Signs of Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : October 03, 
| 4 Sources

Being able to identify alcoholism signs can answer that all important question... "Am I an alcoholic?"

"Am I an alcoholic?"

If you have to ask yourself this question then the chances are you have problems with drinking.This is one of the signs of Alcoholism.

signs of alcoholism

However you can have a drinking problem but not necessarily be an alcoholic.

Let me explain...the guy on your left obviously has had a few, and is most definitely having a problem with the moment.

Yet this does not mean he is an alcoholic, there are signs of Alcoholism and symptoms that indicate, to you or a physician, whether somebody might be drinking alcoholically.

There are also a large number of diagnostic alcoholism tests that can be used to determine if an individual is a problem drinker or an alcoholic.

Below you can find links that examine in detail the various signs of alcoholism.

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse/Signs of a Drinking Problem

If you have a problem with drinking (you abuse alcohol) it means that you use alcohol in such a way that it is harmful to you.

What I mean is that the way you use (abuse) it harms you in some way. It could be affecting....

  • Your physical health
  • Your mental health
  • You relationships
  • Your job
....and yet you continue to drink despite these problems.

These are NOT signs of alcoholism but signs that you have a problem with drinking.

Learn more about the symptoms of alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism Quiz

A self-diagnostic alcoholism test is a great way to discover if you have a drinking problem or not. The only problem is finding one which is suitable for you. We have gathered together the most effective and accurate tests available, tests that can assist you in discovering whether you have a drinking problem or not.

Go to our page, Alcoholism Quizzes to complete an alcoholism questionnaire.

The Ten Warning Indicators of Alcoholism

If you are an alcoholic (alcohol dependent) then your consumption of drink harms you as it does the problem drinker.

However, there are also other warning signs of alcoholism that may indicate alcohol dependency and alcoholic behavior such as.........

  • You only visit places, people and events where you know there will be drink available.
  • When you don’t drink for a short period of time (up to 24 hours) you begin to suffer alcohol withdrawals. These can include such symptoms as the ‘shakes’, sweating, rapid heartbeat, anxiety etc. and range in severity depending on how alcohol dependent the individual has become.
  • In order to get rid of these symptoms the alcoholic drinker will drink. A vicious circle.
  • The alcoholic will see his tolerance for drink increase (at least in the adaptive stage of alcoholism). Which means he/she needs to drink more to get the desired effect (the high/buzz-whatever you want to call it).
  • The alcoholic craves alcohol. Unless you feel or have felt this craving for a substance it is difficult to explain how it feels. Perhaps it is best to describe it as an unending obsession, a need for alcohol that consumes you. Nothing else matters.
  • One common characteristic of the alcoholic is the constant broken promises made to himself/herself to give up or cut down on drinking. Waking up in the morning surrounded by the mess of the previous day’s abuse the dependent drinker swears off drink. Yet not long after they find themselves drunk again. A cycle of self-loathing for their weaknesses continues. A very bad feeling that the alcoholic copes with by……………drinking some more.

In short:
The ALCOHOLIC most definitely has a problem with drinking.
The PROBLEM DRINKER may or may not be an alcoholic.

Both are abusing alcohol- using it in a harmful way.

It is important to keep in mind that even if you are not showing signs of alcoholism now but you have a problem with drink, the problem, unless you get help, can turn into a much, much bigger problem......

Namely, alcoholism!

The only safe way to drink is so-called moderate drinking (or, of course, abstinence).

Anything else is problem drinking, alcohol abuse or alcoholism. They are all damaging to you and your life.

Definition of Alcoholism

There are a multitude of definitions of alcoholism, all as valid as each other.

The reason for this variety is that different organizations, health bodies etc. have different approaches to alcohol dependency.

For more on this, read Definition of Alcoholism.

The First Signs of Alcoholism

Catching any illness or disease early is far better than letting it runs its course.

And so it is with alcoholism. If you can spot and treat the early symptoms of alcoholism then you will prevent a lot of heartache and pain.

The first signs of alcoholism include drinking alone, using alcohol to deal with emotional problems and lying about the quantity of alcohol consumed.

Treating Alcoholism VS. Treating Problem Drinking

Problem drinking is much easier to ‘treat’ than alcoholic drinking. So if you think you have a problem sort it out now before you do serious damage to your health, family, job etc.

Get educated on the dangers of drinking too much, see a therapist, change your social circle do what you need to do before it’s too late.

It may seem hard but it is much easier to do it now than when you start showing signs of alcoholism. I know, because I waited too long. I ignored the signs of alcoholism and paid the price.

Treatment for alcoholism, once you accept you need it (which can take a LONG time due to alcoholism denial) is tough and is not guaranteed to work.

It is a sad fact but only a minority of people recover from alcoholism and for those who don’t the end stage of alcoholism is invariably, death.

Alcoholism Physical Symptoms

Alcoholism signs can manifest themselves in many ways.

However, it is generally the physical signs of alcoholism that first rear their ugly heads.

To find out what the physical symptoms of alcoholism are and at what stage of alcoholism they appear, read alcoholism physical symptoms.

Who is an Alcoholic?

Anybody can be an alcoholic.

No matter their birth, the size of their wallets, the look on their face etc.

Alcoholism cuts across all creeds and colors.

If you answer yes to two or more of the questions on the CAGE questionnaire then the chances are that you are an alcoholic.

Addictive Personality Disorder

There are those who argue that some personality types are more likely to engage in addictive/obsessive behavior.

Others see it differently and believe that substances (such as alcohol and other drugs) change the make-up of the brain resulting in addictive behavior. It is not possible, in their view, to be addicted to activities. Hence, there is no such thing as addictive personality disorder.

For more on this debate, read addictive personality disorder.

Is there a Personality of an Alcoholic?

There are people who believe that some personality characteristics make it more likely that a person will become alcoholic.

There are others who believe that an individual undergoes personality changes as their alcoholism progresses.

Read the personality of an alcoholic for more on this controversial topic.

The Functional Alcoholic is still an Alcoholic

Some alcoholics might use the excuse that they may show some signs of alcoholism however they can’t have a problem with drink because they have no problems at home or at work.

Sounds convincing.... Welcome to the world of the functional alcoholic. Learn more about functional alcoholism.

In the first stage of alcoholism it is common for the individual to display no outward problems from their drinking.

Just wait until the condition progresses to the second stage, then they can watch their life fall apart.

Alcoholic Women

Recent research suggests that women are more susceptible to developing alcohol addiction than men.

Read alcoholic women to understand more on why women drink and the effect it can have on their physical health.

The Dangers of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is not classed as one of the signs of alcoholism.

Yet the dangers of binge drinking are as great as those of alcoholism.

Teen binge drinking and college binge drinking can lead to alcoholism later in life. Click here for binge drinking facts.

Alcoholism Denial is a Symptom of Alcoholism

Many alcoholics will deny they have a problem with alcohol. It is a classic sign of alcoholism.

Not only will they deny it to other people but also to themselves. They truly believe they do not have a problem.

Getting an alcoholic to admit they have a problem is a major part of treating alcoholism.

There are many Types of Alcoholism

Anybody can become an alcoholic. Just because you are young, a woman, elderly, disabled, wealthy, successful etc. does not make you immune from this disease. I am a case in point....

I was born into a wealthy, privileged background. I like to think I am intelligent (I may well be wrong). I went to the best schools, graduated from a good university and have had a succession of good jobs.

Yet, by the age of 30, I had been in rehab three times and had still not got a handle on my demons.


If you follow moderate drinking guidelines then you will you not have drinking problems. And, more importantly, you will not become alcoholic.

There is no accepted alcoholism cure, though there is a vocal minority who would disagree with this.

Abstinence (that is not drinking at all) is the currently accepted treatment for drink dependency.

It is not easy to stay away from drink so it is always a battle between the individual and the bottle.

However, if abstinence is not for you, then there are other options available, visit AA Alternatives for alcohol treatment options that do not require abstinence from alcohol.

Despite its widespread acceptance, abstinence and the AA way are not particularly effective in the treatment of alcoholism. ONLY 5% of alcoholics remain abstinent after 3 years of attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. There are other, MORE SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT OPTIONS THAN AA.

For alternatives to AA/the 12 steps model read AA Alternatives.

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 Drug Abuse. Alcohol.

Rethinking Drinking. What are Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder?

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

PubMed. Late-Life Drinking Problems: The Predictive Roles of Drinking Level vs. Drinking Pattern.

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