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Alcoholic Behaviors

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the proper term for alcoholism or alcohol addiction.

It is a chronic relapsing brain disease. It occurs when a person abuses alcohol or their body becomes dependent on alcohol.

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

How Does Alcohol Change a Person’s Behavior? 

Alcohol can significantly change someone’s behavior and overall well-being. It changes your brain chemistry.

Someone with alcohol use disorder may exhibit the following:

  • They may start to neglect their self-care, such as their hygiene or nutrition.
  • They may let their work, school, family obligations, and responsibilities fall to the side.
  • They may lie or make excuses about their poor drinking habits. 
  • They will still consume alcohol despite the obvious issues it causes.
  • They may drink alone.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism (Alcoholic Behavior)

There are some major warning signs of alcoholic behavior. These include the following:

  • They will continue to consume more and more alcohol.
  • They will develop a high tolerance for alcohol that requires them to keep drinking in order to achieve the same effect.
  • They will have intense cravings for alcohol, which will increase in frequency over time.
  • They may struggle to limit their drinking.
  • If they try to quit drinking, they may experience some alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea or irritability.

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 are the 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. It’s important to take the warning signs seriously because this is the easiest stage to create change.

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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” who may be missing work, forgetting family obligations, and showing physical signs of alcohol abuse (weight gain, facial redness, etc.).

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

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4. End-Stage

Stage 4 alcoholics are those who have let drinking come in the way of everything that’s important in their lives. Alcohol has taken a toll on their physical and mental health, it’s affected their personal and professional relationships, and it’s caused them 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.

Alcoholic Behavior in Relationships

Alcoholic behavior can take a serious toll on all types of relationships. Because someone who struggles with alcoholism tends to exhibit irritability, this can create tension in relationships. 

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

And, because late-stage alcoholics may prioritize drinking over their work and family obligations, it’s obvious how this can affect their partners and other family members.

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

Helping an alcoholic can be tough on your own, but there are options that can help your relationship as well.

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

How to Help an Alcoholic (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:

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Updated on March 25, 2022
11 sources cited
  1. “Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm.
  2. “Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020, www.medlineplus.gov/alcoholusedisorderaud.html.
  3. “Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 June 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders.
  4. “Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 Mar. 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-use-disorder-comparison-between-dsm.
  5. “Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 June 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking.
  6. “Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Dec. 2019, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm.
  7. “Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized.” Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized | Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, www.alcohol.stanford.edu/alcohol-drug-info/buzz-buzz/factors-affect-how-alcohol-absorbed.
  8. “Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?” Department of Mental Health, www.dmh.lacounty.gov/our-services/employment-education/education/alcohol-abuse-faq/family-history/.
  9. “Preventing Chronic Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/14_0329.htm.
  10. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Abuse.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/addiction/alcohol-abuse.
  11. Skerrett, Patrick J. “Heavy Drinkers Aren't Necessarily Alcoholics, but May Be ‘Almost Alcoholics.’” Harvard Health Blog, 17 June 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/heavy-drinkers-arent-necessarily-alcoholics-may-almost-alcoholics-201411217539.

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