Alcoholism Signs and Symptoms

photo of a silhouette of a man holding a glass half full of liquor up to his head and a half empty bottle on the table beside him - alcoholism signs and symptoms - hired power breakawaySome alcoholism signs and symptoms are subtle and some are not. The longer a person has been struggling with alcohol, the more severe the signs become. The effects of alcoholism are pervasive and touch all aspects of a person’s life. Here are some clues that indicate a person is having a problem with alcohol.

Amount & Frequency

Alcoholism signs and symptoms always involve drinking too much. A person who is struggling with alcohol might drink heavily after a stressful event or when the person feels under pressure. Problems at home or on the job are often used as reasons for drinking.

When a person drinks too much for too long, the person will develop a tolerance to the alcohol. That means that more and more alcohol must be consumed in order to get the same effect. A person struggling with alcohol will often want to continue drinking even after everyone else is done. An alcoholic frequently drinks until the bottle is empty.

Drinking more often or earlier in the day are also alcoholism signs and symptoms. An alcoholic will feel like drinking earlier and earlier in the day, sometimes directly after waking up in the morning. This is often done to help ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as “the shakes”. An alcoholic on a bad “binge” might stay drunk for several days in a row.

After an episode of heavy drinking, an alcoholic might not remember some of the events that occurred during that time even if the person was conscious the entire time. This is called a “blackout”. Blackouts occur more often as a person’s alcoholism progresses.

Secrecy & Isolation

Lying about how many drinks one has had is another aspect of alcoholism signs and symptoms. An alcoholic might also physically hide while drinking so that no one will notice how many drinks he has really had. Eventually an alcoholic will begin avoiding family and friends completely when drinking.


  • An alcoholic might use alcohol to feel “normal”. The person might rely on alcohol to lessen shyness and increase self-confidence
  • Depression is a common problem among alcoholics
  • Fear, concern for self and feeling trapped might be felt by a drinker that knows he is no longer in control
  • Feelings of being treated unfairly for no reason might exist in the drinker
  • Guilt is a common emotion that a person struggling with alcohol will feel. The guilt is embedded deep in the person and is related to all aspects of the drinking
  • Irritation is sometimes felt by an alcoholic when loved ones or friends make comments about the drinking
  • Regret results when the person does or says things while drinking that he wishes he had not

Friends & Family

Friends and family of a person who is beginning to have problems with alcohol will usually comment on the alcohol consumption. They will notice that the person is drinking more than everyone else, is drinking more than before or is drinking more often. The alcoholic will begin to make promises to drink less or only drink at certain times. But the promises are never kept. Most alcoholics will lose their friends and possibly their family as the drinking worsens. If not isolating, the alcoholic will instead surround himself with other drinkers.

Work, Finances, Lifestyle

Alcoholism signs and symptoms include having problems at work or school, smelling of alcohol during the day, lost work or school days due to hangovers or accidents, losing jobs or dropping out of school. An alcoholic might think that changing jobs or where he lives will help fix his drinking problem. But it never does. Addiction to alcohol will follow the person everywhere until it is treated.

Someone struggling with alcohol addiction will tend to spend more and more money on alcohol, even to the detriment of other important financial responsibilities.

Making promises to self is another part of alcoholism signs and symptoms. The person hopes that if some structure is put in place around the drinking, then the drinking can be controlled. The person might vow to drink only on certain days or only after a certain time of the day; or the person might vow to drink only a certain amount. The structure never works and the alcoholic will fall back into his old patterns.


For an alcoholic, alcohol takes precedence over everything else including food. Someone who is drinking too much will eat very little, have a generally poor appetite, have bad eating habits or might not eat at all. Finally, alcohol related accidents are part of alcoholism signs and symptoms. The odds of falling down or wrecking while driving while drunk increase the more a person drinks.