Have you ever suspected that you have an alcohol problem? There are several established signs of alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), the clinical term for when the brain compulsively craves that particular drug.
Speaking of proper terms, a quick clarification: in this case, symptoms are those specific problems related to alcohol use which you personally experience and observe. Signs of alcoholism are diagnostic criteria noted by your physician or another medical professional based upon their own observations of your condition and/or the symptoms which you disclose to them. These symptoms could be shared via a self-administered questionnaire or during an interview with a clinician.
Spotting the Early Signs of Alcoholism
There’s a reason why questionnaires are a widely used screening method for alcoholism. Lab tests, with their inherent emphasis on physical symptoms, can only detect alcohol use disorder in the most severe cases (due to evidence of liver damage or other catastrophic health impacts), and even then only about 50 percent of the time. This late-stage detection obviously makes the achievement of sustainable recovery more difficult. By comparison, questionnaires are able to successfully diagnose AUD up to 90 percent of the time, even during the early stages of the disease. Once detected, AUD should be treated with effective, evidence-based methods.
Over the years any one of several different questionnaires have been used by clinicians to diagnose the psychological, behavioral, spiritual, and physical aspects of alcoholism. One prominent recent example is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (2013), or “DSM-5.” The number of affirmative responses to the DSM-5’s following 11 questions (or in some cases, groupings of related questions) determine if alcohol use disorder is present. Further, the responses help to determine if AUD is mild (2 to 3 symptoms), moderate (4 to 5), or severe (6 or more).
In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
- Wanted to drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
- Found that drinking – or being sick from drinking – often interfered with talking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?
Physical Signs of Alcoholism
Additional physical signs of AUD which may be detected by clinicians in moderate to severe cases include:
- Gynecomastia – overdeveloped mammary glands in male
- Livedo reticularis – reddish blue mottling of skin in extremities
- Spider angiomas – tiny patterns of broken blood vessels on skin
- Unexplained edema – abnormal accumulation of fluid
- Toxic amblyopia – partial loss of vision from nerve damage
- Lateral nystagmus – horizontal jerking movement of the eyes
- Frequent pneumonia and/or bronchitis
- Unexplained rapid heart beat
- Enlarged liver
- Bleeding in GI tract
- Nonhealing ulcers
- Seizures (DTs)
Don’t wait until the disease of alcohol use disorder progresses to such a damaging extent. If you answered “Yes” to 2 or 3 (or more) of the above questions regarding your past 12 months of drinking, please use the contact form below or call now. At Serenity Acres, we understand your unique experience with alcohol requires a customized plan of action. We can help you stop drinking — the sooner, the better!
Ketcham, Katherine and William F. Asbury, et al. Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism. New York: Bantam, 2000.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.” NIH Publication No. 13-7999, July 2016.