Am I An Alcoholic? Questions to Ask Yourself
Written by Bridget Clerkin
One of the biggest hurdles facing anyone with addiction issues is the problem of denial. It’s not often that we ask ourselves, “Am I an alcoholic?”
Admitting we have a problem can be difficult on so many levels: It forces us to admit that it is we who are flawed, not the system or others around us, which is difficult enough for many people. It forces us to tally the uncomfortable weight of our actions, which may well be causing direct harm to ourselves or others. And it forces us to see that change—a big change—is the only solution.
Once we fully comprehend that we have a problem, every day spent not addressing it becomes an active act of self-harm. And so, many with substance use disorders simply fail to acknowledge or accept the true breadth of the situation. It’s infinitely easier and it allows them to keep their vice.
But if you think you or a loved one may have a drinking problem, there are a few considerations to keep in mind and questions to ask that may help the truth ring clear.
What you do with that information and insight can only be left to you.
What Is Alcoholism?
First, when determining whether you, or someone else, is an alcoholic, it might help keep in mind what alcoholism is or, at least, how it’s medically classified.
Alcoholism may have become a catchall term, but it actually has a precise definition, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).1 The condition, now known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is officially designated as a “chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a subset of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 14.4 million adults in the United States (5.8% of the population) had AUD in 2018, as well as nearly 400,000 adolescents, age 12-17.1
Alcohol Use Disorder may be considered mild, moderate, or severe. But it’s also important to note that AUD is different from alcohol abuse—and both can be problems.
While AUD speaks more to a problem perpetuated by physical dependence, alcohol abuse describes more of a behavioral pattern,2 where a person may continue drinking in excess, despite the negative consequences it continually brings to their life.
Either AUD or alcohol abuse can take the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heavy drinking is considered the consumption of: 3
- 8 or more drinks per week for females
- 15 or more drinks per week for males
Binge drinking is considered to be 4 or more drinks consumed over the course of two or three hours by a woman and 5 drinks consumed by a man during the same time period.3
Still, while numbers may offer a helpful tool to cut through denial, they’re far from the only measure to determine whether someone has a problem.
Signs of Alcoholism
The stereotypical alcoholic is a mess: They can hardly function without a drink, let alone pay bills on time, hold a steady job, or engage in meaningful relationships.
The truth of the situation is actually much messier: There is no such thing as a stereotypical alcoholic.
One of the most sinister aspects of the disease is how easily it can hide in plain sight, with several far subtler signs that are easy to explain away through the general social acceptance of drinking. Many alcoholics can get along just fine in society juggling high-powered jobs, being in committed relationships, and taking on other obligations. They’re referred to as high-functioning alcoholics, with nearly 20% of people with drinking problems falling under this category.4
While some people disguise their drinking habits by attempting to normalize them, others take the opposite tack, going to pains to hide any evidence of their behavior.
Either situation makes it difficult to figure out the truth of the situation, but there are a few more subtle signs you can look for, in yourself or others, to help understand if there’s a drinking problem involved:2
- You drink alone or hide the true extent of your drinking.
- You find reasons to include alcohol in otherwise unrelated activities or pass up on activities you enjoy drinking.
- You spend significant amounts of time or money outside of work buying, drinking, or recovering from drinking alcohol.
- You have a hard time controlling how many drinks you have or cutting yourself off.
- You drink to the point of blacking out frequently.
- You have feelings of guilt around alcohol or feel nervous or anxious when alcohol is in the house.
- You have continued to drink, despite health, financial, or relationship problems.
If these red flags have you asking yourself, “Am I an alcoholic?” or feeling worried for a loved one, you may want to begin taking the situation more seriously or at least start doing more research on signs, symptoms, and helpful options.
Am I An Alcoholic Quiz
Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? today if you need to talk to someone about rehab and treatment options.
When they’re honest, self-assessments are some of the best tools we have to determine whether there might be a problem. A quiz result may act as the mirror we so badly needed to reflect the situation’s truth.
Whether or not you have the thought “Am I an alcoholic?” this quiz from the NIAAA could be a helpful way to encourage more insight and perspective when it comes to your drinking habits.
Answer honestly! In the past 12 months, have you:
- Had times you wound 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 hungover from the aftereffects?
- Wanted a drink so badly you could think of nothing else?
- Found that drinking or being sick (hungover) from drinking often interfered with taking care of your home or family, caused trouble with your job, or led to issues at school?
- Continued drinking even though it was causing trouble with your family, friends, or significant other?
- Given up or cut back on activities that you enjoyed, or were important or interesting to you, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations during or after drinking that increased your risk of harm, such as driving, swimming, or operating machinery while intoxicated, walking in dangerous areas, or having unsafe sex?
- Continued drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or compounding another health problem? Or continued drinking after having a blackout episode?
- Experienced symptoms like trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, seizure, or sensing things that weren’t there, as alcohol’s effects were wearing off?
If you answered yes to:
- At least 2 questions, it indicates Alcohol Use Disorder.
- 2-3 questions, it indicates mild AUD.
- 4-5 questions, it indicates moderate AUD.
- 6 or more questions, it indicates severe AUD.
Of course, while based on the NIAAA findings, this quiz is not meant to be taken as, or in replacement of, medical advice. It’s simply meant as a tool that can help bring clarity to an often foggy situation.
But seeing things as they are is the first step toward help and healing, offering us the acceptance we need to promote and start pursuing change.
If you believe you or someone you love is suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder or engaging in alcohol abuse, you can call 800-839-1686Who Answers? for more information on help or treatment options.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved January 2021.
- The Recovery Village. (2020, December 21). Am I An Alcoholic? What to Ask. Retrieved January 2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). What is Excessive Alcohol Use? Retrieved January 2021.
- National Institutes of Health. (2007, June 28). Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes. Retrieved January 2021.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5. Retrieved January 2021.