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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on July 31, 2023
7 min read

Alcoholic Behavior: Signs, Stages, & How to Help

Alcoholic behavior can cause major problems in someone's life. Constantly seeking alcohol and becoming dependent on it are not healthy behaviors.

Over time, alcoholic behavior can also pose challenges for friends and family. It's important to know the signs of alcoholic behavior before they worsen. 

If you or a loved one has an alcohol problem, seek help from your doctor or mental health professional.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the proper term for alcoholism or alcohol addiction. It’s a chronic relapsing brain disease that occurs when a person abuses alcohol, or their body becomes dependent on it.

Someone with AUD continues to drink despite the negative effects on their mental or physical health, relationships, or work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are three traits of alcohol use disorder:

  • Compulsive alcohol use
  • Loss of control over alcohol intake
  • Negative emotional state when not using

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Warning Signs of Alcoholism (Alcoholic Behavior)

Recognizing the warning signs of alcoholism can help prevent problems in the long run. Alcoholism’s beginning stages aren’t always obvious, but knowing them can help you spot the problem.

If you suspect someone else is struggling with alcoholism, here are some things to look for:

1. They continue to consume more and more alcohol

Alcoholics will continue to increase their alcohol intake over time. As a result, they will develop a high alcohol tolerance that requires them to keep drinking to achieve the same effect. Alcoholics will also have intense cravings for alcohol, resulting in more frequent drinking. 

There are also times when alcoholics drink alone. Drinking alone isn’t necessarily a problem. However, alcoholics may engage in this behavior because they can’t function without alcohol’s effects. 

2. They may start to neglect self-care and responsibilities due to alcohol

People who exhibit alcoholic behavior will care less about their looks or health. They may even stop showering. It’s common for people to lose weight when they’re suffering from alcoholism. This is often because they aren't eating properly.

Alcoholics will also let their work, school, family obligations, and responsibilities fall to the side. They’ll often be drunk, hungover, or having withdrawals during these times. Alcohol will also impair judgment, resulting in reckless behavior. 

3. They may lie or make excuses about their poor drinking habits

Addicts lie. Their lies can range from denial to hiding their drinking. There are many reasons why alcoholics lie about their drinking habits:

  • To avoid the consequences of their actions
  • To avoid confrontations from friends or family members
  • They’re ashamed of what they’ve done
  • The brain changes have increased their selfish behaviors
  • They’re trying to hide a relapse

4. They will show physical signs of alcohol abuse

Physical signs of alcohol abuse can manifest immediately after drinking. The immediate effects of alcohol include slurred speech, slowed reaction times, inability to walk properly, and memory lapses.

When the person is suffering from AUD, physical symptoms can worsen. These symptoms include:

  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Repeated infections
  • Smelling like alcohol
  • Bruises and injuries
  • Liver damage

They suffer financial problems because of alcohol abuse

Drinking alcohol is expensive. Alcoholics will spend their money on alcohol even if they’re financially struggling. They don’t have control over their money anymore because of alcohol.

In addition, alcoholics can suffer financial problems because of poor work performance. They may miss work or lose their jobs. Some may even go into debt because of their alcohol addiction. 

5. They struggle to quit alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are a common sign that someone is an alcoholic. If an alcoholic tries to quit drinking, they experience symptoms like nausea or irritability. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary depending on different factors. Mild symptoms are similar to a hangover. On the other hand, severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can lead to hallucinations or delirium tremens (DTs).

4 Stages of Alcoholism & Signs

There are four stages of alcoholism that you should be aware of:

1. Early

Stage 1 alcoholism is considered the pre-alcoholic phase. These include people who drink to dull pain, forget, destress, escape reality, etc.

While they don’t yet have a full-on addiction, their drinking behavior could quickly spiral into one. Taking the warning signs seriously is important because this is the easiest stage to create change. 

2. Problematic

Stage 2 alcoholics are those who are:

  • Drinking excessively
  • Regularly blacking out from drinking too much
  • Lying about their drinking patterns
  • Thinking obsessively about drinking

Their alcohol consumption has become a serious cause for concern.

3. Severe

Stage 3 alcoholics are deemed “middle alcoholics.” They miss work, forget family obligations, and show physical signs of alcohol abuse (weight gain, facial redness, etc.).

They may also be more irritable and show obvious signs of struggle with those close to them.

4. End-Stage

Stage 4 alcoholics have let drinking come in the way of everything important in their lives. Alcohol has taken a toll on their physical and mental health, affected their personal and professional relationships, and caused severe psychological damage.

This is the most severe stage of alcoholism.

Whatever stage you or someone you know is at, support is available to help you or them take back control. Quitting is possible.


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Alcoholic Behavior in Relationships

Alcoholic behavior can take a serious toll on all types of relationships. For instance, alcoholics tend to exhibit irritability, creating tension in relationships. 

Since many alcoholics lie about their behaviors, distrust in relationships can develop.

Late-stage alcoholics may prioritize drinking over their work and family obligations. As such, it’s obvious how their drinking can affect their partners and other family members.

If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism and hurting your relationship, reach out for help as soon as possible. 

Helping an alcoholic can be tough on your own, but many options can help your relationship.

Often, loved ones are responsible for the alcoholic to self-assess and begin to ask themselves, "Am I an Alcoholic?"

Other Risks of Alcoholic Behavior

In addition to relationship problems, here are some more risks of alcoholic behavior:

  • Increased risk of developing cancer (breast, liver, colon)
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of stroke, liver disease, and heart disease
  • Participating in violence
  • Engaging in unprotected sex
  • Being more prone to risk, injuries, and accidents
  • Experiencing financial problems

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5 Ways to Help an Alcoholic

Here are some ways you can help an alcoholic with their problem:

1. Recognize the signs of alcoholism

The first way to help an alcoholic is to recognize the signs of alcoholism. You should know which changes in their personality, mood, and behavior indicate a problem. Once you know which signs to look out for, you’ll be ready to talk to them. 

2. Set boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is key when helping an alcoholic. It will help avoid any problems in your personal life as well. You can set boundaries by:

  • Letting an alcoholic suffer the consequences of their actions
  • Not taking over their responsibilities
  • Remembering to keep yourself (and your kids) in a safe environment
  • Avoiding offering financial assistance when they lose money because of drinking

3. Stage an intervention

An intervention is when a concerned group confronts someone about their unhealthy habits. Here are some tips when staging an intervention for an alcoholic:

  • Make sure everyone involved is informed about what's going on
  • Be prepared to have a plan B if things don't go according to plan
  • Don't try to force them into rehab
  • Try to find a place where they feel comfortable and safe
  • Keep the conversation positive
  • Ask for help from a professional 

4. Seek addiction treatment options

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, get help. The sooner you start, the easier it’ll be to take back control. Here are a few treatment options available:

5. Support them throughout their recovery

Recovering from AUD is difficult. Supporting an alcoholic throughout their recovery can help encourage sobriety. You can support an alcoholic by:

  • Being supportive of their recovery
  • Encouraging them to continue working towards their goals
  • Providing emotional support
  • Helping them understand why they need to change
  • Staying away from negative comments and using positive reinforcement


Alcoholic behavior is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. AUD can cause severe damage to relationships, finances, and overall health. If you suspect that someone you love is abusing alcohol, there are several steps you can take to help them recover.

Updated on July 31, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on July 31, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Questions and Answers.”2020. 
  2. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” 2020.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol Use Disorder.”2020.
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.” 2020.
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Drinking Levels Defined.” 2020.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” 2019.
  7. “Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized.”Office of Alcohol Policy and Education. “Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized.” 
  8. Department of Mental Health. “Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?”  
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Preventing Chronic Disease.”
  10. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Abuse.” 
  11. Skerrett, Patrick J. “Heavy Drinkers Aren't Necessarily Alcoholics, but May Be ‘Almost Alcoholics.’” Harvard Health Blog, 2020.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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