If you consume alcohol simply to feel good, or to avoid feeling bad, your drinking could become problematic.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and take steps to cut back if you recognize them.
Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it.
Understanding Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health.
People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems.
Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder (Manic Depression) are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate.
Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking.
The bottom line is how alcohol affects you.
If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.
Do you have a Drinking Problem?
You may have a drinking problem if you:
▪ Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
▪ Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
▪ Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
▪ Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
▪ “Black out” or forget what you did while you were drinking.
▪ Regularly drink more than you intended to.
If you think you have a drinking problem, we strongly recommend that in the first instance you seek Medical Advice from your GP prior to consulting JTR Hypnotherapy.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependency).
Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking.
However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.
Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
▪ Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking.
▪ For example, performing poorly at work, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
▪ Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against GP’s orders.
▪ Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking.
▪ For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.
▪ Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships.
▪ Getting drunk with your friends, for example, even though you know your partner will be very upset or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.
Drinking as a way to Relax or De-stress
Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress.
Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism (Alcohol Dependence)
Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking.
Alcoholism involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, but it also involves another element: physical dependence on alcohol.
If you rely on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, then it highly likely that you are an alcoholic.
The 1st Major Warning Sign of Alcoholism: – Developing a Tolerance to Drink
Do you have to drink a lot more than you used to in order to get a “buzz” or to feel relaxed?
Can you drink more than other people without getting drunk?
These are signs of tolerance, which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism.
Tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects.
The 2nd Major Warning Sign of Alcoholism: – Withdrawing Socially
Do you need a drink to steady the shakes (The “DT’s”) in the morning?
Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag.
When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if it’s taken away.
These can include:
▪ Anxiety or jumpiness
▪ Shakiness or trembling (DT’s or Delirium Tremens)
▪ Nausea and vomiting
▪ Loss of appetite
In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation.
These symptoms can be dangerous.
Other Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism (Alcohol Dependence)
▪ You’ve lost control over your drinking.
▪ You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.
▪ You want to quit drinking, but you can’t.
▪ You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.
▪ You have given up other activities because of alcohol.
▪ You’re spending less time on activities that used to be important to you (Spending time with family and friends, going to the gym, pursuing your hobbies) because of your alcohol use.
▪ Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus.
▪ You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects.
▪ You have few if any interests or social involvements that don’t revolve around drinking.
▪ You drink even though you know it’s causing problems. For example, you recognise that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.
Drinking Problems and Denial
Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalise drinking, even when the consequences are obvious.
By keeping you from looking honestly at your behaviour and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships.
If you have a drinking problem, you may deny it by:
▪ Drastically underestimating how much you drink
▪ Downplaying the negative consequences of your drinking
▪ Complaining that family and friends are exaggerating the problem
▪ Blaming your drinking or drinking-related problems on others (For example, you may blame an ‘unfair boss’ for trouble at work or a ‘nagging wife’ for your marital issues, rather than look at how your drinking is contributing to the problem. While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of trouble).
If you find yourself rationalising your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject, take a moment to consider why you’re so defensive.
If you truly believe you don’t have a problem, there should be no reason for you to cover up your drinking or make excuses.
Getting Help for Alcoholism or Alcohol Abuse
As stated previously, we strongly recommend that in the first instance you consult your GP before you talk to us about how we can help you.
If you’re ready to admit you have a drinking problem, you’ve already taken the first step.
It takes tremendous strength and courage to face alcohol abuse and alcoholism head on.
Reaching out for support is the second step.
I offer an initial consultation to allow us to determine which therapeutic intervention could be most appropriate for you.
Contact JTR Hypnotherapy
If you’d like to arrange for an initial consultation at my clinic, or if you have any queries that you’d like me to answer, then you can e-mail me, or if you’d prefer, you can fill out my online-enquiry form.