People may assume that anyone who drinks heavily is an alcoholic, but there are specific symptoms that can identify someone as an alcoholic rather than simply a problem drinker. Even though it may seem like problem drinking and alcoholism are really the same, there are distinct differences between the two and it is important know whether someone is an addict or just developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
While most alcoholics binge drink, people who binge drink from time to time are not necessarily alcoholics. If it seems like someone you know has been drinking heavily more frequently, you can look at some of their signs and symptoms to see if they have really become addicted.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a disease that can take over a person's life and someone that is truly suffering from alcohol dependency is physically and mentally addicted to the drug. An alcoholic will find it difficult not to drink and they will struggle with their addiction every day.
Someone with a real dependency will often experience too many physical and mental withdrawal symptoms to go longer than a few days without a drink. Their attempts to quit or cut back on their drinking usually fail because they have lost all control and have no ability to moderate themselves.
An alcoholic will always be in an addict in a sense even if they recover because the threat of relapse is always a reality for them. An alcoholic cannot quit drinking on their own and needs professional help and counseling because they are dealing with a social and behavioral problem that is too complex for them to solve alone.
Problem Drinking without Addiction
On the other hand, a problem drinker has not gotten to the point of actually being physically dependent on alcohol to function. They may go through periods of binge drinking but they can also go days, weeks, or even months without drinking at all – something an alcoholic could never do.
They also will not experience the type of detox or withdrawal symptoms that an addict would if they don't drink. Problem drinkers can drink a lot or have occasional binges but they are no physically addicted to the drug.
The thing that makes someone a problem drinker is usually the fact that they create issues whenever they do drink alcohol. They may say or do things that hurt other people, get themselves in trouble with the law, jeopardize their job or otherwise cause problems in their lives because of their drinking.
Even though they are not an alcoholic their drinking is still harmful to them and becomes problematic whenever they binge. Loved ones may complain about their behavior while drinking and ask them to quit.
Since they are not physically dependent they may be able to quit for a period of time but they eventually begin drinking again.
Even if a person is not technically an alcoholic, they can still have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that is detrimental to their well-being. Problem drinkers sometimes become depressed and isolate themselves when people begin questioning their behavior.
They can become angry or violent when they drink and be resentful when people suggest that they quit. A problem drinker might take dangerous risks when they are drunk resulting in injury and putting their life in danger.
They often use alcohol to feel good about themselves, to be comfortable in certain situations, or as an escape from the stress of their personal life. Even though a problem drinker is not physically dependent on alcohol, their substance use can negatively affect their lives if they don't seek help and treatment.