Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse can help individuals and families seek help for loved ones before drinking spirals out of control. By the time a person is in end-stage alcoholism, there can be no denying that drinking has taken over their life and damaged their health. Recovery will not be easy at this point, but it will be worth the work. Now is signs of alcoholism the time to line up support from addiction specialists, mental health professionals, friends and family, and others living with an alcohol use disorder. Many people use the terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcoholism” interchangeably. However, alcoholism refers to alcohol addiction or dependence, where the individual has a physical or psychological compulsion to drink alcohol.

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Other early signs of alcoholism include blackout drinking or a drastic change in demeanor while drinking, such as consistently becoming angry or violent. If you suspect that you or someone you care about has an AUD, it may be time to seek professional help. is a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers (AAC), a nationwide provider of addiction treatment facilities.

Who is at Risk?

Heavy drinkers are more likely to become violent when irritated. Living with an alcoholic can be overwhelming as the sober partner tries to deal with the situation. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. This condition leads to birth defects and ongoing developmental issues for children.

Though it has many possible causes, the physiological effects of alcohol withdrawal can be enough for some people to continue drinking heavily and start a dangerous cycle. Alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder, is a chronic mental illness that impacts judgment, behaviors, and a person’s physical health. Recognizing the difference between non-harmful alcohol consumption and alcohol addiction can be difficult. However, certain physical and behavioral traits may indicate that alcohol adversely affects someone’s health. The relationship between mental health conditions and alcohol use disorder is complex.


Take a short quiz of DSM-5 criteria to assess the severity of your alcohol use. Despite its prevalence, alcoholism often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Hosted by Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for coping with alcohol cravings and other addictions, featuring addiction specialist John Umhau, MD.

Some people seem to be just fine even though they abuse alcohol. You may hear them called  “functional” or “high-functioning” alcoholics. These medicines work by reducing cravings, decreasing the impact of symptoms, and causing intolerable side effects upon alcohol consumption. Another sign of AUD is someone drinking alcohol even though it may affect an existing health condition. It may also lead to increased psychological distress among the partners and children of individuals with AUD.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

When individuals don’t get alcohol, they experience withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, shaking and sweating. As a result, they fall into a vicious cycle of seeking alcohol to relieve the symptoms. If you think someone you care about has gone from moderate drinking to drinking too much, the following signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse can confirm that trouble is ahead if drinking continues.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it can slow down brain activity. They may neglect family obligations, child care duties, schoolwork, or employment. People with AUD may have to drink increasingly larger amounts of alcohol to get the same effects as they used to with fewer drinks. Consider talking with a professional about your options to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume safely and avoid serious side effects. Symptoms of alcohol use disorder can look differently in each person.

End-Stage Alcohol Abuse

Headaches, fatigue and nausea after drinking are signs of a hangover. People experiencing hangovers may feel too sick to go to work or school. Excessive alcohol use also leads to poor judgment and behaviors like driving while impaired or fighting. Getting into legal trouble because of drinking is one sign a person is drinking too much. AUD involves the continued use of alcohol despite the adverse effects it may have on a person’s life.

Combined with medications and behavioral treatment provided by health care professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your health care provider. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar type of self-help group. Needing a drink first thing in the morning — or even in the middle of the night — to stave off nausea or stop the shakes
are signs of dependence and withdrawal. Typical
alcohol withdrawal symptoms include sweating, shaking, nausea, anxiety and insomnia.

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