Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Physical Symptoms

Alcohol addiction is indicated by physical changes. The effects vary from individual to individual, from slight to intense. There are many signs of alcohol addiction that you should know about. This article will inform you about the common symptoms of alcohol addiction:
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Lack of motivation

Change in physical appearance

Alcohol addiction can affect someone’s physical appearance. The skin may become red and blotchy. The whites of the eyes may become yellow and tired-looking. Changes in weight, hair loss, or greying of the hair may occur. The person may look generally unkempt. These physical changes are more obvious when someone drinks a lot of alcohol frequently.
  • Tremor (shaking hands), slurred speech, and imbalance when walking are physical symptoms to watch out for.
  • Liver damage can show itself through tenderness in the abdomen and jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes).
  • Nausea, insomnia (trouble sleeping), and fatigue are signs to be aware of.
Withdrawing from alcohol after long periods of abuse can cause severe health complications. Seizures or delirium tremens (DTs) may occur. DTs are a severe disorientation with delusions, confusion, and agitation. If not treated, these conditions can be deadly.

Loss of coordination

Loss of coordination is a physical symptom of alcohol addiction. This can include difficulty walking or poor balance. It can also be shaking, double-vision, blackouts, and memory loss. People with excessive drinking may have slowed reaction times and diminished reflexes. This can be seen in activities like sports, driving, and dancing. Plus, their speech can be slurred and they may look intoxicated after drinking only small amounts. The loss of coordination in an individual with alcohol addiction usually gets worse if they don’t get help. Professional help from a doctor and/or mental health expert is necessary to address the problem at its root cause.

Changes in sleep patterns

Alcohol addiction can alter sleep patterns drastically. Heavy drinkers often struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, waking up too early. This insomnia leads to extreme fatigue during the day. Those with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) get less non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Non-REM is the most restorative kind of sleep. They may dream more during intoxication, and have higher activity in brain parts related to emotion and memory during REM. Alcoholics may take part in “nightcap drinking“. This involves consuming a lot of alcohol shortly before bedtime, to fall asleep faster or reduce withdrawal symptoms. Without finding healthy coping strategies or seeking treatment, nightcap drinking can continue indefinitely.

Behavioral Symptoms

Signs of alcohol addiction are physical and psychological. A big sign is changes in behavior. These changes can take many forms, like more social isolation, not doing responsibilities, and focusing on alcohol. Let’s look at the behavioral symptoms of alcohol addiction deeper:

Loss of interest in activities

Loss of interest in activities is a sign of alcohol addiction. People with this disorder often find less pleasure in things like sports, hobbies, and spending time outdoors. Also, going out with friends and other activities they once loved become less interesting. People who struggle with alcohol addiction have no motivation or interest in recreational activities. Those who try to participate spend less time and take longer breaks than before. This can be an indication that help is needed urgently.


Irritability is a symptom of alcohol addiction. Uncontrolled flashes of anger and annoyance can occur even with minimal triggers. Hostility and outbursts of emotion can happen and this can cause issues in relationships. In extreme cases, violent behavior can result from severe provocation. If this happens, professional help should be sought quickly.

Neglecting responsibilities

When addiction to alcohol takes hold, it can harm an individual’s ability to do their daily activities. Work, school, and home life duties might become less important, while drinking gets more attention. Social and recreational activities could be forgotten or stopped completely due to alcohol use. If someone you know has an addiction, watch out for signs that they’re not doing things they used to care about. This could be
  • falling behind at work,
  • getting bad marks on tests,
  • or not taking care of the home.
They might also ignore people who ask about their drinking habits or push away loved ones worried about their behavior. It may also show in attempts to control how much they drink, or excuses made when asked about it by family, friends, or employers.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms from alcohol addiction can be overlooked. Common signs are problems with concentration, memory, and problem-solving. People with alcohol addiction may have difficulty deciding and reasoning. Also, abstract thinking and understanding information can be a struggle. We’ll now look into these symptoms in more depth.

Memory problems

Memory difficulties linked to alcohol addiction can be anything from not remembering new info to total blackouts. These memory issues can massively affect social, academic, and work. It’s significant to keep in mind that the symptoms vary from person to person, and impaired memory or blackouts are not a must for alcoholism. Short-term memory issues may include
  • forgetting conversations or events that took place a few hours prior,
  • tasks or instructions for a job or other tasks.
Long-term memory issues involve difficulty in recalling distant past events before drinking became a problem. Memory deficits can also appear as:
  • confusion or incoherence;
  • short attention spans;
  • difficulty in maintaining relationships, hobbies, and habits;
  • delayed reaction time;
  • decreased ability to concentrate on any subject for a long time;
  • overall difficulty with problem solving and abstract reasoning skills.
All these symptoms can cause serious disruption in different parts of life, making it harder for someone with alcohol addiction (or dependence) to lead a normal life without help.

Difficulty concentrating

Cognitive issues, such as difficulty concentrating, can be a common symptom of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Signs of this may include difficulty focusing on tasks, an inability to remember information, and confusion. Too much alcohol can lead to long-term changes in brain chemistry. This can result in decreased neuron connection, leading to impaired cognitive function. Over time, this can cause judgement problems and difficulty recalling memories. Depression and anxiety can also be linked to AUD, as a result of the impaired concentration symptoms. It is important to recognize the signs of AUD and get help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be effective for those suffering from addiction and cognitive difficulties. With treatment, it is possible for individuals to regain cognitive ability, aiding in recovery from AUD.

Poor judgement

Poor judgement is a huge, dangerous symptom of alcohol addiction. It causes people to make decisions based on short-term pleasure, not long-term consequences. This could lead to impulsive, risky behavior like drinking and driving, or unprotected sex. It can also lead to relying on alcohol as a way to cope with everyday stress, which just makes the addiction worse. Because of the cognitive impairment from drinking, it’s harder to think through decisions while under the influence. Addicts may know better, but their natural inclination is still to make unwise choices.

Emotional Symptoms

Emotional symptoms of alcohol addiction vary. From mild to severe, they can appear while sober or while drinking. Examples of emotional symptoms include depression, guilt, low self-esteem, fear, and anxiety. Also, signs of withdrawal can happen when alcohol is no longer present in the body. Let’s explore the emotional symptoms of alcohol addiction:

Mood swings

Alcohol can cause wild mood swings, also known as “blackouts“. During these episodes, the person can be depressed, aggressive, or lonely. They may even become violent! This is because alcohol has a depressive action on the central nervous system, causing an increase in cortisol levels. Signs of mood swings include:
  • Bad judgement and decision making
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Relationship issues
  • Trouble sleeping
If left unresolved, the problem will worsen. It is best to seek help from professionals if you or someone you love is having emotional issues due to addiction. Get help fast to avoid any dangerous scenarios!


Anxiety is a common emotion connected to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. As the addiction worsens, people may feel restless, worried, irritated, scared, or panicked. Physical signs of anxiety include sweating, a racing heart, dizziness, shallow breathing, and chest pains or tightness. Sometimes, an alcoholic displays anxious behavior during or after drinking. They may consume alcohol excessively to cope with feelings of anxiety. Other signs of anxiety due to alcohol addiction are:
  • Avoiding things that make them anxious.
  • Obsessively trying to please others.
  • Developing phobias. These phobias can make it hard for them to do daily activities, like talking on the phone or driving.
It’s important to recognize these signs and symptoms early, as it can make it easier to manage the addiction in the future.


Depression is common with alcohol addiction. Sadness, despair, tears and tiredness are signs of depression. Studies show that depression can lead to more alcohol-related issues, as it affects the ability to control drinking. People who struggle with depression often lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. They may also become isolated from family and friends.

Social Symptoms

Alcohol addiction can be damaging for an individual, as well as those around them. It’s important to spot the signs of addiction in others. Signs can include:
  • Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed.
  • Avoiding social events.
  • Spending more time alone.
Let’s take a closer look at these social symptoms of alcohol addiction.

Isolating from friends and family

Alcoholism often starts with isolation from friends and family. People with the addiction may no longer find joy in activities they used to enjoy and instead, rely on alcohol for enjoyment. This encourages them to distance themselves from those who want to help. Emotional pain, guilt and shame become more prominent, causing them to avoid friends and family. This weakens their support system and they become more isolated. They begin to take part in activities that further their isolation, like drinking alone or with strangers. Alcoholics also avoid confrontation, so they lie openly and covertly to create a false reality. This further distances them from their family and friends until eventually, contact is completely avoided. They only talk about logistics like money, or major events where nobody wants them anyway.

Loss of interest in relationships

Loss of interest in relationships is a common symptom of alcohol addiction and misuse. When someone starts to abuse alcohol, it can cause major changes in their life which affect how they communicate with friends, family and other loved ones. Without early treatment, problems related to social isolation can develop and make it tough to keep meaningful connections. Signs of withdrawal from social activities may include:
  • avoiding conflict/difficult conversations;
  • less time with friends/family;
  • not participating in activities/hobbies;
  • feeling guilty/ashamed after spending time with people who don’t support their drinking.
If untreated, these issues can get worse as social isolation becomes a habit. For help with addiction, there are various treatments such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This provides a safe place to talk about problems without judgement. Therapy sessions can help address psychological issues like depression, anxiety or trauma. This fosters recovering by providing tools and strength for the recovery process.

Risky behavior

Alcohol addiction may cause someone to act riskily. A common example is driving under the influence, as alcohol affects judgement, coordination and balance, reducing a person’s ability to drive safely. An alcohol-dependent person may take risks while driving, such as speeding or running red lights, to access alcohol more easily. Alcohol can also lead to decreased inhibitions, which may result in inappropriate sexual behavior. Other risks related to alcohol addiction include:
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Taking part in activities that may cause injury
  • Having unprotected sex and risking STD transmission
  • Attempting dangerous stunts that have a high chance of causing injury or death.
The risky behavior caused by alcohol abuse differs from person to person, depending on their tolerance and history with alcohol. Families should be aware of any signs of this type of activity with their loved one.

Frequently Asked Questions

Signs of alcohol addiction may include frequent cravings for alcohol, inability to control drinking habits, neglecting responsibilities to drink, and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

Some physical symptoms of alcohol addiction may include trembling hands, excessive sweating, blackouts, and liver damage.

Some psychological symptoms of alcohol addiction may include mood swings, depression, anxiety, and irritability.

Signs of alcohol addiction may include changes in behavior or personality, neglecting responsibilities, always being preoccupied with drinking, and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. A professional evaluation by a medical or mental health professional is often necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

Yes, alcohol addiction is treatable. Treatment options may include therapy, medications, support groups, or a combination of these methods.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be addicted to alcohol, seek professional help from a medical or mental health professional. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can also be helpful in the recovery process.

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