Signs of alcoholism can be placed into one of two categories — physical signs and behavioral signs. In this article we’ll focus on the physical signs of alcoholism.
What is Alcoholism?
To level set the conversation, let’s begin with clearly defining alcoholism. Alcoholism is a chronic disease. The word chronic is often overlooked, or under-considered. Chronic means that alcoholism can be a lifelong challenge, often with interruptions of days, months or even years. Those suffering from alcoholism have a preoccupation with alcohol as well as a lack of control over their intake. One last note on alcoholism is that it is incredibly common, affecting more than 16.6 million adults ages 18 and older.
10 Signs of Alcoholism
We’ve compiled 10 signs of alcoholism from a physical standpoint below. Please note that this list is not encompassing of all the signs of alcoholism. Further, this list does not prove or disprove that one is an alcoholic. What we do suggest is that one challenged with one of physical characteristics below (or has a concern about alcohol dependence) seeks alcohol addiction treatment. And, do realize that we are specifically focusing on physical, not the behavioral, signs of alcoholism. The signs below are provided in no particular order.
- Nose and/or Cheek Redness – Chronic alcohol abuse can cause redness in the alcoholic’s face, specifically in the nose and cheeks. Consistent alcohol intake challenges the brain’s ability to regulate vascular control. That lack of control leads to enlarged blood vessels, or telangiectasia.
- Using Alcohol to Self-Medicate Depression and/or Anxiety – If drinking causes depression or anxiety, reinforces its effects, or is used as self-medication for depression or anxiety.
- Hand/Foot Numbness – Experiencing tingling in one’s hand or feet can be an indicator of alcoholism. Alcohol’s toxic effect on nerve fibers in the arms and legs causes the sensation.
- Loss of Libido – Alcohol often causes a lack of interest in sexual behavior or inhibited sexual desire in both men and women.
- Inability to Curb or Stop Drinking – Cutting down on or quitting drinking is unsuccessful due to an insatiable desire to drink.
- Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms – As the effect of alcohol wears off, when one experiences insomnia, restlessness, fatigue, nausea, sweating, depression, anxiety, pronounced increase in heart rate, or uncontrollable shaking the general categorical causes is withdrawal.
- Lack of Appetite – It’s often found that alcoholics don’t feel hungry, lack a healthy diet, and subsequent lose weight.
- Cirrhosis – Cirrhosis, an incurable liver disease, is usually a product of chronic alcohol use or hepatitis.
- Gastritis – Defined as inflammation of the stomach lining, gastritis physically feels like having an upset or sore stomach. Other symptoms of gastritis include abdominal bloating, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and vomit with blood in it.
- Swollen Hands or Feet – Liquids, including alcohol, tend to travel downward, accumulating in the hands or feet, causing swelling and/or redness. This is also referred to as peripheral or dependent edema.
Other Signs of Alcoholism
The signs of alcoholism above could effect one at any stage of alcoholism. They are often found earlier in the disease, however. To reiterate, the symptoms above are not the only signs of chronic alcohol use.
Advanced Signs of Alcoholism
Late stage alcoholics often suffer from far more complicated and life-threatening physical conditions. These advanced signs, including advanced cirrhosis, tuberculosis, pneumonia and even cancer. If you have been diagnosed with any of the aforementioned diseases as a product of chronic alcohol intake, please seek treatment immediately.
If you suffer from one or more of the physical symptoms of alcoholism our recommendation is that you seek medical attention from a physician or an alcohol treatment center.
Esser MB, Hedden SL, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Gfroerer JC, Naimi TS. Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adult Drinkers, 2009–2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:140329. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd11.140329
SAMHSA. 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 5.8A—Substance Dependence or Abuse in the Past Year among Persons Aged 18 or Older, by Demographic Characteristics: Numbers in Thousands, 2012 and 2013. Available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabsPDFWHTML2013/Web/HTML/NSDUH-DetTabsSect5peTabs1to56-2013.htm#tab5.8a