At least, not by definition, and not according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Instead, this trusted authority classifies issues related to drinking as “alcohol use disorders” (AUDs) that range in severity. Does it really matter what words you use to describe a person whose relationship to alcohol is an unhealthy one? However you describe it, this is a problem that can have devastating effects on all aspects of an individual’s life. Read on to learn the signs someone is an alcoholic so that you can help your loved one overcome that problem.
Over time, heavy drinkers do such damage to their bodies that it can be difficult to conceal the problem. Broken capillaries, brittle hair and nails, and signs of premature aging like wrinkles can give away a drinker’s habit. Their skin tone or the whites of their eyes may be yellow-hued from liver damage.
Their hygiene habits might begin to slip. Their breath may smell of alcohol nearly all the time, even if they pop breath mints and chew gum. In fact, the odor can also emanate from their very pores, making it easy for others can smell the booze on them.
Cognitive and Emotional Indicators
Someone who struggles with alcohol use may not be forthcoming with other people about how they feel and what they think, especially feelings and thoughts regarding their alcohol habits or intake. However, it is possible to make some educated guesses from observing their behavior, and the things they do talk about. If your loved one has an AUD, they might experience the following:
- Drinking more, or for longer periods, than they initially planned
- The inability to cut down or control drinking, even when they want to do so
- Drinking even when they are depressed or anxious about their alcohol use
- Experiencing strong cravings or urges to drink
- Memory issues as a result of blacking out
The individual might also try to change the subject or otherwise avoid discussions about his or her alcohol intake. Contact an alcohol services program to learn how to effectively communicate with your loved one about difficult topics.
Other Signs Someone Is An Alcoholic
When alcohol begins to take over a person’s life, it has become a problem. Maybe your loved one has been fired due to calling in sick too many times, performing poorly, or drinking on the job. They may quit school or flunk out for similar reasons. Distancing themselves from any person they once loved or activity they used to enjoy is another concerning behavior.
Engaging in risky or unsafe behavior after drinking is another good indicator. Having unsafe sex, driving under the influence, turning to illegal drugs, or committing crimes all fall under this category.
Lastly, you might see signs of withdrawal if the person hasn’t had a drink recently. One of the most common (and observable) is tremors in the hands, also known as “the shakes” or “the DTs” — a slang abbreviation for Delirium Tremens.
With Your Help
Supporting a loved one who is struggling with alcohol use disorder or addiction to any type of substance can be incredibly hard. Yet that support can be crucial to their recovery. When they have been clean and sober for a while, they’ll surely be grateful to you for having stuck by them during their darkest days.