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How to Easily Tell If Someone Is an Alcoholic?

December 14, 2020
Reviewed by: Lisa Misquith
how to know if someone is an alcoholic

The following blog has been reviewed by a Psychologist. If you are reading the blog on a mobile phone, you can see the reviewer’s profile at the end of the blog. Please see our editorial policy here.

In a classic picture of the world, an alcoholic is a person whose world revolves around alcohol and not being able to control it even after making attempts at wanting to quit due to severe effects of being addicted to it.

Everything will fall apart, but a person suffering from alcoholism won’t be able to give up on drinking. Also, they will drink even more after having issues with their interpersonal relationships. When everything doesn’t work out well for a person, they resort to some sort of extreme measures such as extensive drinking and it will get worse as they begin to live with the issue rather than addressing the root cause.

It doesn’t mean that a person with a good ‘social life’ can’t be an alcoholic. Outgoing, social and extrovert personalities can also have an addiction to alcohol. Yes, you read it right; a person with a tremendous social and personal life can have drinking problems and not know how to get over an issue that is leading to the actions he/she indulges in.

“You may belong to a good home, a loving family, possess a high paying job, friends, and a rocking social life. But, yet, you can be one among them,” says Sarah Allen Benton, who is a licensed mental health counsellor as well as the author of ‘Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic.’

Now an alcoholic is known to have an  ALCOHOL USE DISORDER (AUD) as per research health professionals. In the past, people considered the term ‘alcoholic as a negative thing and the stigma around the term generally makes people behave in a different way around alcoholics by devaluing, rejecting or even excluding them in their social circle.

As per the factsheet report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year, 3.3 million people die due to alcohol consumption. 

However, a person with a severe drinking issue who is unable to control voluntary actions, is  considered to be having AUD. Passive drinkers are diagnosed with AUD eventually after a period of passive drinking, leading to active drinking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), The dietary guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men  Consumption of alcohol on a daily basis makes you habituated to drink every day. A person’s tendency to increase the amount he/she drinks depends on the mood, circumstance and the influence these two factors have that causes your brain to release dopamine so that you can feel good. 

However, in this way of feeling joy or ignoring any stress with alcohol consumption, you slowly start ruining your health and life for yourself. In the attempt to find happiness Indulging in temporary feel good measures is not a permanent solution

This detailed and informative blog by, will provide awareness and tell you how you could know if someone is an alcoholic or not.

Signs and Symptoms of an Alcoholic Person

You may know someone or be with someone who is an alcoholic. However, you may not be aware of it because no warning signs and symptoms appear in the early stages of alcoholism. 

Alcohol Use Disorder is a progressive disease and doesn’t get noticed easily without altogether noticing recognised symptoms.

Here are two types of signs and symptoms of an alcoholic person:

Physical & Mental Signs and Symptoms 

  • Insomnia
  • Perspiration
  • Seizures
  • Auditory or visual hallucination
  • Trembling
  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting or Nausea 
  • Black outs

Behavioural Signs 

  • Drinking secretly or prefer drinking in private
  • Storing alcohol secretly
  • An an urge to drink frequently
  • Losing interest in social activities
  • Unable to say no to alcohol
  • Anti-social behaviour after drinking
  •  Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Drinking excessively 
  • Unexplained behaviour
  • Suspicious or dishonest behaviour 

How to Identify an Alcoholic?

As per the experts, an individual with AUD drinks frequently; however, symptoms show lately. So, how do you identify an alcoholic without noticing any evident signs? 

Over time, signs  increase in number and become unhideable. You may not be able to identify an alcoholic in the initial stages without apparent signs if s(he) is not close to you.

However, you can quickly identify your close ones behaviour with some tell-tale ways.

So, what are those ways to identify them as having an alcohol dependency ?

Here are the best seven questions to ask yourself/symptoms to look for:

I. Did Their Entire World Revolve Around Alcohol? 

Notice whether they only attend events or parties where alcohol is served. If they aren’t content at parties that don’t serve alcohol or never leave a party without excessive drinking means they have a dependency towards alcohol.

An alcoholic would miss out on events and gatherings that are not relevant to his/her interests, but wouldn’t miss a place to visit where a tailgating has been planned. They will frequently visit clubs and bars for alcohol consumption. 

As per the research article of BMC Public Health in 2018, ‘A high proportion of social drinkers in outdoor bars require intervention for their drinking behaviour. This is important because they have little or no information about the health hazards associated with excessive drinking.’ 

II. Do They Have a High Tolerance for Alcohol?

You may notice that they have an unusually high tolerance against alcohol. Generally, alcoholics, build tolerance for alcohol. It would be a prominent symptom if they can gulp multiple drinks in one go without having any trouble. 

An alcoholic can consume more drinks than other regular drinkers because a few drinks would not have any effect on an alcohol abuser. They can drink more than an average person. An alcoholic would not show any kind of intoxication with several drinks because of high tolerance due to consuming alcohol over a period of time. 

It takes more alcohol for them to have effects of alcohol which they want, even being aware of the side effects of alcohol.

III. Do They Drink Any Time or Get Frustrated When They Can’t Drink?

They may say that they want to drink at any time of the day if they don’t have any planned agenda. In their free time, they can only think about consuming alcohol. Or they may not be able to resist alcohol consumption because they just can’t change their mind .

An alcoholic is not able to say no to alcohol in any way or anytime. Even if they may say, they will take only one or two drinks but will end up drinking more than usual.  

Also, an individual with alcohol use disorder (AUD) is unable to withdraw from his habituated lifestyle easily without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. If they have a drink, then they may remain normal, but without drinking, they portray unusual behaviour such as staying frustrated or getting angry. 

An alcoholic will get irritated with your usual provocation and prefer no to be advised to quit drinking. When they don’t get a drink, they become more unpredictable and challenging to initiate communication. 

IV. Isolation in Emotional Ups and Downs 

If the person you’re noticing starts isolating himself/herself from social gatherings or events or avoid essential places to visit because of socialising, then it means they’re facing extreme emotional ups and downs. 

In general, emotional ups and downs or mood swings affect a person severely and make them isolate themselves from ordinary things.

If they don’t find any support or understanding from their loved ones, in difficult times, then there are high chances of them turning to alcohol as a mood uplifter. If the abuse persists, then there are high chances of their person to suffer from adverse mental and physical health issues.

Over time, an alcoholic will start doing secretly because they feel embarrassed. They may want to leave alcohol consumption, but it gets tough to withdraw once a person becomes an alcoholic.

Hidden alcoholism or secret  drinking may become more dangerous to deal with because it is difficult for a person to cope with everything that is going on in their lives altogether in between confrontation with friends and they may be a very stressful, and mentally weak person. They can become angry in a very short span and with no reason at all. 

V. Do They Have an Alcoholic Family History or is it Genetic? 

An Alcoholic may have developed an alcohol use disorder because of a hereditary factor of having other members being alcoholics and later status of their generation that means a family hierarchy can solve your task to know whether he is an alcoholic or not, if yes then why. 

As per the article published online by Cambridge University press in 2016, “Familial alcoholism interacted with generational status in predicting alcohol dependence symptoms in US Hispanic drinkers. This relationship suggests that heritability for alcoholism is influenced by a higher-order environmental factor, likely characterised by a relaxing of social restrictions on drinking.”

VI. Do They Become Difficult to Deal With After Alcohol Consumption?

An individual who is under the influence of regular alcohol intake in large amounts, experiences a change in personality along with a change in behaviourThey may not appear angry or rude, but show some signs of odd or eccentric thinking and behaviour.. 

As per the journal article of APA PsycArticles, the effect of conflict increased with alcohol dosage, was not mediated by drinking expectancies, and generalised. An alcoholic would get embarrassed while drunk but would not leave drinking.

How to Recognise an Alcoholic?

There are various types of screening tools available to recognise alcoholism in any person. One of the famous tools is called a CAGE. It is a process of a questionnaire that measures the severity of alcohol consumption in an individual. 

The four CAGE questions for screening written below:

1. Have people annoyed you by criticising your drinking?

2. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get over a hangover? 

3. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?

4. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?

After answering the questions mentioned above, if you have two or more ‘yes’ in your answer, then you should look for medical assistance as per James Garbutt, MD – from Everyday Health.

We hope now you may be able to identify, understand and empathise with an alcoholic with different signs and ways. 

If you find out that any of your loved ones is an alcoholic, then it is advisable to seek immediate  therapy and psychiatric treatment. 

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