Sign Symptoms & Causes of Alcohol Use Disorder

Compare Rehab UK | Sign Symptoms & Causes of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, is associated with various symptoms and manifests itself in multiple ways in different people. Some of the signs will be harder to recognise than others, and a number of variables, including the quantity and frequency of alcohol you consume, will affect whether you become dependent on it.

It might be challenging to recognise when your drinking crosses the line from socially acceptable moderation to problem drinking since alcohol misuse can creep up on you. However, you may be in potentially dangerous terrain if you regularly consume significant amounts of alcohol to deal with difficult situations or difficult feelings.

Denial is one of the largest barriers to receiving treatment for alcohol misuse. You may use a number of justifications to continue drinking despite the effects. Thus, it’s crucial to comprehend the symptoms and red flags of alcohol abuse and act to cut back on drinking when you see them. Understanding the issue of alcohol misuse and recognising its typical symptoms will assist you in reducing or quitting entirely.

This page will discuss some of the most typical indicators of alcoholism as well as what you can do if you experience any of the symptoms.

What is considered as 1 drink?

One standard drink is any of the following, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • 12 ounces (355 millilitres) of regular beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 millilitres) of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces (148 millilitres) of wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces (44 millilitres) of hard liquor or distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol)

Who is considered an Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is someone who has a problematic drinking pattern. The most severe form of problem drinking is alcohol abuse disorder. It has many varied symptoms and is typically characterised by a decreased capacity for self-control or complete abstinence from alcohol. If you have an alcohol use disorder, it’s likely that your drinking has affected your social, occupational, and physical health.

What Are the Signs of an Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol use disorder can include periods of intoxication as well as withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Intoxication: as the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream rises, you become intoxicated. The likelihood of negative effects increases with blood alcohol content. Alcohol use results in altered mental and behavioural functioning. These include undesirable conduct, erratic moods, poor judgement, slurred speech, issues with focus or memory, and lack of coordination. There are times called “blackouts” when you may not remember things that happened. High blood alcohol levels have been linked to death, lasting brain damage, and comas.

Alcohol Withdrawal: alcohol withdrawal can happen when severe, continuous alcohol use is abruptly discontinued or drastically decreased. It can happen right afterwards or up to four or five days later. Sweating, a fast heartbeat, trembling hands, trouble sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures are among the signs and symptoms. The severity of the symptoms may make it difficult for you to operate socially or at work.

Recognising the Common Warning Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol abuse can easily become out of control if it is not addressed. An efficient recovery can be aided by recognising the typical misuse warning signs and receiving the necessary therapy at an early stage. Although there isn’t a precise test to tell if you abuse alcohol or not, several symptoms may become noticeable. These gradually accumulate and cause more issues in the long run.

In general, you may have a problem if you consistently drink more than you intended to, lie to others about your drinking habits, or require a drink before you can relax.

These indications of alcohol consumption, no matter how slight, should never be disregarded. Find a reliable treatment centre by speaking with an addiction advisor at Compare Rehab UK if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol consumption.

Behavioural and social signs

  • behaviour that is dishonest or secretive when it comes to alcohol
  • heavy drinking alone
  • binge drinking or excessive drinking
  • consuming alcohol at unsuitable times, such as in the morning
  • avoiding talking to family members
  • withdrawing from obligations at work or home
  • using alcohol, despite the detrimental impact it has had on your personal, professional, and social lives
  • losing interest in pursuits, pastimes, or occasions that once held significance for you

Physical signs

  • discovering that you need to consume progressively larger amounts of alcohol in order to feel “drunk,” indicating that you have developed a tolerance to alcohol
  • headaches and drowsiness
  • excessive perspiration that doesn’t involve physical effort
  • Changes in appetite that result in weight loss or gain
  • Lack of attention to personal hygiene or appearance
  • sleep habits that are disturbed, including insomnia
  • alcohol withdrawal symptoms may start to show themselves after a specific period of abstinence

There is a strong correlation between alcohol usage and depression and other mental health conditions, such as anxiety. Alcohol can be used as self-medication to treat symptoms of anxiety or depression if you find yourself experiencing these emotions.

Understanding when Alcoholism is a reality

It can be challenging to identify when someone has a serious problem with alcoholism when the signs are not always as clear. When you’re dealing with a functioning alcoholic, it is especially true. Even though they are dependent on alcohol, functioning alcoholics can operate correctly in their work and social life, making it considerably more difficult to identify their symptoms.

You might utilise a series of screening questions to determine someone’s level of alcohol addiction disorder with greater clarity. If the answer to two or more of the four questions is “yes,” you are advised to seek professional help if you or someone you know may have a drinking problem.

Have you ever felt the need to reduce your alcohol consumption?

Have you ever been irritated by someone criticising your drinking?

Has drinking ever made you feel bad or guilty?

Have you ever had an alcoholic beverage to calm your nerves or get over a hangover first thing in the morning (Eye-opener)?

It’s also important to consider how doctors might determine whether a patient has a drinking issue that needs to be treated. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides instructions for determining the extent and kind of harmful drinking. The alcohol use disorders identification (AUDIT) test is mentioned there. AUDIT is a 10-question screening instrument developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Dangers of Alcohol Use Disorder

Abuse of alcohol can cause several health problems that have an impact on virtually every aspect of your personal and professional life. Therefore, drinking excessively over an extended length of time increases your risk of acquiring serious health issues, including illnesses that could be fatal. Unfortunately, due to alcohol’s widespread acceptance in society, its harmful effects are sometimes overlooked. Although many people drink alcohol to experience its stimulating benefits, the risks of abuse persist long after the initial good feelings have subsided. Because women’s bodies metabolise alcohol more slowly than men’s, alcohol abuse affects men and women differently.

Due to their physique and weight, they are also more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Women who abuse alcohol are at a higher risk of developing alcohol dependence, breast cancer, infertility, sexual assault, depression, and pregnancy difficulties. However, because of their larger tolerance for alcohol than women, men are more likely to have a problem drinking. Men can be negatively impacted by alcohol misuse in a variety of ways, such as gout, erectile dysfunction, beer gut, colon cancer, liver cancer, persistent facial redness, and cognitive decline.

Alcohol Addiction and the Brain

Alcoholism is a severe addiction that can harm the brain and other vital systems. Even one or two drinks could cause you to experience the effects of alcohol within a few minutes. These could include slurred speech, delayed reflexes, difficulties walking, and vision and cognitive deficits. While some of these effects will fade as your body gets rid of the alcohol, alcohol addiction and long-term usage can have lasting psychological impacts.

By changing the quantities of neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate behaviour, emotion, and mental processes, including GABA and glutamate, alcohol addiction and dependence have an impact on brain chemistry. This is what causes the lethargic behaviours seen when drinking alcohol.

Long-Term Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Large alcohol intake over an extended period of time is linked to a number of health issues. These include cirrhosis, hepatitis, nerve damage, pancreatitis, and a variety of mental illnesses (as a result of the death of brain cells). The following are other long-term impacts of alcohol abuse:

  • High blood pressure, stroke and other heart-related diseases
  • Malnutrition
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Loss of productivity in the workplace and higher risk of accidents
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Unintentional injuries, such as burns, car crashes, falls, drowning
  • Long-term damage to the brain
  • Increased family problems/disrupted relationships
  • Mouth and throat cancers
  • Sexual problems
  • Intentional injuries, such as sexual assault, firearm injuries, domestic violence
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency: can lead to apathy, amnesia and disorientation

What To Do if You’re Struggling With Alcoholism

If you or someone you care about looks to be suffering from the signs of an alcohol misuse disorder, there are measures you can take to address the problems and get on the path to recovery.

Speak to someone you trust

Accepting that you have a drinking problem is a difficult but important first step. It will be crucial for you to have the support of someone you love as you work towards recovery. You can speak openly about how alcohol has affected your life by asking a loved one or close family friend who you can trust for their opinion.

Consider your approach before bringing up someone else’s drinking habits if you’re worried about them. Do your homework in advance to help you understand what an alcoholic partner is going through, for example, before speaking to them. When you’ve finished, speak to them about it in a sober setting, emphasising that you’ll be available to help.

Reach out to a support group

You are not alone if drinking has started to become a problem for you. In the UK, there are over 600,000 dependent drinkers, according to statistics from Alcohol Change. It can be helpful to find a network of others who are experiencing similar problems so that you can work through them together.

Numerous alcohol support services and organisations, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Drinkline, can provide you with emotional support both now and in the future.

Seek professional treatment

It may be wise to look into treatment options if your alcohol use is seriously affecting your life and the lives of people close to you. It’s tremendously difficult to try to control your alcohol urges and overcome addiction on your own, and eventually, you’ll need expert support. There are numerous efficient treatments available today for individuals battling addiction:

  • Detox – Manage any withdrawal symptoms while quitting drinking alcohol while under medical care.
  • Therapy – therapy interventions address the underlying causes of your addiction and aid in your understanding of the psychological effects of alcohol consumption. You will also learn new coping mechanisms and ways of thinking in therapy, which will help you create a long-term abstinence strategy.
  • Residential care – Inpatient treatment in a residential institution can help you heal while removing you from the strains of daily life at home and at work. Medical experts will take care of you there as you go through an extensive treatment programme that may involve detox, therapy, and other therapies.
  • Aftercare – Recovery is an ongoing process. Aftercare groups provide ongoing support for alcoholics in rehabilitation, assisting them in staying sober as life goes on around them.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Compare Rehab UK directs you to an effective, evidence-based addiction treatment programme that can start you on the road to recovery by using the network of hospital sites and wellness centres operated by our partners. Every day, excellent addiction teams of consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and other medical experts provide the greatest care for those with addiction.

After the doctors evaluate your addiction, you and them will decide on the appropriate treatment strategy. At one of the hospital locations in the UK, treatment programmes are available on a residential, inpatient basis, enabling you to get round-the-clock specialised care. As an alternative, therapy can be provided on an outpatient or day-care basis, allowing you to recover from addiction while still attending to your other obligations.

Additionally, we may direct you to a free addiction assessment, which can help you better understand the challenges you’ve been facing and determine the most effective course of action for your recovery.

Get in Touch Today!

Please call us on 0800 999 1083 to schedule a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT if you would like more information on how you may get help with alcohol addiction treatment and rehabilitation.

Last Edited: September 19th, 2022
Clinically Reviewed: July 25, 2022
Compare Rehab UK | Sign Symptoms & Causes of Alcohol Use Disorder
Clinical Reviewer


BACP accredited psychotherapist with 16 years experience working in mental health specialising in psychodynamic person-centred therapies treating those with a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, OCD and Addiction.