Signs You Are Struggling with an Alcohol Addiction

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Recognising the signs of alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is necessary for anyone who suspects they might be struggling with alcohol or is concerned about a loved one. Early detection can make a significant difference in recovery outcomes. By staying informed about AUD, you take the first step towards understanding its impact and overcoming this illness.

AUD can manifest in various ways. Some indicators may be subtle, such as an increased tolerance to alcohol or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. Others are more noticeable, like neglecting responsibilities at work or home due to drinking or spending excessive time recovering from alcohol use.

If you’re struggling with an alcohol use disorder or know someone who is, please contact CATCH Recovery today for a free consultation. You can have a confidential conversation with one of our team, who will take you through your options and advise you on the treatment path best suited to your needs.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterised by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.1 It isn’t just about how often you drink, but also how alcohol affects your life and the lives of those around you.

AUD exists on a spectrum of alcohol use, ranging from mild to severe. Mild AUD might involve some negative consequences, like hangovers or occasional binges. On the other hand, severe AUD, often referred to as ‘alcoholism’ or ‘alcohol addiction’, involves a high level of physical dependency on alcohol. It’s important to understand that casual drinking can escalate into AUD, especially if you’re not mindful of your consumption and its effects.

Recognising AUD is a pivotal step on the journey to addiction recovery. It’s never easy to confront, but with professional help and strong support networks, recovery is more than possible. Acknowledging the problem is a big step towards overcoming it and success depends on your determination, resilience, and willingness to make positive changes.

The Impact of AUD

Understanding the profound impact of AUD on your physical health, mental well-being, and socio-economic stability can be a vital, yet essential, step towards your journey to recovery. Alcohol dependence is a serious issue that affects multiple aspects of your life.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is linked to a variety of health issues, including liver disease, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and depression, among others. 2 Ongoing alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and neurological damage. It weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to diseases. Withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, seizures, and delirium, can be severe and life-threatening.

Mentally, AUD can exacerbate existing mental health issues or trigger new ones. Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are common co-occurring conditions. Substance abuse can also lead to cognitive impairment, affecting your decision-making ability.

The socio-economic impact is equally devastating. AUD can lead to job loss, financial difficulties, and strained relationships. It can isolate you from your loved ones and community, causing a downward spiral of despair and loneliness.

Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder

Recognising the signs of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is an essential step in your journey toward addiction recovery. It’s important to be aware of various signs—behavioural, physical, and psychological—that may indicate AUD. Here is a closer look at the common indicators to better understand what they may look like in yourself or someone you know.

Behavioural Signs

  • Drinking more than planned: Consistently consuming more alcohol than intended.
  • Struggling to limit or control alcohol intake: Expressing a desire to cut back but being unable to do so.
  • Dedicating excessive time to drinking or recovering from its effects: Spending a lot of time drinking or dealing with hangovers.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Failing to fulfil commitments at work, school, or home due to drinking.

Physical Signs

  • Increased tolerance: We need more alcohol to achieve the same effect.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing nausea, sweating, or shaking when not drinking.
  • Long-term health issues: Developing conditions such as liver damage, gastrointestinal problems, or other alcohol-related health complications.

Psychological Signs

  • Cravings: Having strong urges or cravings to drink, often disrupting daily routines.
  • Reliance on alcohol for coping: Using alcohol to deal with stress or emotions instead of healthier outlets.
  • Mood changes: Becoming more irritable, restless, or depressed, especially related to drinking.
  • Secretive behaviour: Hiding drinking habits or becoming aggressive when confronted about alcohol use.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Ignoring personal and professional duties in pursuit of satisfying urges to drink.

Recognising these signs is critical in understanding and addressing Alcohol Use Disorder. Becoming aware of these symptoms can provide valuable insights into the nature of the addiction, potentially guiding you or your loved ones towards the path of recovery.

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Tolerance and Dependence

Do you find yourself needing more alcohol to feel the same effects or consuming larger amounts over time? This is a sign of tolerance, a key symptom of Alcohol Use Disorder. Tolerance is your body’s adaptation to regular alcohol use. As you consume more and more over time, your body becomes less responsive, demanding more alcohol to reach the same level of intoxication.

The risks and harms linked to alcohol consumption have been thoroughly assessed and documented over the years. When it comes to alcohol consumption, any amount can potentially affect health. 3

This increased tolerance can lead to dependence, a physical and psychological reliance on alcohol. You might start feeling that you can’t function without alcohol, or that it’s a necessary part of your daily life. Dependence doesn’t happen overnight. It creeps in gradually, making it hard for you to recognise it in its early stages.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Often, when you stop or greatly decrease your alcohol intake after prolonged use, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening conditions. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be both physical and psychological.

Feeling anxious or irritable is common during the early stages of withdrawal. You may also feel depressed, which is a normal reaction to the absence of the substance that your body has grown accustomed to. These feelings can be overwhelming and difficult to manage, but it’s important to remember that they’re a part of the recovery process.

Physical withdrawal symptoms can include shaking, sweating, and nausea. These symptoms are your body’s response to the sudden lack of alcohol. You may also experience insomnia, making it difficult to rest and recover.

In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures or hallucinations. These symptoms are serious and require immediate medical attention. If you’re experiencing these or any other severe withdrawal symptoms, it’s vital to seek help right away.

Loss of Control

If you find yourself drinking excessively or for longer periods than you originally intended, you may be experiencing a loss of control, a key symptom of Alcohol Use Disorder. This loss of control refers to an inability to stop drinking even when you desire to. It’s an important stage in the progression of the disorder, often leading to drinking more than planned and making it increasingly difficult for you to regain control over your drinking habits.

It’s important to understand that wanting to stop drinking is a significant first step. However, due to the nature of this disorder, wanting to stop might not be enough. Professional intervention, support, and treatment are often necessary to help you regain control over your drinking. Remember, it’s never too late to seek help and start your journey towards addiction recovery.

Neglecting Activities and Responsibilities

As your struggle with alcohol use disorder deepens, you might find yourself neglecting critical activities and responsibilities, including social, occupational, or recreational pursuits. You might start reducing social engagements, giving up hobbies, or failing to fulfil critical roles at work, school, or home. This neglect of activities is a common symptom of an alcohol use disorder, signalling an unhealthy shift of priorities. This giving up on pursuits can lead to isolation, further deepening the disorder’s grip on your life.

Risky Behaviours

While you may find yourself neglecting activities and responsibilities due to the disorder, you might also start engaging in risky behaviours, such as drinking in dangerous situations or persisting in alcohol consumption despite being aware of its harmful effects.

Risky behaviours often involve an elevated level of danger, yet they’re a common symptom of alcohol use disorder. This can include drinking too much regularly or choosing to drink in potentially perilous circumstances. You might drink before or while driving, for example, or consume alcohol in other situations where it could put you or others at risk.

Despite knowing the risks, you might continue to consume alcohol, illustrating the strong grip of addiction. This is more than just a lapse in judgment; it’s a clear sign that your alcohol consumption has crossed into problematic territory.

Continued Use Despite Problems

One of the most telling signs of alcohol use disorder is the persistence in drinking, even when it clearly leads to physical and psychological issues, or strains your relationships. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to recognise that you may be dealing with more than just a drinking problem.

Continued use despite problems is a common symptom of alcohol use disorder. You might notice that physical issues, such as frequent headaches, nausea, or bouts of insomnia, are direct results of your drinking habits, yet you continue to drink. It can be difficult to accept that your drinking is causing harm, not only to you but also to the people around you.

Self-assessment Tools

As you navigate your journey towards addiction recovery, self-assessment tools like the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the CAGE Questionnaire can be instrumental. They’re designed to help you better understand your relationship with alcohol, offering insights that can guide your recovery efforts. Remember, it’s not just about identifying a problem, but about understanding it – and these tools are a stepping stone in that direction. 4

CAGE Questionnaire

If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, the CAGE questionnaire is another self-assessment tool you might find helpful. This tool is designed to identify signs of alcohol misuse and ascertain if you may be dependent on alcohol. The acronym ‘CAGE’ stands for Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye-opener. These represent the four questions you will be asked about your alcohol consumption. 5

  • Have you ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt annoyed by criticisms of your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever needed a drink first thing in the morning as an “eye-opener” to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

The CAGE questionnaire is a validated screening tool, recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you answer ‘yes’ to two or more questions, it suggests potential alcohol misuse or dependence. However, please remember that this is a screening tool, not a diagnosis. If you are worried about your results, we advise you to follow up with a healthcare professional.

Recognising the Need for Professional Support

Recognising you’re grappling with potential Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can be a challenging task, but it’s important to seek professional support early on for effective intervention. A self-assessment is a good starting point, but it’s vital to remember that it cannot replace proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional. If you find yourself constantly thinking about alcohol, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, or if your alcohol consumption is affecting your work, relationships, or health, these are strong indicators that you need help. The first step is to make an appointment with your local GP who will support and guide you through the most suitable treatment options.

Alongside the NHS, various charities and support groups throughout the UK offer guidance for individuals struggling with alcohol misuse. 6

Professional support for addiction recovery isn’t a sign of weakness but an important step towards regaining control of your life. Early intervention significantly increases the chances of successful recovery and can prevent the harmful long-term effects of AUD. The road to recovery may seem challenging, but remember, you don’t have to walk it alone. Professionals can provide the necessary guidance, support, and tools to help you overcome AUD.

Get the Help You Need

At CATCH, we understand the challenges you’re facing and we’re here to help.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder at CATCH Recovery

At CATCH Recovery, we understand that exploring the landscape of treatment options for alcohol use disorder (AUD) can feel overwhelming. We offer a comprehensive range of services designed to support your recovery journey with personalised care and expert guidance.

Outpatient Treatment Offerings

Our treatment for AUD includes a variety of approaches, such as counselling and support groups, each tailored to meet your unique needs and preferences:

  • Counselling and Therapy: Our counselling sessions provide a safe and supportive environment to express your struggles and feelings. Here you will learn healthy coping mechanisms to help you address any underlying factors that may have contributed to your addiction. Our outpatient treatment programme offers both individual and group therapy.

  • Support Groups: We facilitate support groups that offer a sense of community and shared understanding. Hearing others’ experiences and sharing your own can be therapeutic and motivating along your recovery journey.

Inpatient Referrals and Aftercare

For those who may benefit from more intensive care, we refer patients to our trusted inpatient facilities for specialised treatment. This ensures that you receive the most appropriate level of care tailored to your specific situation.

After completing the initial phases of treatment, ongoing support is crucial for maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse. Our aftercare programmes provide continued guidance and resources, helping you navigate the challenges of long-term recovery. This includes additional therapy sessions, access to support groups, and membership to our alumni network, Recovery Club.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, contact us today to learn more about our personalised treatment plans and how we can support your journey to sobriety.

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