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Alcoholism Symptoms: What You Need to Know & How to Help a Loved One

Alcoholism isn’t called a “cunning, baffling, and powerful” disease by accident. It can rear its head in the lives of our family and friends without us even knowing. Understanding what to look for and how to help could make all the difference for someone you care about. So, grab a cup of tea, settle in, and let's explore what you need to know about alcoholism and how you can support your loved ones through it.


Understanding Alcoholism


First off, let’s establish what exactly alcoholism is. Well, it's more than just enjoying a few drinks here and there. You can be a moderate to heavy drinker without being an alcoholic. Alcohol use disorder, as it’s referred to in the medical community, is a chronic condition characterized by an inability to control drinking despite its negative consequences. An alcoholic cannot stop drinking once they begin; it’s like being stuck on a loop they can’t get off. They might start with just one drink, but soon find themselves unable to stop, leading to a whole host of problems in their personal and professional lives.

Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms


Recognizing the symptoms of alcoholism can be difficult sometimes, but here are some red flags you can look out for:

  • Increased Tolerance: As physical dependence grows, so does tolerance. If you notice that your loved one is drinking more alcohol to achieve the desired effect, this may be a sign of a problem. 

  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop or cut down their drinking is a sure sign of alcohol abuse. Physical and psychological detox symptoms may occur such as tremors, nausea, anxiety, and irritability. Alcohol detox is a serious medical condition and can have life-threatening complications if not done under the supervision of a medical professional.  

  • Loss of Control: Finding it difficult to stop or control their drinking once they start is a common occurrence for people struggling with alcohol addiction. They may frequently start off with the intention of only having a few drinks but find themselves incapable of staying within their limits.

  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Alcoholism will eventually cause an inability to take care of day-to-day business. Things like neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or in the home become more and more common. 

  • Physical Health Issues: Long-term alcohol abuse is not good for the body and results in a range of health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and neurological disorders.

  • Changes in Behavior: Your loved one may exhibit mood swings, depression, or irritability, and their social circle may start to revolve around drinking activities.


Being There for Your Loved One


You’ve begun to notice things aren’t going great but you’re wondering about what you can do next. Here are a few ways you can support your loved one through their journey:

  • Open Communication: Open, honest conversation is essential to fostering an environment where both parties feel safe opening up. There’s a good chance that your loved one knows they’re struggling and may even want help but are scared. Let them know you’re there to support them and care for them. 

  • Encourage Professional Help: If they are ready for help, great! It may be a good idea to have researched a few addiction treatment programs as well as local addiction therapists so you have some resources ready to be deployed should they be needed. 

  • If they aren’t quite ready for in-patient alcohol treatment, suggest that they talk with a therapist or attend a support group. They have to be ready to change so if they refuse, don’t force it. Offer to help them find resources if needed.

  • Set Boundaries: While it's important to support your loved one, it's equally important to take care of yourself; especially if they aren't ready to get help.  Set boundaries around their drinking behavior and seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if you need it.


You're Not Alone


Dealing with alcoholism in the family can feel scary and overwhelming but you’re not alone. Over 30 million people battled alcohol use disorder in the US last year. There are tons of resources available to you and your loved one. 

If you are considering treatment for your friend or family member, give us a call. Even if they may not be ready for residential treatment, our clinical team can help you game plan next steps and evaluate the best way to help your loved one. Call us today.