Physical Signs of Alcoholism | What Does Alcoholism Look Like
physical signs of alcohol abuse

Most of us think that alcohol problems are reserved for those who get up in the morning and start drinking. However, it’s usually not the case. Alcohol dependency, or alcoholism, is a slippery slope but often doesn’t occur overnight. For most, it happens gradually. With time, the physical signs of alcoholism become more apparent. The progressive nature of alcohol use disorder (AUD) means it’s critical that problematic drinking is spotted early to prevent damage to health and wellbeing. Learn some of the symptoms of alcoholism below.

According to a National Institute of Health study, over 16 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder – that’s 6.2% of the population. If you are struggling with alcohol abuse, you are certainly not alone. Fortunately, there are options for effective treatment that can help you overcome the struggles and health issues associated with AUD.

Contact AspenRidge treatment for information on evidence-based programs that offer mental health and substance addiction support at all stages.

Effects of Alcohol

what is alcohol abuseAlcohol has many different effects on the human body. Emotional changes can bring a strong sense of euphoria. The euphoric feeling often enables drinkers to feel more outgoing and social. It’s also one of the primary appeals of alcohol. Drinking is also known to elevate mood, alleviate anxiety, and increase confidence temporarily. However, these feelings quickly fade, replaced by rebound anxiety, aggression, depression, and other negative emotions.

Short-Term Physical Signs of Alcoholism

In the short-term, alcohol has many noticeable effects on a person’s overall mood and behavior. A person drinking may also show stronger emotions than normal. A person drinking may feel:

  • Excited and happy
  • Sad and depressed
  • Anxious
  • Invincible
  • More trusting
  • Affectionate

Physical signs of alcoholism will vary depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and how long a person has been drinking. However, it’s possible for a person drinking to experience a range of behaviors and emotions in the same night. Noticeable changes in people who’ve only recently started drinking or who may drink occasionally, for example, might showcase:

  • Aggression
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Loss of control and coordination
  • Easily excited or saddened
  • Confusion or disorientation

While short-term drinking is not often linked with chronic disease, it can still be lethal. In heavy amounts, drinking can cause alcohol poisoning (overdose). An overdose from drinking occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream. Consequently, certain areas of the brain responsible for controlling basic life-support functions – such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control –  stop working. Physical symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Mental confusion or difficulty remaining conscious
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Extremely low body temperature

It’s important to be aware of the health ramifications of both short- and long-term drinking.

Long-Term Physical Signs of Alcoholism

Over time, problem drinking can shift toward dependency. The progression of alcoholism occurs differently for everyone, and physical signs of alcoholism vary from person to person.

Alcohol is an intoxicating drug that can induce physical addiction. At present, over 18 million American adults in the U.S. are battling an alcohol use disorder. Of those with an AUD, only about 9% are receiving treatment.

The physical signs of alcoholism include:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nervousness and heavy sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Memory problems
  • Weight Loss or gain

Additionally, according to Healthline, alcoholism can increase the risk of viral and bacterial infections, heart disease, and hardening of the liver, also known as cirrhosis.

Other concerns include issues that stem from legal troubles, family problems, financial stress, and relationship woes. There’s usually a downward spiral associated with the progressing disease of alcohol addiction.

What is Alcoholism?

physical signs of alcoholismFor clarity, alcoholism is a non-clinical descriptor that encompasses a wide variety of behaviors related to alcohol abuse. The more apt term is alcohol use disorder, which incorporates heavy drinking and binge drinking. More accurately, however, alcohol use disorder includes at least two or more factors outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 outlines a set of 11 different criteria that help physicians and addiction specialists diagnose AUD and identify its severity.

The physical signs of alcoholism can be used to help identify markers of AUD. In general, those with AUD can be suffering from:

  • Binge drinking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Alcohol Dependency

On the spectrum of alcoholism, dependency usually reveals more substantial markers or more intense physical signs of alcoholism.

How Does Alcoholism Progress?

Alcoholism is a complicated disorder and often develops gradually. More recently, alcoholism has been viewed in stages. For example, alcoholism often goes through an exploration phase, an abuse phase, and a dependency phase. Alcohol can also be determined to be mild, moderate, or severe.

In 2014, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, 5th Edition developed a multi-dimensional model to diagnose many mental health problems, including alcoholism. The new dimensional models view mental health illness and alcoholism as continually progressing and changing. Based on the Diagnostic Statistical Manual changes, if mental illness and substance use are left untreated, the disorder can become increasingly more harmful and can demand more intensive treatments. The DSM-5 mentioned above is the current diagnostic tool used by all therapists, psychiatrists, and healthcare providers.

It is vital to treat alcoholism as soon as possible. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addressing alcoholism early on leads to better outcomes and can minimize the coinciding health effects. They also state alcohol treatments work better when tailored to individual needs. AspenRidge offers trained professionals who understand the current dimensional diagnostic standards and address physical signs of alcoholism and underlying mental health concerns. AspenRidge also tailors treatment to individual needs as much as possible.

Because of the challenges in determining treatments, it is highly recommended to contact AspenRidge to discuss treatment options. Additionally, we also provide various online self-assessments to evaluate current needs and levels of alcohol abuse. Contact us today for more information directly at 855-281-5588.

Benefits of Treating Alcoholism & Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

Many substance use and alcohol problems are the result of mental health disorders and self-medicating. One study revealed that nearly 22% of people with anxiety disorder report self-medicating. In another study, almost 41% of people with bipolar disorder drink alcohol to deal with mental health symptoms.

Approximately 7.7 million adults throughout the U.S. are diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorder (SUD). Among people who abuse substances, around 38% also have a mental health diagnosis.

what does alcoholism look like

These astronomical figures have led many health and addiction specialists toward creating programs that address mental health concerns and alcoholism concurrently. Being aware of the physical signs of alcoholism and the symptoms of mental health disorders may help families take preventative measures and intervene sooner.

Research on treatments of alcoholism and other mental disorders indicate an increase in success rates for sobriety, plus lower relapse rates and overall better quality of life. Alcoholism or drug use is often connected to other mental or emotional problems, and many treatments have similar treatment components. Treatments for a substance use disorder and other mental health disorders are commonly referred to as co-occurring treatments as they treat both problems simultaneously.

How can AspenRidge Help?

AspenRidge can help address both short-term and long-term physical signs of alcoholism. AspenRidge offers highly-effective programs that can handle all levels of alcohol use disorders. We tailor our approaches to match client needs and work to create a suitable plan for the individual.

Our staff are highly trained in assessment and can provide safe medication treatments, counseling options, and relapse prevention. Additionally, AspenRidge offers three different online and telehealth tools available during the COVID-19 pandemic. A list of our programs include:

Contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-678-3144 to speak to staff about various programs and treatment methods for alcohol, drug, and other co-occurring disorders. Further information can also be found at Gaining knowledge prior to taking the steps towards recovery is crucial, and AspenRidge is determined to help in the recovery process and connect those with proper medical professionals.

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