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Alcoholism is classified as a disease of the brain. It’s typically difficult for sufferers to come to terms with their alcoholism, and many will experience denial.

This denial is often fueled by the stigma that stubbornly surrounds alcoholism. We hope that the below information will help you better understand the disease of addiction and also help to improve your ability to recognise this illness where you suspect it may have arisen.

It’s impossible to diagnose alcoholism with a simple physical examination, x-ray or blood test. This is because addiction is a disease of the mind. Instead, doctors must be on the lookout for several physical and psychological signs when diagnosing alcoholism. These signs and symptoms allow medical professionals to accurately diagnose alcoholism with confidence.

For those of you who are concerned about how much alcohol you are drinking, it’s often difficult to spot the signs of alcoholism when assessing yourself. It’s often better to seek the advice of a medical professional if you suspect you could be suffering from alcoholism.

Common signs & symptoms of alcoholism

Fortunately, there are some definitive signs and symptoms that allow medical practitioners to correctly and accurately diagnose alcoholism. However, even in the face of this positive diagnosis, those affected by this illness are known to express denial.

It’s never easy to come to turns with alcoholism, but receiving a positive diagnosis is surely one step closer towards recovery.

Below, we list some common signs that you could be addicted to alcohol:

  • You want to stop drinking but cravings for alcohol make it impossible to do so
  • You need alcohol in order to function normally
  • You lie to your loved ones about the amount of alcohol you consume
  • You hide alcohol away because you fear upsetting or angering loved ones by your drinking
  • You suffer withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol
  • You plan your life around your drinking
  • You become anxious when you go somewhere you know you won’t be able to access alcohol
  • You neglect important responsibilities because of your drinking
  • You lose interest in hobbies and interests
  • Your tolerance for alcohol increased so you need more and more to satisfy cravings

If you frequently hide alcohol, this may have a knock-on effect in that you begin to feel more and more socially isolated from your loved ones. If this is the case, it may be time to overcome denial and admit that you need help.

Lying to loved ones and yourself will only serve to make matters worse. In time, your loved ones will begin to see the truth that you are a sick person in need of treatment, and that you do not drink due to moral failings or character flaws.

If you are experiencing alcoholism, the hope of being able to drink in moderation is a goal you truly must abandon. Instead, you need to aim for total abstinence. Anything less is a recipe for failure that will condemn you to an on-and-off battle against the bottle that will probably result in you loosing everything, including your life. For those of you who suffer from alcoholism, when you start to drink moderately, you will not be able to stop.

Once the cycle of alcohol abuse begins, your tolerance for alcohol will increase. It will become harder and harder to ‘get back on the wagon’, and you may even get to the point where you require an alcohol detox at a specialist clinic in order to stop drinking.

Sufferers of alcoholism are no strangers to experiencing a blackout. Experiencing a blackout is often a traumatic ordeal, particularly for women. Some will equate experiencing a blackout with hitting rock bottom. Know that experiencing a blackout because of your drinking is not normal and it certainly is not something you should tolerate.

Perhaps the most tragic sign of alcoholism, at least from a social standpoint is that you are likely to neglect important responsibilities because of your drinking. You are likely to neglect your spouse, your children and your career. This will put significant strain on your relationship with loved ones. It’s thus not surprising to learn that alcoholism often results in job loss and family breakdown.

One important part of recovery is restitution. This is where you try to put right the wrongs caused by your addiction. Restitution is enshrined into the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-steps at step 8 and 9 where it says “make a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all” and “make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others” respectively.

The emotional symptoms of alcoholism

Alcoholism significantly affects your emotional welfare. Your mood is affected because alcohol abuse hijacks neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for normal mood regulation. This imbalanced chemical state within the brain means those affected by alcoholism are vulnerable to experiencing extreme mood swings.

Because alcohol is a depressant, sufferers of alcoholism are likely to experience depression as a result of their drinking. Alcoholism is also known to aggravate other mental health issues such as anxiety, anger problems and compulsion disorders.

How alcohol negatively affects your body

Any discussion on the signs and symptoms of alcoholism would be incomplete without discussing how alcohol affects the body. Alcoholism causes short and long-term negative effects on the human body. One of the most common short-term effects is the loss of coordination. This is one reason why those affected by alcoholism are much more likely to injure themselves accidentally.

Alcohol-induced impaired coordination may also mean you are more likely to drink whilst under the influence of alcohol. Doing so could have tragic consequences for yourself and others.

As you would imagine, alcohol causes many long-term health problems for those suffering from alcoholism. The most well-known of these health problems is liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is a major cause of death amongst those suffering from alcoholism. Alcoholism may also cause a form of dementia known as Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome, or ‘web brain disease’ for short.

Other health problems caused by alcoholism include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Some forms of cancer

What are my treatment options?

It’s best to seek out treatment as soon as you recognise the symptoms of alcoholism. Delaying your treatment could be fatal. Many people die from alcoholism unexpectedly. You underestimate the dangers of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol at your peril. Many people inflicted with alcoholism delay treatment until they have hit rock-bottom. This practice is positively dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Instead, seek out addiction treatment before it is too late. If you feel you cannot control your drinking, then now is the time to seek out treatment. You can discover your drinking options by contacting our free helpline today on 0800 140 4690.

Your treatment needs are best served at an inpatient alcohol rehab clinic. You will be able to continue your treatment over a longer period of time via an outpatient programme. The amount of time you require in a residential clinic is dictated by the severity of your addiction and any possible dual-diagnosis issues you are experiencing.