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Symptoms of Alcoholism and Ten warning signs

Updated on July 14, 2014

Alcoholism is a broad term characterized by compulsive and uncontrollable drinking. It is synonymous with Alcohol dependence syndrome and has several warning signs. Warning signs encompasses physical, mental and social effects of alcoholism. These features can be used to identify a person who is dependent on alcohol (alcoholic).

Alcohol dependence is loosely defined as “Alcohol taking behavior getting higher priority than other behaviors that once had greater value.”

Warning signs of alcoholism

1. Strong desire and compulsion to take alcohol: - This makes stopping alcohol very difficult.

2. Early morning alcohol consumption or taking alcohol as an eye opener: - This is one of the features that can be used to identify problem drinking in an individual who denies increasing alcohol consumption. It is because of the addictive properties of alcohol.

3. Difficulty is controlling alcohol taking behavior.

4. Physiological withdrawal state characterized by tremors, insomnia, anxiety and delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is characterized by altered level of consciousness, perceptual disturbances (seeing things that are not actually present) such as hallucinations/illusions. Alcohol withdrawal causes characteristic Lilliputian Hallucinations (pink elephants in the fish tank, miniature people). Delirium tremens is a life threatening condition that needs specialized treatment in an emergency department. Above withdrawal features make person to take alcohol despite him/her wanting to stop it.

5. Development of tolerance: - Needing increasing amount of alcohol in order to achieve same original effect. This causes progressive increase in alcohol consumption that can damage physical health and leads to a vicious cycle. There are examples of alcoholic individuals taking higher amounts that may even kill a nondependent person.

6. Progressive neglect of alternate pleasure activities: - This is due to lack of desire for alternate pleasures, lack of time to engage other pleasure activities and due to time necessary to recover from alcohol hangovers.

7. Persisting alcohol intake despite clear evidence of physical, psychological and social harm. Harmful effects include liver damage (physical), marital disharmony (social), legal issues and employment issues. Psychological effects include depressive (psychological) mood states and cognitive problems such as memory loss.

8. Narrowing of personal repertoire. For an example, tendency to drink alcohol same way during the week despite social constraints.

9. Memory loss due to brain damage. Alcohol is known to damage nerve cells inside the memory forming area of the brain. This is also called the korsakoff’s psychosis.

10. Cirrhosis is the commonest physical complication of alcoholism. It can be characterized by yellowish discoloration of the body, hair loss, enlarged cheeks and breasts and reduced size of testicles.


Above warning signs can be identified in an individual who is a victim of alcoholism. However, sudden stopping of alcohol in such individual can be dangerous. They should undergo a detox program.


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      6 years ago

      Very informative article. voted up.

    • profile image 

      6 years ago

      I have a family member that has a drinking problem. I am going to send this to him. It may help him to realize he needs help.

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Kate P 

      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Voted up, useful, and interesting. This is clear, easy to read, and great advice. Thanks!


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