You like to go to happy hour. You find it relaxing to have a few drinks with friends. This is how many people start out. In our society, there is a polite term for this habit. We call it being a social drinker. However, the relationship with alcohol intensifies over time. When times are good, you are able to consume drinks in moderation (and not too many drinks per day or per week). When times are bad, you are sitting at home watching HBO and thinking maybe you need to go to the store and pick up some beer, wine, or, even worse, a bottle of booze.
As soon as you get home with the alcohol and start to consume it, you have that guilt. It starts to creep up on you even before the buzz has worn off. You only feel worse than you did when you went to the store (because alcohol is a known depressant that affects each person differently). You’re kicking yourself mentally because you really wish you hadn’t decided to drink alone.
Recognizing the Symptoms: Do You Have a Real Drinking Problem?
Let’s consult the website of the National Institutes of Health and obtain the facts on this subject. It’s important to understand that people are genetically predisposed to have their own tolerance of alcohol. So, for example, if we take the case of one 25-year-old female, two glasses of alcohol per day each day could be enough to create a drinking problem. For another female of the same age with a high tolerance for alcohol (where it doesn’t have the same effects based on quantity when it hits her bloodstream), this could be a habit but not a serious problem. Each of these females would have to understand the effects of the alcohol on her own body and to see how her moods and behaviors change under the influence of the substance.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Back to the NIH information. This website Rethinking Drinking helps readers to understand that what they might not view as trouble signs could signify the onset of a drinking “problem.” By this, we mean a habit that the person might want to fix before it gets worse. In some instances, a drinking problem even calls for professional treatment. Again, the degree of a drinking problem is very specific to the individual, and it’s not something that every drinker will need assistance to remedy.
Some Common Symptoms
According to the NIH, recognizing signs that you might have a drinking problem could be present if you can answer affirmative to some important questions. If you know these indicators or begin to recognize them, then you can start to address the problem, and early intervention is best (as with most health concerns). You can move from having a drinking problem to being a heavy drinker, which occurs when you have more of the symptoms and they intensify. “Doctors diagnose an alcohol use disorder when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm.” As a potential serious drinker, here are some questions that you might ask yourself, but, of course, we’ve rephrased them to fit the audience of this health blog:
Think About Your Behavior Over the Last 12 Months.
How would you answer each of these questions?
- Were there times when you drank more than you should have or for spent time drinking for a longer period of time than you should have?
- Can you recall times when you decided that you should reduce your drinking consumption level (or at least you attempted to) but then you did not?
- Were there instances when you encountered a social scenario during or after a drinking session that threatened your physical and mental wellbeing? Consider specific instances where you got behind the wheel or tried to and someone stopped you, went swimming, had unprotected intercourse, or walked/rode a bike in an unsafe location.
- Did you feel like you had to drink a higher amount of alcohol to obtain the mood or effect that you desired? Did you discover that the typical number of drinks you would consume for the resulting effect didn’t work?
- Did you keep drinking alcohol even though your mood changed to be one marked by anxiety or depression or that served to worsen another medical condition?
- Was there a time you couldn’t remember what happened after you drank or when you passed out while drunk?
- Did you spend a serious amount of time in the drinking activity? Did you feel especially sick or take a long time to bounce back from the effects of the drinking episode?
Is There a Family History That Influences Your Drinking Habits?
While you may be able to answer “yes” to one or more of the questions above, there are actually many factors that influence whether an individual becomes an alcoholic. For example, some individuals with a high alcohol tolerance will consume alcohol every day and not develop a serious drinking problem. It’s just because this chemical does not have the same intense effects on their system as it does on other people. From another NIH source, we found these could be signs of a family history of alcoholism:
1. Do you have an alcoholic parent who suffers from depression or other mental health issues?
- Do one or both of your parents abuse alcohol or other substances? (This includes prescription drugs)
- Do one or both of your parents have alcohol abuse you would consider “severe”?
- Does your parent’s alcohol abuse result in violence or aggression to members of the family?
Recognizing the ways you drink, the frequency and duration of your drinking, and whether you’re able to get the desired effects from alcohol consumption should concern you. We aren’t trying to scare you here, but asking yourself the tough questions posed here may lead you to the conclusion that you have a drinking problem. At first, you could attempt to reduce or eliminate drinking from your life, but, if you don’t succeed alone, you can seek alcohol addiction treatment. Don’t let drinking increase the likelihood that you will engage in risky behaviors, which hurts more than just this depressant being in your body.