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FAQ: Am I an Alcoholic? Learning the Truth About Alcoholism

Are you an alcoholic? If you drink regularly, it's natural for this question to cross your mind. It's important to learn the facts about alcoholism. Doing so will help you understand your relationship with alcohol more clearly.

If you've gotten caught up in this newer drug trend, you may think it's all in fun. However, there's nothing fun about how this substance can affect your health and your life.

You may feel as though you're caught in a vicious cycle of drug abuse with this substance. Maybe you want to stop using them, but you feel like you need to. If that's the case, you need the information we're going to provide you with here.

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Are You an Alcoholic?

You probably have a lot of questions you need answers for.

You may be wondering:

  • Am I an alcoholic if I drink every night?
  • What if I drink a bottle of wine or more a night?
  • Do I have a drinking problem if I drink after work every day?
  • What if I drink a lot, but I don't get drunk?
  • What is it that makes a person an alcoholic?
  • What can you do if a spouse or another family member has an alcohol addiction?

These are all important questions, and we'd like to help you get the answers you need.

What is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism?

Abusing alcohol is not the same as being an alcoholic. However, these terms are used to mean the same thing all the time. It's important to understand the difference between alcohol abuse and being an alcoholic.

Am I An Alcoholic?

Abusing Alcohol

There are a few different ways to abuse alcohol, which we'll talk about in a moment. In general, when someone abuses alcohol, they're drinking in excess in some way. They may drink too much in one sitting or drink too often.

However, the reason this form of consumption is different is because there is no compulsion present. An individual may enjoy excessive drinking from time to time, or even every night. However, if they don't drink, they don't suffer any negative effects from that.

Some of the signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Putting yourself in dangerous situations when you drink
  • Having significant problems at home
  • Experiencing difficulties at work or school
  • Legal problems, such as a DUI/DWI
  • Suffering from social problems as a result of drinking excessively

The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol abuse defines heavy drinking very clearly. They state that for men, heavy drinking means having 4 drinks in a day, or 14 in a week. For women, it means having 3 drinks in a day, or 7 per week.

Their statistics show that 1 in 4 people who go over these limits are alcoholics. The other three individuals are at great risk for developing alcoholism.

Heavy drinking is a serious problem, yet people believe they can do it without consequences. The fact is that the more often a person drinks heavily, the higher their chance is for becoming an alcoholic.

According to the CDC, binge drinking is, "...the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States." It is defined as any consumption of this substance that brings the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level to 0.08 or higher.

Everyone is different as far as how many drinks it may take them to reach a BAC of 0.08. However, the average is five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women within 2 hours.

Alcoholism occurs when someone has a diagnosable alcohol use disorder, or AUD. Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from an AUD, and many are unaware of it. This means that when they drink, it leads to problems and the potential for harm is high.

Alcoholism is a disease because the structure and function of the brain are both altered in alcoholics. Someone who has an AUD is both physically and psychologically dependent upon alcohol. They crave alcohol, and when they don't drink, they experience withdrawal symptoms.

Is Casual Drinking Dangerous?

Casual drinking is generally defined as consuming once in a while. Almost everyone enjoys a night out with friends while they have a few drinks. Some people will celebrate the arrival of the weekend with a glass of wine on a Friday night. These are both excellent examples of casual drinking.

In most cases, there really is nothing wrong with casual drinking. However, even the most occasional drinkers can sometimes spiral out of control. Anyone who consumes alcohol once in a while should be diligent to be sure it doesn't become a problem.

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What are the 10 Warning Signs You Have a Drinking Problem?

Fortunately, there are some early warning signs that you might have a drinking problem. These should be heeded because they indicate that you're headed down a dangerous road with alcohol. These may not be signs that you are an alcoholic, but they are telling you that you need to be careful.

According to Psychology Today, the 10 signs that you have a problem with alcohol are:

  • You get a head start with drinking before you meet up with friends for drinks.
  • You organize your social life around consuming alcohol.
  • You reason with yourself on how much you've really consumed. You may tell yourself that some drinks don't count, or you've eaten, so you can start over.
  • You don't think of wine or beer as actual alcoholic beverages. Therefore, they don't count.
  • You're surprised when someone doesn't finish a perfectly good drink.
  • You are bothered when others drink more slowly than you.
  • You worry that you may run out of alcohol at your home.
  • When you look at pictures of yourself, you notice that you're always holding a drink.
  • You start to feel jealous of people who are in recovery.
  • You hide empty bottles so that others don't become suspicious.

Have you noticed any of the above happening in your own life? Even if you only notice one item on this list, it should be a warning to you. It means that your drinking is becoming a serious problem.

Signs You are an Alcoholic

Perhaps you're thinking that your alcohol use has progressed past the problem stage. You're concerned that you may actually be a full-fledged alcoholic. However, you're not really sure what the signs of alcoholism are.

You should know that there are many signs you can look for. Some are physical, some are behavioral, and some are emotional.

You may not realize it, but your physical appearance changes when you're an alcoholic. You may also have some physical consequences that aren't so visible from the outside.

Physically, you may notice that you:

  • Are redder in the face than usual, particularly on your nose and cheeks.
  • Have frequent blackouts, and you can't remember what happened while you were drinking.
  • Begin to notice small blood vessels on your skin that appear like spider webs.
  • Don't really have much of an appetite, which can lead to weight loss.
  • Feel numb in your hands and/or feet.
  • Suffer from stomach cramps or pain.

As the disease progresses, the signs become much worse. In those with advanced alcoholism, one of the key physical symptoms is liver damage. Cirrhosis and other liver conditions are fairly common.

Alcoholics tend to have what's become known as an alcoholic personality. They may speak differently, think differently and act differently than others. Some of the more common behavioral signs include:

  • Becoming physically, emotionally or verbally abusive.
  • Neglecting their responsibilities and important relationships.
  • Saying hurtful things without remembering them the following day.
  • Driving drunk, or riding in a car with a drunk driver.
  • Having sex irresponsibly.
  • Committing crimes.

Frequently consuming alcohol can take a toll on your mental health as well as your physical health. In fact, certain mental health conditions are very common among alcoholics. They are much more likely to suffer from:

  • Unexplained and frequent mood swings
  • Severe anxiety or panic attacks
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and gestures
  • Angry, aggressive outbursts
  • Acts of violence

Am I Alcohol Dependent? Quizzes and Assessments to Help You Get Answers

You may have noticed many of the above signs in your own life, but you're still feeling confused. That's quite common. It could be that you're still in denial regarding your problem. It could also be that you just need more information.

There are several different ways that you can assess yourself and your relationship with alcohol. Here are a few that you can try:

Our Alcoholism Quiz: This quiz will ask you a series of questions about your alcohol use. It will touch on your history of drinking, and how often you currently use. Be honest as you answer each question. You'll be able to get your results right away.

NCADD Quiz: If you're still unsure about the signs of alcoholism, perhaps this self-test will help you. Not only will it assess your current behaviors, but it also assesses your risk of being an alcoholic.

Buzzfeed Quiz: Buzzfeed has come up with a different type of quiz that may help you. When you're finished, you'll learn what you know, and didn't know about alcohol. You may find that you know much less than you think.

HealthyPlace Test: Finally, you can learn a lot about your relationship with alcohol through this test. Simply answer the questions and get immediate access to your results.

How Many Different Types of Alcoholics Are There?

There are 5 different types of alcoholics, according to the experts. Some of these are much more common than others, and they are:

This is the second largest subtype in the U.S. They tend to:

  • Be around 26 years of age, on average.
  • Becoming alcoholics early, and often by the age of 18.
  • Have a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (50%).
  • Have an increased chance of other co-occurring disorders.
  • Also be addicted to cigarettes, marijuana or both. 

Functional, or high functioning alcoholics are very common. They appear to be in complete control of their alcohol use, and they are typically:

  • Gainfully employed
  • Highly educated
  • In a stable relationship
  • Middle-aged
  • Make a high income
  • Drink daily, around 5 or more drinks every day

This is the largest subtype, and about 32% of alcoholics belong to it. They are:

  • Age 24, on average
  • Heavy drinkers by the age of 20
  • Occasional binge drinkers
  • Unlikely to seek treatment for an AUD
  • Sure that they're just enjoying their lives, and not having a problem

People that fall into this subtype are those with family histories of alcoholism. For these individuals, alcoholism and addiction runs in their families. The probability of having a genetic predisposition to being an alcoholic is great. However, many people actually use this as an excuse to drink.

These individuals are generally:

  • Around the age of 38 years old
  • Most likely employed
  • From families with alcoholism in more than one generation
  • Probably effected by depression
  • Getting started with drinking at an early age

This subtype is the most rare, and only 9% of alcoholics fall into this category. Those in the chronic severe subtype are:

  • More likely to be men than women
  • Divorcing more often than those in the other subtypes
  • Typically from families where alcoholism is common
  • Suffering from personality disorders, or other types of mental illnesses
  • Likely to have other types of substance abuse issues as well

The good news is that more than 66% of individuals in this category will seek help for an AUD. This is a higher percentage than what is found in the other subtypes.

Living With an Alcoholic and What You Can do

You may currently be living with someone suffering from alcoholism. Statistics tell us that 1 in every 12 people in the United States is an alcoholic. That means it's fairly common to be living in the same home with someone who is addicted to alcohol.

This is a very difficult situation that you're in. You may have a lot of questions that you need an answer for, and we'd like to help you.

This is a highly personal choice. If you're safe to stay in your home, you can. If you're not safe, you should consider finding a safe place to go.

One of the problems with alcohol is that it frequently leads to abuse. That abuse can be psychological, physical, verbal or even sexual. If you're a victim of abuse at the hands of an alcoholic, you need to get out right away.

If you choose to stay, please know that there are steps you can take to get help for your loved one.

You need to know if your family member is addicted to alcohol. Taking a quiz can be very helpful for you in this situation. You can also take a closer look at the above alcoholic symptoms. Do you see any that fit your loved one?

It's hard when you realize someone you love has a problem with alcohol. However, once you know, you'll be better prepared to help them.

If talking doesn't seem to be helping, there is another step you can take. You can schedule an intervention. Interventions have been shown to be quite effective. Many people decide to seek help after going through one. Perhaps that will be your loved one's experience as well.

Help for Alcoholism is Available

If you think you may have an AUD, you need to know you're not alone. There are so many ways for you to get the help you need during this critical time in your life.

Here at Ashwood Recovery, we can provide you with the support you need to recover successfully. Do you need more information, or do you have additional questions about alcoholism? Please contact us.

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