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Top 6 Ways to Identify an Alcoholic [Updated Oct. 2021]

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February 19, 2014

teen and recovery

Many individuals who struggle with alcoholism and problem drinking are easy to spot, clear as day — and loved ones have more ammunition to confront and push him or her to get the necessary help. For many others who struggle, however, their warning signs aren’t as obvious, and so the entire treatment process is only further avoided. If you feel your friend, family member, coworker or loved one has a drinking problem, you can watch for certain signs.

Here are the top 6 ways to identify an alcoholic (in no particular order):

1. Unusually high tolerance for alcohol

This may seem obvious, but so true: alcoholics slowly and gradually build tolerance for alcohol. You may notice they’re usually able to drink more than most in the bunch without feeling the same affects — or any, for that matter — and simply continues to drink while others slow down or show concern.

2. Hiding alcohol

If you catch someone drinking alcohol into places where it’s prohibited — like school or work– he or she is either an alcoholic, a binge drinker or is on the verge of being either. Anytime someone feels the need to hide something from loved ones, chances are it means they know it’s wrong, are ashamed and yet has no control.

3. Isolation/Absence from work

A person who to begins isolate him or herself from normal activities or shows up to work or school less and less is almost always a warning sign for something, whether it’s drug addiction, alcoholism, depression or something else that requires help. This one may not necessary point to an alcohol problem, but if does if it’s combined with any of the other signs here. An alcoholic often skips out on work or other commitments because he or she is drunk, must obtain alcohol or is hung over. Shame also plays a part, and an alcoholic is typically too scared to show loved ones how the disease has progressed and will instead resort to isolation.

4. Irrational moodiness/Emotional ups and downs

Managing an alcohol problem can just be very stressful, emotionally, mentally and physically, not to mention the physical harm and therefore stress it causes the brain and body. Reminiscing of the days when drinking was simply fun and non-addictive can make a content alcoholic quickly turn angry, emotional or irrational, and moods can shift quickly and abruptly.

5. Avoiding situations that don’t include alcohol

If an alcoholic goes too long without a drink, he or she begins to experience intense withdrawal symptoms. These include nausea, sweating, shaking and anxiety. These symptoms can often be too much to bear, so the alcoholic may avoid going to work, school, activities, functions or events where alcohol isn’t served or is acceptable to drink.

6. Dangerous behavior

Drinking too long or too much most often results in the individual losing their normal sense of self-control and judgement — which often turns very dangerous, and deadly. Drunk driving, for example, is still an epidemic. Alcoholics often begin to take more and more risks, because alcohol is more important than life itself.

Of course, there are varying degrees of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Whatever the level may be, treatment is beneficial to anyone who suffers with problem drinking. Friends, family members and loved ones should look for and recognize any of these signs of alcoholism is suspected, and step up to encourage seeking help.

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