Learn About Our Walk-In Process

40 Warning Signs of Alcoholism

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (855) 602-7202 now.

Alcoholism is characterized as a brain disease because alcohol changes the structure and function of the brain. These changes in brain function can alter a person’s behavior patterns significantly. When someone loses control over their alcohol use, it is typically considered alcoholism. Some of the most common warning signs of alcoholism include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Misuse of alcohol that causes mental or physical harm
  • Consuming alcohol to cope with psychological or interpersonal problems
  • Physical dependence on alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is discontinued
  • Increased tolerance for alcohol
  • Disinterest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
  • Challenges in relationships
  • Financial and legal issues
  • Changes in appearance

Alcohol Abuse Versus Alcoholism

When discussing alcohol use disorders, the terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcoholism” are often used interchangeably. However, these commonly used terms don’t have the same meaning. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Servicesdefines alcohol abuse as a pattern of drinking that causes harm to someone’s health, creates problems with their relationships or impairs their ability to attend work or school. While alcohol abuse can cause several issues in someone’s life, it’s not necessarily as damaging as alcoholism.

Alcoholism is long-term alcohol abuse characterized as an addiction. It is a chronic disease that tends to result in damage to someone’s mental and physical health. Because addiction is chronic, someone with alcoholism will likely have the illness for their entire life. Through addiction treatment, someone with alcoholism can learn to manage their symptoms and cope with stressors without alcohol.

Early Signs of Alcoholism

Alcoholism may begin as heavy drinking or alcohol abuse. Adolescents and young adults typically experiment with alcohol in social settings and may engage in binge-drinking, which can lead to frequent alcohol use and higher tolerance for the substance.

Some early signs of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking more than others
  • Drinking before or after social events
  • Family, friends or co-workers being concerned about the individual’s drinking
  • Missing school or work because of a hangover
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about alcohol
  • Attempting to stop drinking unsuccessfully

Behavioral Signs of Alcoholism

Alcohol affects everyone differently, so the behavioral signs of alcoholism may vary. However, some of the most common include:

  • Repeatedly neglecting responsibilities
  • Becoming hostile when drinking
  • Blacking out
  • Drinking to reduce stress
  • Hiding the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Legal and financial troubles

Physical Signs of Alcoholism

Some of the most common physical signs of alcoholism are:

  • Inability to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, like while driving
  • Drinking in the morning
  • Drinking alone
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Relationship issues
  • Memory loss

How to Get Help for Alcoholism

Not only does alcoholism affect the behavioral and physical aspects of your life, but it also causes significant damage to mental and physical health. The long-term effects of alcoholism include:

  • Liver damage
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Negative mood
  • Personality changes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain damage
  • Heart damage

Being aware of the behavioral and physical warning signs and long-term effects of alcoholism can help you recognize if you or someone you know has an alcohol use disorder. Help is available at The Recovery Village Ridgefield, where a team of professionals can design an individualized treatment plan to address substance use and co-occurring disorders. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which program is best for you.


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much.” 2005. Accessed March 21, 2019.

View Sources

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much.” 2005. Accessed March 21, 2019.