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Suspect a Drinking Problem?

Does problem drinking equate to having a drinking problem? Not necessarily. Because problem drinking could just mean you’re going through a period where you’re abusing alcohol by drinking too much on a regular basis.

I’d hazard a guess that most people who drink alcohol have at some point engaged in problem drinking or alcohol abuse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I condone problem drinking or alcohol abuse, because it also carries inherent dangers, unfortunately often as much to others as to yourself like driving under the influence and doing other stupid and potentially dangerous things.

So when does problem drinking potentially turn into a drink problem? Most people who go through periods of problem drinking, drinking too much, or alcohol abuse – reach a point where they realise they’re overdoing it and can quite happily cut back or abstain from drinking, without having to give it too much thought or effort. In other words, controlling their drinking isn’t particularly hard to do.

A drinking problem starts to develop once you start to lose that control and use alcohol to fill a particular need on a regular basis - whether it be dealing with stressful or anxiety inducing situations, coping with pain or trauma, dealing with work or relationships issues, relying on it to help you relax or unwind, or even just out of boredom.

And the more you rely on alcohol to fill that need, the more you need to start drinking because your tolerance levels increase ... and so the vicious cycle continues. Importantly, even if you don’t drink every day you can still have a drinking problem because having a problem with alcohol isn’t necessarily about how much you drink – but about how you increasingly start to rely on alcohol to fill a need and the devastating consequences it starts having on your mental/emotional states, relationships and life in general.

Does a Drinking Problem Equate to Alcoholism?

Not always. Because if you look at the criteria or definition of alcoholism, it usually comprises these 4 symptoms:

  • Craving (urge to drink)
  • Loss of Control (can’t stop once you start drinking)
  • Dependence (physical or emotional that usually manifests as withdrawal symptoms like nausea, getting the shakes, anxiety, and even paranoia)
  • Tolerance (need to drink more to get the same effects, drunk, ‘high’ etc)

Loss of control and dependence are usually the two main indicators to look out for but by letting a drinking problem go untreated, developing full blown alcoholism is almost inevitable because alcoholism is also progressive as witnessed by the different stages of alcoholism.

Understanding the early signs of alcoholism can be helpful in giving you an idea of the kinds of signs to look out for, but at the end of the day, all these different labels and definitions shouldn’t matter when it comes to doing something about a drinking problem, full-blown alcoholic or not.

If your drinking is bad enough to be causing problems in your life, the best thing to do is seek out help and get it treated. Unfortunately admitting to a problem with alcohol carries a certain negative social stigma making it easy to avoid doing anything and denying there is a problem. There is no shame in having an alcohol problem (especially with alcoholism now medically classified as disease) and you can quite easily receive help for your problem without anyone you don’t want to, having to know about it.

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