Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), also known as Alcoholism, is a broad term often used to describe a range of problems caused by excessive drinking. However, an official AUD diagnosis requires specific criteria to meet. Knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder is the first place to start if worried about a loved one or yourself.
Of course, the difference between this disorder and just a bad habit is significant. AUD is a diagnosable medical condition. The DSM-5, the standard classification for mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States, has specific criteria for AUD. However, even if you or a loved one don’t meet the below standards exactly, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms in case treatment is eventually needed.
The three main diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder include:
- A pattern of drinking that causes problems in your life, such as causing arguments with family members or causing you to miss work. This pattern of drinking is the most important factor in determining your diagnosis. It can be defined as the amount of time you use alcohol, how much alcohol you consume, and how often you drink.
- Continuing to drink despite being aware of the problems caused by your drinking. You might have ongoing issues caused by your drinking, including financial, relational, or professional.
- Have you tried to cut down on the amount you are drinking but failed? Having a strong desire to cut down or stop drinking, but being unable to do so, indicates that it’s time to seek help. A desire to cut down or control your drinking is often a response to the problems caused by your drinking. However, if you continue to drink despite these feelings, this could also confirm your diagnosis.
If you or a loved one relate to the above, seeking treatment may be in your best interest. AUD ranges from mild to severe, but treatment at the early stages is essential, as this can be a rapidly escalating disorder.
Common Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Problem
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) cites that 6.2 percent of adults in the United States aged 18 and older have had Alcohol Use Disorder. See below for some common signs and symptoms.
Common Signs of AUD
Excessive drinking and alcohol addiction have a wide range of physical side effects, including:
- The smell of alcohol on the breath that lingers for hours after heavy drinking
- Weight loss from drinking instead of eating
- Poor hygiene
- Dry skin, brittle hair, and nails
- Increased appearance of aging and wrinkles
- Broken capillaries (small blood vessels) on the face and nose
- Yellow eyes and skin due to liver damage
Common Symptoms of AUD
Apart from the physical signs, there are telltale symptoms to look out for when trying to see if someone is suffering from AUD. These can include:
- You drink more or longer than you intend to
- You keep drinking even though it makes you feel sad or anxious
- Crave alcohol badly
- Tried or wanted to drink less but were unsuccessful
- Gave up or cut back on activities you used to enjoy so you could drink instead
- Spend a lot of time recovering from a hangover
- Repeatedly place yourself in risky situations during or after drinking
- Have problems at home, work, or school because of drinking or hangovers
- Continue to drink even when it negatively affects your personal and professional relationships
- Have to drink more to feel the desired effect, or feel much less of an effect from your usual number of drinks
- Experience shaking, restlessness, anxiousness, nausea, or other withdrawal signs when the effects of your drinks wear off
Be Aware of Risks to AUD
It’s unclear what exactly causes AUD, aside from abusing alcohol. However, certain items definitely increase an individual’s risk of a bad habit turning into this condition. These can include:
- A previous history of trauma and/or other mental health conditions. Alcohol is a common coping mechanism, and it’s not uncommon for an individual with AUD to have other conditions that need treatment.
- According to research, genetics influence a person’s proneness to Alcoholism by 50 percent. While not an insignificant number, this shows a person’s environment (parents, childhood, etc.) are just as big of a factor.
- Beginning to drink early, before age 15, increases the risk of AUD considerably.
Long-term Effects of AUD
While an AUD may not seem like a serious problem to many, the risks are dire. If not treated, these can include:
- Serious heart problems such as heart failure or stroke
- Liver disease
- Digestive issues
- Diabetes and/or complications with diabetes
- Negatively impacting sexual function
- Brain damage including memory loss
- Weakened immune system
- Possible death
Get the Help You Need at an Alcohol Rehab in Atlanta
If you relate to any of the above, it may be time to seek treatment. Reaching out for help can be the hardest part for many with an AUD but the good news is that you’re not alone.
Choosing a treatment facility for your alcohol addiction is the first step on what may be a long road to total recovery. With the help of Emerge Healing Center, you will get the help you need with effective, scientifically-backed treatment options. Contact us today to learn more about our programs, and how we can help you to take back control of your life.