The signs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse are very similar, and are often just a question of degree or intensity.
Some signs and symptoms of alcoholism, as well as alcohol abuse, include:
- Drinking alone.
- Drinking in secret.
- Not being able to limit how much alcohol is consumed.
- Blacking out – not being able to remember chunks of time.
- Having rituals and being irritated/annoyed when these rituals are disturbed or commented on. This could be drinks before/during/after meals, or after work.
- Dropping hobbies and activities the person used to enjoy; losing interest in them.
- Feeling an urge to drink.
- Feeling irritable when drinking times approach. This feeling is more intense if the alcohol is not available, or there appears to be a chance it may not be available.
- Having stashes of alcohol in unlikely places.
- Gulping drinks down in order to get drunk and then feel good.
- Having relationship problems (triggered by drinking).
- Having problems with the law (caused by drinking).
- Having work problems (caused by drinking, or drinking as root cause).
- Having money problems (caused by drinking).
- Requiring a larger quantity of alcohol to feel its effect.
- Nausea, sweating, or even shaking when not drinking.
A person who abuses alcohol may have many of these signs and symptoms – but they do not have the withdrawal symptoms like an alcoholic does, nor the same degree of compulsion to drink.
The problems linked to alcohol dependence are extensive, and affect the person physically, psychologically and socially. Drinking becomes a compulsion for a person with a drink problem – it takes precedence over all other activities. It can remain undetected for several years.