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Spotting the signs and symptoms of alcoholism in yourself or another can be key to accessing life saving treatment. To the untrained eye it is not always easy to differentiate drinking too much from full blown alcoholism. Yet the difference between the two is huge.

Alcoholism is a very serious illness and responsible for numerous needless deaths every single day. Whilst alcohol addiction cannot be cured, it can be successfully arrested and treated. From there, recovery from alcohol addiction can be maintained on a permanent basis, a day at a time.

We at Delamere hope this page will help you to understand exactly what alcoholism is, enable you to recognise the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction and learn how to get help if you or someone you love are a sufferer.

What is alcohol addiction (alcoholism)?

Alcohol addiction (aka alcoholism) is a type of chronic alcohol use disorder and is a medically recognised physiological and psychological health illness. Someone who suffers from alcohol addiction will have a distinct lack of control around their alcohol use. (1)

How alcoholism manifests in one individual to another can vary, depending on its severity. Alcoholism is a progressive deterioration of the brain, the more alcohol the brain is exposed to the worse the condition becomes (2)

Alcohol addiction refers to the changes in the brain that take place through repeated exposure to alcohol. These changes cause the sufferer to compulsively seek and drink alcohol despite adverse consequences to their health, social life, occupation and personal relationships.

Alcohol addiction cannot be cured and is a lifelong illness. Even when an individual stops drinking successfully the brain does not fully recover. Taking another drink will set the whole addiction cycle off once more.

The other frightening aspect of alcohol addiction is it is characterised by alcoholic relapse. This is due to the brain still craving alcohol as a solution to problems. In order for an alcoholic sufferer to remain sober and avoid relapse, they will need to undergo a drastic change in their thinking, perceptions, beliefs and behaviour. This can be achieved through various cognitive therapies that address the root causes and enable the suffer to learn different coping mechanisms and strategies.

Recovering alcoholics, more often than not, require ongoing help and support to aid their continued sobriety.

Signs of alcohol addiction

There are various physical and psychological signs and symptoms that would indicate a person is suffering from alcoholism. If you are a sufferer, you are not alone.

Suffering from alcohol addiction causes a wide range of harms to a persons well being. Not only that, but it also gravely affects those who care for them.

Spotting the signs and symptoms of alcoholism in yourself or in another can be key to accessing the correct help and support.

Physical signs of alcohol addiction:

  • Frequent intoxication
  • Frequent loss of control around consumption of alcohol
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Risk taking whilst intoxicated. As the need for alcohol increases, alcohol will inevitably overlap into other areas of the sufferers life. They may start to drink and drive, drink at work or whilst caretaking a minor.
  • Progressively drinking more alcohol, or stronger types of alcohol as a tolerance to alcohol progressively developes.
  • Suffering adverse health effects as a result of alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a toxin and excessive drinking can cause all kinds of physical (and mental) health problems
  • Developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms differ from a ‘hangover’. Alcohol withdrawal occurs when the body and brain need more alcohol as an alcohol dependence has occurred. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can become life threatening. Symptoms can vary from mild shaking of the hands, anxiety and insomnia, to more severe symptoms including delirium tremens, hallucinations and alcoholic seizures.

Psychological signs of alcohol addiction:

  • Preoccupation with alcohol. Thinking about getting and drinking alcohol a lot.
  • Anxiety and depression. As alcohol addiction progresses, the damage caused to the individuals dopamine system in the brain will cause them to become progressively more depressed and anxious
  • Delusional thinking. As the brain’s cortex becomes progressively more harmed by alcohol, the sufferers ability to see the truth around their drinking will be compromised.
  • Memory impairment. Alcohol affects areas of the brain that control the formation of new memories ( the limbic system). In someone that suffers from alcoholism, their short term memory will be impaired as will their ability to recall events whilst intoxicated (alcoholic blackout). Continued heavy drinking can lead to dementia, wernicke’s encephaly and korsakoff’s psychosis (3)
  • Denial and secrecy. This is the alcoholic brains way of protecting the addiction from being challenged. More often that not it is subconscious.
  • Being unable to stop drinking despite having a great desire to do so. Alcohol addiction is characterised by compulsion to drink. Even when a sufferer wants to stop drinking completely, they find they are unable to do so

If you or a loved one are displaying any signs of alcoholism it is important to seek the correct professional help without delay. Call and speak with our Delamere addiction treatment experts today. We are here to help.

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Addiction symptoms (behaviours)

In addition to the physical and psychological signs of alcoholism there are behavioural signs that are symptomatic of any addiction. This is due to the substance only being a small part of the bigger picture.

The illness of addiction resides in the brain and attaches itself to one or more stimuli in an unhealthy and obsessive manner. This causes a number of addiction symptoms to manifest in a sufferers behaviour. These behavioural symptoms are a common thread throughout all addictions, whether substance based or activity based.

Addiction symptoms and behaviours include:

  • Progression – Any individual suffering from addiction will only ever get progressively worse over a prolonged period of time. They may at times seemingly gain some control, only to end up spiralling downwards deeper into their addiction once more.
  • Tolerance – Someone suffering from an addiction will display an increasing tolerance to the stimuli their brain has attached to. This means that they will need more alcohol, drugs or to engage in a certain behaviour in order to satisfy their need to get high.
  • Preoccupation – Preoccupation is one of the more overriding symptoms of addiction. The sufferer will be preoccupied with thoughts of how to get and use the substance they are addicted to. This preoccupation will come in the form of being obsessively absorbed in thought and planning, to the point where they are unable to think of anything else.
  • Maladaptive and destructive behaviours – Someone with an addiction will often display maladaptive and unhealthy behaviours. These behaviours can often be to the detriment of themselves and to those that love them. Secrecy, social withdrawal, dishonesty and manipulation are all behaviours commonly associated with addiction symptoms.
  • Craving and loss of control- Craving is a phenomena associated with addiction. Even when an individual is not physically addicted to a substance or activity they will experience physical and psychological cravings for more. Taking one drink or drug for an alcoholic or and addict often spirals into a binge due to craving overriding all of their reasoning and senses.
  • Continuation despite negative consequences – Addiction causes unwanted and often harmful consequences to the sufferer and to their family. Despite negative consequences, even when a sufferer has a close brush with death as a result of their addiction, they will be compelled to continue seeking and taking substances/engaging in unhealthy activities
  • Relapse – Relapse is a dominant addiction symptom and often proves to be fatal. Despite having successfully stopped the alcohol, drug or activity attached to the addiction, the brain remains in the same chemically altered and damaged state. An addicted brain will continue to crave the stimuli as a solution to everyday life and emotions. Relapse can often result in overdose as a period of abstinence reduces tolerance to substances. Relapse is a double edge sword as it is often accompanied by overwhelming feelings of failure, guilt and shame, causing the individual to withdraw into their addiction even more rather than seek appropriate help.

No addiction is better or worse than another. All have the potential to kill if left untreated. Alcoholism has a particularly high mortality rate, yet recovery is possible with the correct help and support.

The benefits of alcohol addiction treatment

Alcohol addiction treatment can benefit an individual suffering in numerous ways. Not only is it often life saving but can also benefit socially and economically.

Social and economic benefits of undergoing alcohol addiction treatment include:

  • Reduced hospital-related admissions
  • Reduced cases of child neglect and better parenting
  • Increased financial manageability
  • Reduced crime and prison sentences
  • Increased employment and productivity
  • Dramatically improved physical and mental health
  • Improved socialising skills and support network
  • Reduced incidents of self harm and suicide
  • Dramatically improved personal relationships
  • Reduced falls and injuries
  • Prevention of incidences of drink driving
  • Prevention of premature mortality from alcohol related illnesses and diseases
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease and alcohol related cancers. Supported by Public Health England – Health Matters

Delamere’s holistic approach to healing alcohol addiction symptoms & causes

Left untreated alcoholism can kill. If you or a loved one are suffering the signs of alcoholism, our team of addiction professionals at Delamere can help.

At Delamere we provide our guests with bespoke alcohol detoxes and rehabilitation programmes delivered within our state of the art addiction treatment and behavioural wellness facility.

Our team of distinguished doctors, counsellors, nurses and therapists are passionate about helping our guests to heal and overcome their alcoholic symptoms, teaching them how to live life beyond addiction.

Using a variety of evidence based treatments combined with traditional medicine and innovative holistic treatments, we are committed to healing each guest as a whole person, leaving no stone left unturned. We also offer family support and counselling.

Delamere’s CQC registered treatment centre is purpose built to deliver intensive residential treatment, without the need to leave the safety of the facility.

Call us today to find out how we can help you or a loved one to overcome a problem with alcohol and live a long and happy sober life.

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  1. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Revised 2016.
    Alcohol and the brain fact sheet
  2. Schwarzinger, M. (2018). Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008-13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study. Lancet 3.3; Sabia, S. et al. (2018). Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: a 23-year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study. BMJ 2018:362.