For many Americans, alcohol is a big part of their life. No matter the occasion, from weddings to birthday parties, family gatherings to date nights, most assume alcohol will be available. In fact, more than 50% of people say they would enjoy a major event less if alcohol was prohibited.
But at what point does drinking, or the desire to have a drink, become a problem?
There are a few subtle symptoms that can signal the start of a drinking problem. Being aware of these can help you change in your drinking habits earlier rather than later. Because drinking alcohol starts off as a habit that can then develop into an alcohol use disorder. In the past year have you:
- Drunk more or for longer than you had intended?
- Thought that you should cut down or stop drinking alcohol, but you haven’t?
- Gotten into situations while drunk that could have resulted in injury or danger to yourself (such as swimming, driving, having unsafe sex, or finding yourself alone in an unfamiliar area)?
- Found that drinking, or the after-effects of drinking, have interfered with your home, work, school, or family life?
- Given up or cut back on activities or sports that you were interested in in order to drink?
- Had withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wore off, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, nausea, or a racing heart
- Spent most nights drinking, drank regularly during the day, or drank as a way of trying to relieve anxiety or depression?
It is a fact that alcoholism tends to run in families. So, if your mother, father, grandparent or sibling had problems with alcohol, then you are at higher risk of having problems yourself. Experts aren’t sure if this is to do with genetics, or because of children being exposed to the negative example of drinking.
Depression also goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism. People drink because they are depressed but then they become more depressed because they feel guilty about drinking too much. People with anxiety also tend to turn to alcohol to try and give themselves more confidence. Drinking alcohol if you are anxious or depressed makes your situation worse in the long run. Another fact.
Peer pressure also plays a big role in drinking. And not just for teenagers. Many adults report feeling pressure to drink in social situations, particularly if everybody else is drinking.
If you feel the need to self-medicate with alcohol, our advice is, don’t start. Focus on other, healthier and more sustainable ways to improve how you feel about your life. Take up a new and interesting hobby or find something challenging that will push you out of your comfort zone and help develop you personally. Organize an adventure or an activity that gets you out into nature or get back in touch with a treasured friend. And if you feel you need professional help, enter a professional treatment program that will help you to remove alcohol from your life and ensure that you don’t succumb to relapse.
For more information about alcohol and alcohol abuse see Could you be an alcoholic?