Many people who have developed alcohol use disorder (AUD) do not initially realize that their drinking habits have gotten out of control. However, it is vital to be conscious of how much alcohol you are consuming and how your alcohol use may affect your health, life, and loved ones.
Identifying Problematic Drinking
To determine a person’s likelihood and severity of alcohol use disorder, health providers typically ask any of the following questions:
Have there been times when you ended up consuming more alcohol or drinking for longer than you initially intended?
Have you tried to reduce or stop drinking but found that you could not? Has this happened more than once?
Have you spent a significant amount of time drinking alcohol and recovering from its effects (hangovers)?
Have you ever wanted a drink so much you couldn’t think of anything else?
Have you found that drinking or recovering from drinking has often interfered with family, work, or school responsibilities?
Have you continued to drink alcohol even though it had adverse effects on your interpersonal relationships?
Have you neglected or reduced time spend on activities that you once considered important or pleasurable to you in favor of drinking?
Have you gotten into situations during or after drinking alcohol that increased your risk of getting hurt (e.g., driving, swimming, operating heavy machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unprotected sex) on more than one occasion?
Have you found that when the effects of alcohol were subsiding off, you experienced withdrawal symptoms, such as sleeping problems, shakiness, restlessness, nausea and vomiting, sweating, heart palpitations, or a seizure?
Have you continued consuming alcohol, although it made you feel anxious, depressed, contributed to another health issue, or after experiencing a blackout?
Do you need to consume more than you once did to achieve the sought-after effects (tolerance) or found that drinking your usual number of drinks has had a reduced impact?
Of note, the preceding questions are based on criteria described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
The number of “yes” answers determines the severity of an alcohol use disorder. According to the DSM-5, if a person answers “yes” to 2-3 of these questions, they likely have a mild alcohol use disorder. Those who confirm four to five are considered to be moderate cases. Those who identify six criteria or more are believed to be severely affected by their alcohol use.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Aside from diagnostic criteria, much of the time, an individual doesn’t need a health provider to identify the presence of a drinking problem. Still, they do need to ask themselves some questions, answer them genuinely, and give them much consideration.
1. Are you regularly contemplating whether or not you have a drinking problem?
If you are completely honest with yourself, you might be able to think back and realize that your drinking has been problematic for a significant amount of time. For example, you may have justified certain behaviors in the past, such as blacking out and suffering from constant hangovers, by telling yourself that they happen to everyone.
If you’ve had even a passing thought that you might have a drinking problem, you should examine things deeper. Consider your relationship with alcohol, and ask yourself whether or not anything has really changed. Individuals who don’t have a drinking problem don’t typically entertain thoughts that they do.
2. Do you regularly feel horrible the day after a night of drinking?
If you’ve experienced a day where you feel sick and hungover after drinking—such as feeling fatigued, experiencing depression or anxiety, having abdominal pains or a headache, or regretting things you did while drunk—these could be warning signs that should alert you to taking a closer look at your relationship with alcohol. Persons who truly drink in moderation do not generally experience these symptoms the day after.
3. Have you incurred several adverse consequences as a result of your drinking habits?
These events may be closely related to feeling physically different after a night of excessive drinking. Suppose you’ve experienced adverse consequences such as injuring yourself or someone else, having brushes with the law, losing a purse, wallet, or cell phone, or not remembering what happened. In that case, you might have a severe drinking problem.
Other consequences may include engaging in domestic violence with a romantic partner, being late to work or calling in sick on multiple occasions, and experiencing strained or broken relationships with friends and family. Due to alcohol’s antagonizing properties, it could be that most people who have drunk alcohol have encountered one or more of these consequences. Even one instance should be disquieting, but the incurrence of multiple circumstances is particularly problematic.
Moreover, ask yourself if these negative consequences would have occurred if you hadn’t been drinking to excess.
4. Has it been difficult to find the right balance between your life and your drinking habits?
If you’ve attempted several times to drink in moderation but always revert to drinking in a harmful way, it’s safe to say that you are abusing alcohol. Indeed, this is one of the classic signs that a person needs to pursue professional treatment and sobriety.
Many who have a drinking problem have felt the desire to find a stable relationship with alcohol for a prolonged period. They try to regulate their drinking habits but fail multiple times and ultimately feel despondent, helpless, and unhappy. For these individuals, achieving such a balance can be very challenging and may at times seem impossible.
If you are feeling bad about yourself for not achieving that balance, you are not alone. It’s inconceivable for many who suffer from alcohol use disorders, and sobriety can help to relieve that pressure.
5. Do you find yourself thinking about what life would be like without alcohol abuse?
Another question you might find yourself asking during drinking episodes is what your would be like without alcohol. You may have wondered if it is indeed possible to quit, and if you could, what kind of life would you have—or would like to have.
Would it be more fun, interesting, or exciting? Would you still meet pleasant people and have good times? Would you ever be able to reduce your feelings of shame, blame, and guilt?
If you’re wondering about any of this for yourself, you might want to consider seeking professional treatment and moving forward into a life conducive to sobriety.
These are just five factors, among others, that might indicate you have a drinking problem. There are many others, but for those who battle with knowing whether or not they need to stop drinking, these crucial questions and their responses can be the catalyst to seeking and receiving help for an alcohol use disorder.
Getting Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Depending on the intensity, individuals who experience alcohol use disorders and find themselves unable to stop should seek comprehensive treatment. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer integrated programs that include therapeutic methodologies beneficial for addiction recovery, such as behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, health and wellness programs, individual and family counseling, group support, mindfulness therapy, and aftercare planning.