What are the Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : December 18 , 
| 4 Sources

alcoholism physical symptoms

Excessive drinking can take a serious toll on your health and cause your body to show physical symptoms of alcoholism. Anyone who has ever drunk alcohol to excess, knows that alcoholism physical symptoms are the first to appear (as opposed to the social and mental effects of alcoholism) and the hardest to control.

Alcohol influences every part of the body, causing a wide range of health problems. When talking about physical symptoms it's important to keep in mind that the severity of the symptoms are very much dependent on the stage of alcoholism the person is at.

Tolerance Is The First Physical Alcoholism Symptom

Tolerance means that, over time, you need to increase the amount of drinks to feel the same effects you used to with smaller amounts.

Do you feel that you have an ability to drink great amounts of alcohol without any apparent impairment?

Beware. This is exactly why this symptom is so dangerous. You feel that you have an ability to control alcohol consumption safely.

Sadly, this deceptive feeling plays a big role in impeding your ability to stop drinking.

Tolerance is the most common physical symptom any person who drinks regularly will discover by himself.

What is actually happening behind the scenes is that the brain functions adapt to compensate for the disruption caused by alcohol. Additionally, the liver increases the activation of a specific group of enzymes which reduces the time during which alcohol is active in the body.

The above phenomena have dramatic side effects on the body, for example: an inability to utilize certain medications, physical dependence and brain damage.

Moreover, tolerance to alcohol's effects impacts drinking behavior and consequences in many ways. Tolerance could further encourage alcohol consumption, contributing to alcohol misuse and organ damage; affect one’s performance of tasks, such as driving, while under the influence of alcohol; add to the toxicity or ineffectiveness of other medications; and could contribute to the risk for alcohol use disorder.

Second Stage Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism

Can you see any of the following physical symptoms of alcoholism in you or someone you care about? If you can, then now is the best time to do something about it.

It is much easier to quit drinking when the earlier, less severe symptoms of alcoholism present themselves than to wait until the situation gets worse.
  • Do you gulp your first drinks just to feel the "buzz" faster?

  • Do you have sleeping disorders?

  • Are you being easily annoyed?

  • Do you suffer from chronic hangovers?

  • Have you tried to stop drinking and failed?

  • Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning?

  • Do you suffer from nausea and vomiting?

  • How about anxiety, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite and headache?

Third Stage Of Alcoholism Physical symptoms

  • Disregarding necessities such as food

  • Aggressive behavior

  • High blood pressure

  • A feeling that you have to start your day with a drink to function normally.

  • Increased shaking, especially in the morning.

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • Muscle weakness (including the heart) and weakened bones

  • Enlarged veins just under the skin around the navel

signs of alcoholism

Fourth Stage of Alcoholism Physical Symptoms

  • Heart disease

  • Cirrhosis of the liver

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Clotting disorders

  • Complete loss of tolerance for alcohol

  • Extreme cardiovascular disturbances.

  • Profound confusion, disorientation, hallucinations

  • Damage to the central nervous system

  • Peripheral nervous system

  • Decreased testicular size in men

  • Round-the-clock consumption despite extremely negative personal and social consequences.

According to "Journal of women's health", women develop long-term complications (such as brain, heart, and liver damage) from alcohol dependence more rapidly than do men. It's important to know that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer in women, and the mortality rate from alcoholism is higher among women than men.

There are other alcoholism physical symptoms that alcoholic women may suffer from such as:

  • Negative effect on reproductive functioning

  • Anovulation - ovulation does not occur

  • Problems with or irregularity of the menstrual cycle

  • Early menopause

When to Seek Help

If you are worried that you might be suffering from alcohol use disorder, do not try to quit on your own. The alcohol withdrawal could be dangerous. If you believe that you sometimes consume alcohol excessively, or your drinking is already causing problems, or your friends and family are concerned about your drinking, you can talk with your doctor. Several ways to receive help include talking with a mental health professional or seeking help from a mutual support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or a related kind of self-help group.

Because denial is normal, you might not feel like you have a drinking problem. You may not recognize how much you drink or how a lot of problems in your life are caused by alcohol use. Take the time to listen to your family, friends, or colleagues when they ask you to study your drinking habits or to reach out for help.

Consider talking with another person who has had a problem with drinking before, but has already stopped.You can also contact a treatment provider today to help you determine the best treatment options to beat alcoholism.

Are you suffering from alcohol dependence? Do you want to do something about your drinking but are unwilling to embrace Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step way? The Sinclair Method is a viable and statistically effective alternative to the 12 steps, involving none of the shame and powerlessness used in the AA recovery system.

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol and Tolerance. April 1995. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa28.htm

Mayo Clinic. Alcohol Use Disorder. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243

Web MD. Do I Have an Alcohol Problem?. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/understanding-alcohol-abuse-symptoms

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol's Effects on the Body. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

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