Beyond Casual Drinking: How to Know if You’re an Alcoholic

Many people enjoy having a drink with their friends, coworkers, and even relatives (do in laws count?). But rarely do they notice the fine line between casual drinking and alcoholism.

There are people who suffer from alcoholism who don’t even know it. That’s because they don’t fit the alcoholic stereotype that’s often portrayed in media and seen everywhere else in the world. You have a stable job, you’ve never been caught driving under the influence, and you have never stolen money to buy alcohol.

But anyone can be an alcoholic: even those who only drink socially. And because of the different “faces” of alcoholism, you may already be an alcoholic without even knowing it.

Today we will talk about drinking, alcoholism, and alcohol abuse. What does it take for someone to get addicted to alcohol?

The problem is that people don’t know the difference between casual drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism. Abuse is different from alcoholism because the latter refers to addiction. Alcoholism is when someone forms a dependence, wherein they have a physical and/or psychological need to drink alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is what leads to alcoholism, and it often has negative consequences of its own.

In any case, abuse involves excessive drinking. If you have more than four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks in a week, you are a heavy drinker. People who drink socially aren’t always heavy drinkers: they are often binge drinkers. Binge drinking involves having five or more drinks within two hours.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

There are a few things that can indicate your problem is getting serious. If heavy drinking and binge drinking is getting in the way of your responsibilities, you should start addressing this problem immediately.

If you are having problems at work, or you’re simply giving a low performance because you’re often hung-over, this is an obvious sign. Keep an eye out for responsibilities that you may be ignoring or skipping entirely. If you forget commitments because you’re drunk, then you might have a problem.

Legal problems such as DUI charges are also clear indicators that you’re abusing alcohol. You can put your life and others’ lives in danger if you don’t drink responsibly. And if you find yourself in these situations, then something is definitely wrong.

It doesn’t always have to be this extreme though: some people abuse alcohol by simply drinking every time they need to get rid of stress. Trying to forget all your problems with alcohol means you are slowly turning it into a need.

Lastly, you may find that your interpersonal relationships are suffering due to your constant need for alcohol. If your friends and family members are displaying concern over your drinking habits, chances are they have reason to be worried.

Signs of Alcoholism

People rarely discover this problem before it becomes a full blown issue. Alcoholism means you are physically and mentally dependent on alcohol consumption.

If you find yourself regularly thinking about your next drink, you may have an alcohol addiction. Have you ever tried cutting back on drinking, but never quite succeeded? This means the same thing. What’s worse is that when you develop dependence, you may start having withdrawal symptoms once you start cutting back on the alcohol.

It’s important to remember that alcohol is a drug. As you drink it, your body becomes more and more tolerant. Eventually, your system will come to expect the presence of alcohol. This will lead to various withdrawal symptoms, including shakiness, mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, and even nightmares. You may also find yourself not being able to think clearly.

These physical effects will only make it that much harder to recover from your alcohol addiction. It is important to not let your casual drinking get this far. By this point, detoxification is necessary to get past the symptoms safely. Remember that withdrawal can be dangerous, even fatal in some instances.

In the worst cases, alcoholics experience agitation, fever, hallucinations, and seizures. This is why many heavy drinkers seek medical assistance.

Assessment and Medical Help

If you want to find out whether your problem is getting out of hand, self-assessment is important. To know if you’re an alcoholic or you’re on your way to becoming one, you must be completely honest with yourself. There are also screening tests available that are completely confidential, so you don’t have to worry about your reputation. These screening tests are free, and they can help you understand your drinking habits better.

The MAST Alcohol Assessment Quiz was developed in the early ‘70s and is designed to assess the severity of drinking problems. There are multiple variations available, even online.

The CAGE Alcohol Assessment Quiz is a short self-assessment test developed by Dr. John Ewing. The 4 questions in this quiz can identify 9 out of 1 alcoholics.

Finally, the AUDIT Alcohol Assessment Quiz was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the same purposes. Remember that learning more about your situation is crucial to moving on to the next step. The sooner you recognize the problem, the sooner you’ll be able to seek help.

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