How do you know if you are an alcoholic or are just someone who abuses alcohol?
The criteria for alcohol dependence — another term for alcoholism — are specific, but they are also similar to those for alcohol abuse. The main differences between alcohol abuse and alcoholism have to do with the severity of the signs and symptoms.
Signs of Alcoholism
Someone who is dependent on alcohol needs it to get through the day. They also have a high tolerance, needing more and more drinks to feel any effect.
Alcoholics also suffer from withdrawal and will drink to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal, which include anxiety, tremors, sweating, insomnia, nausea, depression, fatigue, headache and irritability.
Tolerance and withdrawal are very telling signs of alcoholism (alcohol dependence). There are others too, which include:
- Losing control – you cannot stop yourself from drinking too much and too often, no matter how hard you try.
- Drinking in spite of the legal, financial and personal problems that it is causing you.
- Allowing alcohol, drinking and thinking about drinking to dominate your day-to-day responsibilities and activities.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
The difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse is a matter of degree.
If you are abusing alcohol, but are not yet dependent on it, you may experience a little bit of tolerance or a small degree of withdrawal, but nothing as severe as what a true alcoholic goes through.
As an abuser, your first signs will more likely be neglecting responsibilities so you can drink. For instance, you have to call in sick to work often because of hangovers, or you don’t spend enough time with your kids because you feel the need to go out drinking with friends.
Other signs of abuse include:
- Taking serious risks while drinking – maybe you drink and drive or you mix alcohol with prescription drugs to enhance your high.
- Continue to use alcohol even when you get sick or hurt from drinking.
- Your drinking is attached to emotions, such as drinking to destress or to cope with feelings of depression.
How to Avoid Alcohol Abuse Turning Into Alcoholism
If you are still in the abuse phase with your drinking, you have a chance to turn things around before you become an alcoholic.
Many people start off drinking as a way to relax and unwind at the end of the day and it turns to abuse from there.
So, how to relax without alcohol?
When you feel the need for that drink, go for an alternative:
- Read a good book.
- Talk with a friend over coffee.
- Start a hobby or any other healthy activity.