Occasionally drinking alcohol, whether it's at dinner, on a date, at a sporting event, or part of a fun night out with friends, probably isn't something you need to be overly concerned about. But for some, the line between what's OK and what should give you pause gets a little bit blurry. Sure, you might naturally wonder if the amount you drink is still OK, but there can be concrete reasons you might question your habits as well. It can sometimes be difficult to determine, however, because there are some subtle signs of alcoholism that are easy to miss.
Yet you don't want to overlook something that could potentially be detrimental to your mental, physical, and emotional health — not to mention the effects that something like alcoholism can have on the people in your life — so it's important to know what to look for. If you start to pick up on hints that you, a friend, or a family member could have a drinking problem, it's not something you just want to shrug off as not actually an issue. If something's wrong, you'll want to handle it. If you notice subtle signs of alcoholism in someone in your life, reaching out for help and seeking treatment will help you — or the person affected — move forward.
1. You're Cutting Corners
While practically everyone hits 'snooze' after a night out every once in a while, if your nighttime drinking plans start interfering with your responsibilities like getting the kids ready for school, fitting in your workout, or making sure you have time to shower and eat breakfast before dashing off to work, that could be a sign that your drinking habits aren't necessarily healthy, Dr. Deirdra Roach, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told Shape. When you're unable to do the things in your life that you're supposed to do, that can spell trouble.
2. You Drink Past Your Limit
Setting a limit before going out might seem like a good way to hold yourself accountable, but it doesn't help much if you drink beyond your established limit. "If you find yourself repeatedly going over your self-defined limit, that's a common early sign you're losing control over your drinking," John F. Kelly, PhD, director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and president of the American Psychology Association's Society of Addiction Psychology, told Health. It might be a sign that you need to cut back a bit. Thinking about why you surpassed your limit might help you next time too.
3. You Frequently Embarrass Yourself While Drinking
If you drink alcohol, chances are you've embarrassed yourself while drinking at least once, but if it happens all the time it could point to a bigger problem. Whether it's something you said to a friend or something you did without thinking, it can be difficult to face it in the morning. According to "sober journalist" Beth Leipholtz's blog post on HuffPost, having to constantly apologize and try to make things better — or live with what you did — weighs on you and "you really don’t realize the immensity of that weight until it is lifted and you can wake up in the morning perfectly able to recall every single action."
4. Your Family Members And Friends Say Something
If your friends and family members regularly talk about how much you're able to drink, that's a sign that your habits aren't healthy, Kelly told Health in the previously-mentioned article. No matter how well you know yourself, sometimes it's easier for other people to pick up on things before you realize that the evidence is right in front of you.
5. You Use Alcohol To Decompress Or Bolster Your Confidence
Yes, sometimes it's nice to enjoy a glass of wine (or whatever it is you like to drink) at the end of a long day, but if alcohol is your form of stress relief or confidence booster, that can be a sign that your drinking isn't healthy. Drinking for relaxation or confidence can be a sign of high-functioning alcoholism, WebMD noted.
6. You Notice Your Tolerance Is Going Up
If you need to drink more than you used to in order to feel the same effects or just can drink more than you used to without getting drunk, that too can be a sign that things aren't right. According to the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, an increased tolerance can be a subtle sign of alcoholism, and one that might be more obvious sooner than some of the others. Don't ignore it.
7. You Make A Lot Of Plans Around Alcohol
Plans involving alcohol aren't bad or worrisome, but if all of your social engagements have to do with how or when you'll be able to drink, that's not a good sign. "A good exercise is to see if you are comfortable and can have fun if you choose not to drink in one of those situations," Roach told Shape in the aforementioned article. If you can't or don't want to still see your friends without drinking, that likely points to a problem with alcohol.
8. You're Not Looking Your Best
Alcohol can really affect not only how you feel, but also how you look. "In my case, I put on 15 to 20 pounds and had a really unhealthy coloring," Leipholtz wrote in the previously-mentioned blog post. Looking exhausted, run down, or otherwise worse for wear might be a sign that the drinking has gone too far.
If you're worried about your own drinking or someone else's, talking to a doctor, addiction specialist, or other qualified person can help set you on the path to getting better.
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