It can be extremely difficult to objectively analyze our loved one’s drinking. Our emotions for the person get in the way of our critical thinking skills, and lead us to rationalize and justify the frequency and cause of their drinking. But if we are able to admit that there is a problem, those who drink excessively fall into one of two categories. Even though your loved one may not be physically addicted to alcohol, their drinking may be causing personal problems and strained relationships, which is considered problem drinking. Problem drinkers may slow down later as a result of consequences, but can also drink their way into alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence comes with a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Some of the symptoms bleed into one another, but regardless of whether you make a diagnosis of problem drinker or alcohol dependence, there is reason to be worried.
Lying or Hiding Your Drinking
Most problem drinkers and alcoholics are in denial, and will lie or hide their drinking in order to avoid criticism and scrutiny. This makes spotting the problem more difficult, but those that love them are able to see the pattern of inconsistencies or the emergence of continual excuses.
Drinking to Avoid Stress or Problems
Almost everyone began their addiction in order to escape some unpleasant aspect of their life. Regardless of whether it’s anxiety or depression, a failing marriage, high stress job, or financial difficulties, using alcohol as a coping mechanism is a recipe for addiction. It temporarily offers relief, but prevents the drinker from actual dealing with and resolving the issue. The problem still exists, pushing them back to the bottle, and the cycle continues.
Drinking to the point of a blackout is a big indicator that there may be a problem. Blacking out once or twice in a lifetime isn’t unheard of, but continual blackouts mean that someone is trying desperately to drown their problems with alcohol.
Inability to Regulate
If you’re drinking ten beers while everyone around you is just having one, then you may have an issue with your drinking. Being unable to stop drinking once you start is a telltale sign of alcohol abuse.
Drinking When Inappropriate
Drinking during times that are socially unacceptable or physically dangerous are clear signs of problem drinking. Drinking in the morning before work is not normal drinking behavior, and most people who do not have a problem with their drinking rarely drink before driving.
Causing problems with friends, family, spouses, or coworkers can often be the result of excessive drinking. This can be the direct result of being intoxicated, or from indirect results like hangovers, irritability when not drinking, or disagreeing about the amount or frequency of a person’s drinking. Damaged relationships are a sign that alcohol is more important than the relationship.