leading criteria can diagnose alcoholism in a person.
For the record, alcoholics will not always meet all of these 11 criteria, as there are differing levels of AUD. For instance, if a person meets only three or four of these criteria, the disorder is mild.
Meeting four, five, or six criteria would qualify as moderate alcoholism. The more criteria are met, the more severe the alcoholism is. Let’s look at these 11 criteria set out by the DSM-V.
- If a person wants to slow down or totally cut out alcohol use but cannot, this is a sign of alcohol addiction.
- If a person takes more alcohol than is meant, both in terms of amount per time and times consumed, they may be suffering from alcohol use disorder.
- One of the most significant indications that you or someone else is suffering from alcohol addiction is strong urges or cravings to consume alcohol.
- If a person spends a lot of time using, acquiring or recovering from alcohol use, they likely suffer from alcoholism.
- If a person continues to use alcohol even if it is causing issues in personal relationships, they are likely an alcoholic.
- If you cannot complete regular daily tasks and responsibilities, whether at home, work, or school, this is another sign of alcohol use disorder.
- The prolonged and consistent use of alcohol, even in the face of imminent danger, is another clear sign of alcoholism.
- A person who avoids recreational activities, social activities, and work responsibilities to consume alcohol is likely suffering from a certain level of alcohol use disorder.
- If a person needs to drink larger quantities of alcohol over time to achieve the same effect, this is a sign of alcohol addiction.
- If a person knows that their alcoholism is causing problems, whatever those problems may be, but continue to use it, this is a significant sign of alcoholism.
- The development of withdrawal symptoms when not using alcohol is another indication that a person is suffering from AUD.
Other Signs of Alcohol Addiction
According to the scientific community, the 11 criteria set out by the DSM-V are the most significant indications of alcoholism. However, if you are having trouble deciding whether or not you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol addiction, there are other signs.
Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol impairs the brain and can cause a person under the influence to behave in a certain way. The following physical signs are indications of the overconsumption of alcohol.
- Incoherent and slurred speech, possibly a stutter.
- The smell of alcohol is present on the breath.
- Tremors in the hands and eyelids.
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact with others.
- Falling asleep easily or feeling lethargic.
- Suffering from sleep disturbances such as insomnia.
- The deterioration of personal hygiene.
- Reduced coordination, such as hand-eye coordination or appearing off-balance when walking.
- Frequent and extreme mood swings, characterized by a general shift towards a negative outlook on life and depression.
- Frequent unexplained bruises and injuries.
Mental Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
- Frequent disorientation or often distracted.
- Has difficulties focusing and concentrating on a task.
- Cannot make decisions easily and often makes bad decisions.
- Requires directions to be repeated often.
- Has issues recalling details with possible short-term memory loss.
- Appears to be irritable or depressed.
Behavioral Signs of Alcohol Addiction
- Misses important dates or arrives at important functions intoxicated.
- Instances of domestic abuse, aggression, assault, and DUI.
- Inappropriate and impulsive behavior.
- Overreacts to everyday problems.
- Cannot take criticism or advice – especially related to alcohol use.
- Is isolated or withdrawn.
- No longer participates in former hobbies and interests.
- Acting uncharacteristically or recklessly.
- Experiences financial problems.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction – Final Thoughts
If you experience any of the above signs of alcohol addiction, or if you know someone who is, seeking treatment from a trusted source such as the Alcoholics Anonymous program is recommended. Remember, it’s never too late to seek help and improve your life.
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