September 28, 2021

How to Tell If You Have a Problem With Alcohol

Do you think you might have a problem with alcohol? We're going to tell you the signs to look out for that point to an alcohol problem.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Estil Wallace

Recovery Advocate
& Cornerstone Founder

Last Update on June 5, 2023

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Do you think you might have a problem with alcohol? We’re going to tell you the signs to look out for that point to an alcohol problem.

Searching for help with drug and/or alcohol addiction? Call us now at (800) 643-2108.

Signs that You Have an Alcohol Problem 

When assessing whether a person has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), doctors reference the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and ask questions to determine whether a person has a problem with drinking and how severe that problem is.

If you are concerned that you or your loved one has a problem with drinking, consider the following questions and if they’ve occurred in the past year:

  • Drank more alcohol than intended or for longer than intended
  • You’ve tried to reduce or stop drinking before but couldn’t
  • Spent a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol
  • Experienced intense cravings or a strong desire to consume alcohol
  • Drinking or being sick from drinking interfered with major obligations like home, work, or school
  • Continued to drink alcohol despite its negative impact on relationships, such as with family and friends
  • Lost interest in activities and hobbies because of alcohol use
  • Got into situations while or after consuming alcohol that increased the chances of getting hurt or harming others, such as drinking and driving, drinking while operating machinery, or having unsafe sex
  • Continued to drink despite causing health problems, anxiety, depression, or memory blackout
  • You’ve needed to drink more to get the usual effect because of higher alcohol tolerance
  • Experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, racing heart, seizure, or hallucinations

If you’ve answered yes to two or three questions, you or your loved one may have a mild case of AUD. If you’ve answered yes to four or five questions, it might be a moderate case of AUD. If yes has been answered for six criteria or more, you or your loved one may have severe AUD, and treatment may be necessary.

Signs Vary By Individual

AUD doesn’t present the same for everyone, and how you see AUD might be different than how someone else sees their AUD. A roommate or a spouse might see more or different signs than a friend or coworker. Your perspective on whether you have a problem might differ from what someone else sees.

Sometimes people with an alcohol use problem will try to hide it, but there are other signs to watch for that could be a clue that there might be a serious problem. Look for outward signs such as neglected relationships or risky behavior. A person with AUD could be making excuses to drink, such as using it to deal with stress, relax, or feel “normal.” They could be exhibiting extreme mood swings, irritability, or becoming more distant from friends and family. Some people try to cover up their drinking problems by drinking in private.

Don’t Be In Denial

If you’re worried that you or someone you care about has a problem with drinking, don’t hesitate to get help. Alcohol abuse only gets worse the more it’s ignored. Being in denial is one of the main reasons people don’t get help when drinking becomes a problem. Prolonged alcohol use can put you at risk for developing serious health complications in the future, like high blood pressure, liver disease, heart disease, and stroke.

Many people will try to rationalize their behaviors by blaming others or certain circumstances for their drinking instead of holding themselves accountable for their actions. In the long run, it’s better to acknowledge the problems you’ve experienced from alcohol than become defensive when others bring up your drinking patterns.

Excessive drinking can be risky if you drink and operate machinery, mix alcohol with medicines, drink regularly without telling your doctor, surgeon, or pharmacist, drink while pregnant, or drink while taking care of small children. If you feel you are losing control of your life or can’t cope without using alcohol, then it’s time to seek treatment.

Be Aware of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Many people try to quit drinking but find it harder than they initially thought. Alcohol changes the brain, making quitting difficult, especially if you’ve been drinking excessively. If you or your loved one has a severe case of AUD, they shouldn’t try detoxing alone. Those with severe alcohol addiction will most likely suffer acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can be fatal. In these cases, they are strongly recommended to enter a medically supervised detox program to help manage PAWS and other potential health concerns.

For a person struggling with alcohol addiction, the best course of action for them to take is medically supervised detox through a rehab program. While at a medical detox facility, doctors can help you or your loved one manage severe — and sometimes dangerous — withdrawal symptoms as your body recovers. After detox, the next step is attending a treatment, like participating in an intensive outpatient program where you can find guidance, learn to rebuild your life, and set sobriety goals. Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, AZ, can refer our clients to detox centers and provide a treatment plan perfect for their unique needs. We also offer aftercare services for continued wellness and recovery, like 12-Step support groups, EMDR therapy, and mindfulness strategies that can guarantee a lifetime of sobriety. For more information on alcohol use disorder or how to get help for you or a loved one, call Cornerstone Healing Center at (800) 643-2108.

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Author & Reviewers

Estil has 12 years of experience in recovery, and serves as Executive Director, Board Member and President for He has also worked directly with alcoholics and drug addicts in Maricopa County jails. He has over 14 years of sales, management, networking and digital marketing experience. Estil believes anyone willing to change can heal.
lionel estrada lisac clinical director
Lionel, a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC) with over 4 years at Cornerstone. Passionate about helping those with addiction, he has trained as an EMDR therapist  adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of addiction, providing an empathetic approach to addiction.

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