11 Signs It’s Time to Get Help for Alcoholism

How can you tell if drinking has gotten out of control? Do you have a problem with alcohol? Is it time to seek help for an alcohol use disorder? Does your loved one need help? What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol dependency?

Let’s take the guesswork out of it.

Diagnosing Alcohol Use Disorder

Mental health professionals look to a manual called the DSM-5 for guidance, and we can too.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) is the authoritative reference guide for professionals to diagnose mental health disorders.

The tool, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), includes 157 mental disorders, and explains the symptoms, risk factors, and criteria for each.

One of the disorders listed is alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is diagnosed based on certain signs of addiction.

Depending on how many of these red flags are waving, the condition is then classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

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11 Signs It’s Time to Get Help for Alcoholism

Based on the DSM5, let’s take a look at eleven signs – each highlighted in a real-life scenario – that can help determine if you or a loved one needs to get help with alcoholism:

  • #1 Alcohol is consumed more often and in larger amounts than intended:
    John usually has a beer or two after work on Fridays. His wife drinks a glass of wine with dinner a couple times a week. But John’s sister is another story. He’s noticed that she usually has several glasses of wine with dinner, and he rarely sees her without some type of alcohol in her hand.
  • #2 Multiple attempts at cutting back have been made but with no success:
    I told myself I wasn’t going to drink at parties anymore. But I’ve been nursing hangovers for the last three weekends. So this week, I promised not to buy any alcohol at the store. If it’s not in the house, it’s obvious I’ll drink less, right? Wrong. I just ended up going to my neighbor’s house and bumming beer from him. A lot of it. I just couldn’t seem to get through the day without drinking.
  • Similar to substance-related disorders, the updated DSM-5 combines previously separate “alcohol use” and “alcohol dependence” into one single disorder.

  • #3 Excessive time is spent acquiring and recovering from alcohol use:
    Darren and his girlfriend used to hang out a lot. But lately, she’s been cancelling their morning runs because she’s hungover from the night before. And last week, she cut their double date short because she needed time to stop by the liquor store on her way home. It’s like she’s devoting more time to alcohol than the people in her life.
  • #4 Cravings to use alcohol are persistent:
    I remember when I was a kid, I felt like I had to have an ice cream cone after swimming. That sweet, cool taste sounded so good – I craved it. This is so much stronger. Almost every morning, I wake up wanting a drink. And then, even after I have one, the craving doesn’t go away. The urge to drink stays with me.
  • #5 Use of alcohol impacts the ability to fulfill necessary responsibilities:
    Tammy used to be dependable. But lately her work has been sloppy, and she’s come in late several times with a hangover. She’s also forgotten to pick up Andy from soccer twice in the past two weeks because her mind was a fog from a few afternoon drinks.
  • #6 Continued use after clear social and interpersonal problems:
    Dave’s wife threatened to leave him if he didn’t cut back on the drinking. Last month, his friends had to ask him to leave their barbecue because he got out of control after having too much to drink. Then his boss threatened to fire him if he ever caught Dave drunk at work again. But none of that changed his habits. Dave has no plans to stop drinking.
  • #7 Usual activities are replaced by alcohol use and the desire to drink:
    Sure, I used to be involved in a lot of things, but I’m not really interested anymore. I volunteered through work. I had lunch with friends once a week. I taught yoga classes at the gym. Now, I’d rather just stay home and relax with a drink or two. Or head to the bar and unwind there for the evening. So what? A person’s interests can’t change?
  • #8 Use despite physically hazardous conditions:
    He wasn’t getting off with any kind of warning. When you hit a pole because you’re driving while intoxicated, you’re probably going to spend the night in jail. And since he had already lost his license for a DWI last year, it was probably going to be more than one night.
  • #9 Continued use despite recurrent problems caused or exacerbated by alcohol:
    Frank was having trouble remembering things. The doctor called it “alcohol-related dementia.” Apparently, all those years of drinking were catching up with his brain. If he stopped drinking, though, the doc said his memory could improve. Otherwise, it would keep getting worse with every drop. Frank rolled his eyes as he recalled the doctor’s warning…then waved for the bartender to bring him another round.
  • Unlike Alzheimer’s or some types of dementia, alcohol-related dementia is not guaranteed to worsen over time. In fact, it can even improve if the person stops drinking and focuses on a healthy lifestyle. On the flip side, the condition is likely to worsen with continued drinking.

  • #10 A level of tolerance is present to achieve the effects of alcohol:
    Years ago, a few sips of a fruity cocktail would give Jazmine a buzz. Now, she has to kick back several shots of hard liquor to get that same feeling. Jazmine might be spending a lot more money than she used to spend to get drunk, but she still doesn’t think she needs to get help for alcoholism.
  • #11 Withdrawal symptoms occur if use of alcohol is stopped:
    As the hostess seated us, I noticed Tom’s hands were shaking. I took a closer look at him and realized he was also sweating. I asked if he was ok, and he quickly responded that he was fine. We ordered our drinks, and Tom seemed to be back to normal after he finished his beer.

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Get the Help You Need

If you see any of these signs in your life or the life of a loved one, don’t wait for AUD to worsen. Help is available now. Contact us today at 800-839-1686Who Answers? to learn about our flexible treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

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