am i an alcoholic

Signs you may have a drinking problem

One of the most common questions we see people worrying about it “am I an alcoholic?” We’ve written previously (search through our past blog posts) about the standard tests one can take to show that you have a drinking problem. They diagnose alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence (used to be considered two things; now it’s just considered one: “alcohol abuse disorder” in varying degrees).

But what are the less scientific, higher level signs that you can look for as someone who’s concerned about your own drinking?

Here are some of the key signs that you might have a drinking problem, alcohol abuse disorder, or alcoholism:

  1. You rely on booze for _____. When you believe drinking is doing something for you, and even worse, when you think drinking alcohol is the ONLY way to get that thing, it becomes very difficult to stop drinking alcohol. You are in a place where you depend on booze, which you definitely don’t need, for something else that you actually do need, like happiness, relaxation, stress relief, fun, etc.

  2. You don’t typically drink just 1-3 drinks in a night: you are in it to get hammered. If you are binge drinking on the regular, you are much more likely to develop an addiction. Also, drinking that much suggests that you have developed a taste for being drunk, not just for being tipsy. That means it’ll be that much harder for you to moderate your drinking, rather than just quit.

  3. Your friends have a nickname for drunk you. This is highly correlated to the previous sign, but a little harder to fudge. If your friends say they love “Drunk Leslie,” you might have a drinking problem. Why? Because that means you are drunk enough, often enough, that it was worth putting a label on it. That means those same people have seen you drunk FREQUENTLY. That’s not normal.

  4. You get worried you may not have enough booze. This is a thought pattern that is hard to conceive of if you don’t have a problem, but very common if you do. When you go to dinner parties, or actual parties, do you worry that you won’t have enough to drink? Do you bring more booze than is required, just in case? If so, you are in a state where you feel as though you need alcohol, or else the evening won’t be worth your while, and you might not be able to enjoy it. That’s not right. You’re supposed to be able to enjoy evenings with friends completely sober. After all, they’re your friends, right?

  5. The thought of life without drinking is horrifying. This is highly correlated to the previous one. If someone suggests quitting drinking, and the thought is enough to make you cry (or want to), then alcohol has become too important in your life. After all, would you feel the same way about having to quit eating sugary foods? Maybe you’d feel sad - but not as though your life was over. It’s time to quit - at least temporarily - and see if your fears are founded or not (hint: they’re not).

If you’re ready to quit or cut back on drinking, download the new version of Drinker’s Helper today!


How can I tell if I might be an alcoholic?

First off, we don’t love the term ‘alcoholic,’ both because it has so many negative connotations from popular culture and because it suggests that alcohol dependence is a disease you have or don’t have, rather than a progressive addiction that develops over time in anyone who drinks above a certain level.

With that out of the way, we wondered a few times in life whether we might have a drinking problem, and we weren’t sure what to look for in terms of signs or symptoms of alcoholism.

Based on scanning several popular tests used for diagnosing alcoholism (see our previous post on this topic, called ‘Am I an alcoholic?’, for a list), these are the simplified things to look for that might indicate a drinking problem severe enough that you ought to do something about it.

Signs or symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence:

  1. You find it difficult to stop after one or two drinks. This one is perhaps the easiest to spot. Do you often have drinking nights where you have one or two glasses of wine - or does it become the bottle pretty much every time? Do you drink for that initial feeling of tipsy-ness, or drink to get drunk? (The latter isn’t good).

  2. Your tolerance has gone up - significantly. Your tolerance for alcohol is always going up, but if you notice that it takes twice as many drinks to feel as good, that’s not a good sign.

  3. You’ve tried to quit and failed. We experienced this one ourselves. Not failing to quit, exactly, but by attempting to quit, we realized how much we WANTED alcohol. We didn’t think we were addicted until we stopped.

  4. You keep drinking even though it’s causing harm to your career, your personal life, your emotional health or your physical health. This can be a tricky one. A lot of high-functioning alcoholics are perfectly capable of holding down a good job and having a respectable family/social life. But this can be true even if you just notice that alcohol causes you to embarrass yourself, or get in dumb arguments, and yet you keep it up.

  5. Friends or family have suggested you cut down. Again, this is a tough one, because in certain settings, like college or business school, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to call you out on your drinking. But if someone has expressed concern, you should take it seriously, because they may have felt concerned for a while and only just worked up the courage to say something.

  6. You’ve experienced withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal makes a person very anxious, typically, as your body fights off the calming effects of alcohol. You get nauseous and sweaty, with your heart racing, and find it tough to sleep. Sometimes people don’t even recognize this as withdrawal, because they’re expecting seizures, or seeing things that aren’t there, but withdrawal can also show itself as just very strong anxiety.

If you’re noticing some of these symptoms, and you want to make a change, download Drinker’s Helper today! It’s our app that helps people quit or cut back on drinking with a combination of therapeutic exercises, an anonymous, personalized support group, and tracking of your drinking, with insights on what makes you want to drink.