Common symptoms of alcohol abuse

Includes the personal story of a recovering alcoholic

If you’re a heavy drinker, it’s likely that you have an alcohol problem. So, I’d really like you to have a look at the alcoholism symptoms on this page.

I hope they’ll help you to take a deep breath just before you decide to have another glass, can or bottle. Just those few seconds can stop you from going into that trance state – from which you’ll wake up regretting that you’ve ‘done it again’.

The impact of an alcohol problem can be huge, with implications for your health and your relationships. 

One of the most telling signs that you’re an alcoholic is that you continue to reach for your next drink despite the severity of your symptoms and your desperate desire to quit.

It will only result in…

  • your relationship or marriage is falling apart
  • greatly diminished job and career prospects
  • you feeling helpless and hopeless in the face of your increasing dependence, no matter how hard you try

You’re caught in an unrelenting cycle of distress and inability to give up.

I really don’t want that for you! Like everyone else, you’re here to express your uniqueness in a way that contributes to the greater good and makes you happy. Think about it – there’s no one in the world exactly like you – how special are you!

So, here’s where you start. You’ll increase your awareness and self-knowledge – and I’m right behind you!

Drawing: The effects of alcohol content on the blood

List of alcoholism symptoms – the warning signs

Below is a list of the most common symptoms of alcoholism. Have a look through and see how many you recognise…

  • Weight loss or weight gain (and a risk of developing an eating disorder)
  • Low self-esteem/low self confidence
  • Needing to find reasons why you’re drinking
  • Depression – nothing seems worthwhile anymore
  • Anxiety – that constant feeling that there’s a tiger at your heels
  • Loneliness – your only ‘real’ friends are your drinking buddies who won’t care if you’re sick as long as they have someone to join them on their next binge
  • Obsession with drinking
  • Far too many days ‘off sick’ – in danger of losing your job

Basic medical explanations for the physical effects of alcoholism symptoms

10 physical symptoms of alcohol poisoning

After a heavy drinking session or drinking binge, there are many effects of alcohol poisoning on your body:

  1. Your nervous system, as directed by your brain, is slowed down (Central Nervous System depression)
  2. Your blood vessels become wider, which causes your blood pressure to drop (vasodilation)
  3. Your body temperature drops (hypothermia)
  4. Your heartbeat increases beyond the normal, which is under 100 beats per minute for an adult (tachycardia)
  5. Your heart works less than optimally (myocardial depression)
  6. Your pupils constrict or widen abnormally (variable pupillary responses)
  7. Your breathing slows down leading to a reduced oxygen intake (respiratory depression)
  8. You urinate more, losing more fluids than you take in due to the alcohol’s effect on hormones (diuresis)
  9. Your blood sugar levels drop (hypoglycemia)
  10. You’re unable to make precise movements (loss of fine motor control)

As you can see from this list, all of the systems in your body are in a bad state after a binge. The stark reality is that alcoholics are doing untold damage to their bodies, and could easily cause their own death.

Whilst you may appear to recover (your hangover will disappear eventually) the damage to your body accumulates. There comes a point at which your body no longer has the capacity to heal itself.

If you just keep drinking alcohol…

… the result will be so bleak!

Life will become increasingly miserable. Whatever caused you to start drinking too much, however difficult things were for you, you’re now at risk of facing even greater problem…

11 symptoms resulting from chronic alcohol abuse

Alcoholism can cause:

  1. Blood diseases (hematologic disorders)
  2. High blood pressure (hypertension)
  3. Heart disease
  4. Cancer
  5. Inflammation of the organ that helps to regulate your blood sugar (pancreatitis)
  6. Lack of vitamins and minerals that help your body to function normally (malnutrition)
  7. Extreme weight gain (obesity)
  8. Liver failure (hepatic dysfunction)
  9. Dependency on alcohol of your unborn child (fetal alcohol syndrome)
  10. Premature aging of your skin
  11. Continued abuse and addiction

To give yourself a fighting chance of recovery, I really recommend you have a look at my page, Online Hypnosis FAQ and Downloads. There are a number of downloads that can potentially help you to at least reduce your alcohol intake.

You might need to seek out specialist addiction treatment, though. Treatment specialists can help you to stop your excess drinking. But most importantly, they’ll help you to manage your alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and learn how to overcome the inevitable temptations with personalised relapse prevention tools.

I understand, though, that you may not be ready to face an alcohol rehab or treatment centre, or any other specialist treatment programmes.

If so, at the very least, do yourself and your loved ones a favour and connect with a professional, licensed therapist online – today. It’s now very easy to set up an online session, regardless of the device you’re using. For further information, see my article on online mental health counselling.

The warning signs of alcoholism… from an (ex)alcoholic’s perspective

Chris last had an alcoholic drink many years ago, but maintains that he’ll always be an alcoholic. Here’s how it was for him during his drinking years.

Written by ‘Chris’…

During my time as a drinker there were certain things that I noticed happening to my body, my mindset and my lifestyle. These things were pointing towards what was to become an undeniable fact – that I suffered from an alcohol addiction – I was an alcoholic.  Some of these symptoms of alcoholism and its negative consequences I can only recognise with hindsight, but they were there nonetheless.

These alcoholic symptoms were only as I experienced them and may not appear in any of the symptom lists belonging to the many alcoholic recovery agencies.

However you may recognise some of these in yourself…

Physical symptoms of alcoholism

  • Poor skin condition – dehydrated skin and more prone to acne
  • Weight loss – I was still eating on a fairly regular basis, but as I wasn’t looking after myself – it was rarely nutritious food. Besides I would often skip mealtimes in favour of drinking (either alone or in a social setting). During an alcoholic binge I would only eat when I was really hungry. Alcohol can also destroys some of the amino acids  – the building blocks required for growth and repair.
  • Weight gain – I know alcoholics who gained weight due to the additional calories of their alcoholic beverages (these were then lost with the onset of recovery).

Mental signs and symptoms of alcoholism

  • Low self-esteem and confidence – I was often convinced that I wasn’t good enough for many things – i.e. talking to girls. I’ve often heard alcoholics say that they needed drink to do this. However I found that even drunk I rarely had the courage to do so. This transferred into other areas of my personal relationships such as thinking I was a bad boyfriend and that I was a bad lover in bed.
  • Looking for the underlying factors – when drinking got bad I would look for answers as to why I drank heavily. So if a daytime TV show had an alcohol special I would make sure I watched it. Or if Men’s Health had an article on alcohol I’d turn straight to it.
  • Depression – one of my friends told me that he didn’t believe that the human brain was supposed to be unhappy. I believe him. Drinking alcohol – like a drug addiction – brought me to low self esteem, under-achievement, loneliness and a general feeling of worthlessness. I got depressed. Sadness and self pity became a habit. I then entered a cycle – I drank because I was depressed and I was depressed because I drank (see also: The Link between Alcoholism and Depression)
  • Loneliness – I found this symptom the hardest to bear. It didn’t matter if I was on my own or surrounded by people – I was always lonely. I realised later the loneliness was ‘in my head’. Everyone else seemed to be more comfortable than me, be having a better time than me and manage life better than I did.
  • Obsession with drinking – When not drinking I would look forward to when I could have the next drink. If out with my friends, I was always at my most comfortable with a drink in my hand, or when I knew a drink would be coming soon. “Let’s start lunch early at that pub over there.” When drinking already I would either think about how I was going to stop – “It’ll start on Monday” – or I’d be planning how I would continue for that night or weekend.
  • Paranoia – of course I tried to quit drinking, but after a failed attempt at sobriety I found myself relapsing and binge drinking in a pub. Not only was I deeply ashamed and depressed, I was also convinced that everyone else in the pub was looking at me and instinctively knew that I was a relapsing alcoholic. They didn’t know that, they’d never met me before, but that was my state of mind at the time.
  • Denial – I didn’t want to admit I was alcoholic. At first I wasn’t even sure I was one. Besides, alcoholic was a dirty word, and once I’d admitted I was one there would be no going back. At some point I was willing to admit that I had ‘some sort of problem….’ but, my drinking pattern didn’t change – I continued to drink.

My lifestyle suffered as a consequence of my alcoholism

  • Absenteeism – I regularly didn’t show up for work (not necessarily a sign of alcoholism!). I was too hung over, couldn’t face being around people or just wanted to carry on drinking. I faced several verbal and written warnings. Eventually had to leave one job before they could sack me.
  • Lying and not lying about being an alcoholic – I didn’t usually lie about the fact that I had been drinking, but I would sometimes lie about the amount. Often, though, I wouldn’t lie at all because ‘only an alcoholic would do that’. I desperately didn’t want to be one of those.
  • Giving up on hobbies – activities I used to enjoy were all pushed aside in favour of drinking – to excess.
  • Failed relationships – I would confidently start a romantic relationship and the girl in question would seem content. I wasn’t an abusive boyfriend, either verbally or physically (drunk or sober). However, with my chronically low self-esteem I would gradually deteriorate my own mental image of myself. My insecurity led me to believe that I wasn’t good enough for my girlfriend. Eventually she would tire of my insecure nature.
  • The mess – my flat was messy – washing up rarely done, floor dirty, bed left unchanged. Like my mental state – messy, dirty and unchanged. My appearance unkempt – my clothes should have been washed more often and I often didn’t smell too pleasant.
  • Always broke – I found it hard to meet even the most basic of rent agreements. I was always overdrawn. The greater part of my money went on drink. When I was desperate I would search high and low all over my flat looking for change so that I could scrape together enough for a drink. I’ve even resorted to taking money that wasn’t mine. And still my drinking habits didn’t change.

Elly comments:

The partner of an alcoholic often carries the burden of the financial responsibility. He or she may go without – food, clothes, opportunities, hobbies etc. – in order to safeguard the children’s needs at the very least.

The drinking partner consumes the majority, if not all, of the spare cash – if there is any ‘spare’ at all.

  • Irresponsibility – I liked to think of myself as a reliable person (flying in the face of all evidence). However one time I remember babysitting my niece and nephew. I needed a drink. So I went to the off-license leaving them asleep in bed telling myself that I’d only be gone a few minutes. I could have sworn I loved my niece and nephew more than alcohol. But, if that’s true, how could I have been so irresponsible?

Again it’s often left to a partner to compensate for the difficulties created by the person with the alcohol problem.

When I first trained there was much to do about collusion and co-dependency. However, whilst that can indeed be a problem –  the thinking around how partners contribute to the maintenance of the problem – or not – is now a little more sophisticated.

From my perspective, so many factors all play a role in how a partner behaves and reacts to the excessive drinking of the other, including:

  • life stages
  • the stage of the relationship
  • the level of maturity of the individuals
  • whether there are responsibilities for children or vulnerable adults
  • financial dependency
  • and many other factors

See also my article on living with an alcoholic.

How many of the physical signs and psychological symptoms have you been able to tick off?

You have found yourself here because you are (or your partner is) drinking to excess – no doubt. If you’ve recognised yourself or your partner in any of the symptom lists above, I really hope that you’ll go one step further and find help. Take a look at my page on seeking online help right now. You’ll feel all the better for having taken action. And I’m rooting for your health, happiness and well-being.

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Other interesting links

Alcoholics Anonymous