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Signs of an Alcohol Problem

Alcohol consumption is so common that addiction and abuse can be difficult to identify.

When drinking casually with friends, we may not look for or recognize signs of alcoholism. Alcohol consumption is so common that addiction and abuse can be difficult to identify, especially in ourselves. There are many ways to enjoy a healthy relationship with alcohol; it’s when drinking starts to interfere with your everyday life that there may be a problem.

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Signs of a problem

Alcohol abuse comes in many forms, and people can keep abusing alcohol without hitting “rock bottom.” Drinking may cause problems in your life that seem to be major or relatively minor.

Drinking may be a problem if you …

  • Drink to forget something in your life or past.
  • Seek out alcohol when they’re feeling down or worried.
  • Can’t sleep or wake up without a drink.
  • Cope with emotions by drinking.
  • Have a hard time managing stress without alcohol.
  • Engage in “binge drinking,” having five or more drinks on a single occasion.
  • Have trouble maintaining relationships, hobbies, or activities because of your drinking habits.
  • Consistently go over limits on drinking that you set for yourself.
  • Find yourself in dangerous situations because of drinking.

Using alcohol as a tool to manage emotions or moods can seem like a good idea and that it helps you cope. But over time, drinking can affect the rest of your life, including your:

  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Physical health
  • Mental health

And since our bodies are wired to seek pleasure and relief, you may find it hard to cut down on your own.

If you’re concerned about your drinking habits or you’d like to know more, a confidential self-assessment can help you figure out if you have a problem.

When drinking starts to interfere with your everyday life, there may be a problem.

Knowing your risk factors

Many of us drink alcohol on a regular basis, but some of us are more likely to develop problems with alcohol than others. If we're aware of our risk factors, we can take steps to reduce the likelihood of developing an addiction.

Risk factors you need to know:

  • Genetics: If someone in your family has an alcohol use disorder, you may be more likely to develop one, too.
  • Age of initial alcohol use: If you started drinking when you were very young, you may have a higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
  • Mental health disorder: Individuals with anxiety, mood, and other psychiatric illnesses have higher rates of substance use disorders.

Situational factors you can control:

  • Friends: When you’re surrounded by people who regularly drink heavily, it can be hard not to join in.
  • Environment: Some areas of the country have higher rates of alcohol consumption than others, creating a culture of heavy drinking that can increase the risk for alcohol problems.

Find support and resources near you.