Alcohol Use Disorder: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment
Alcohol Use Disorder is the term the medical community uses to determine the severity of a person’s drinking problem. Various factors such as family history, environment, and mental health all play a role in both drinking patterns and in recovery. Regardless of how severe an alcohol use disorder is deemed to be, people who suffer from it can benefit from alcohol rehab near them.
For many people, mild alcohol use disorder can quickly turn into a severe, life-threatening disorder. As a result, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder. After all, the sooner a person gets treatment, the better off he or she will be.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not drinking. Nearly 16 million people in the United States have AUD.
In order to receive a diagnosis of AUD, an individual must experience any two of the 11 criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) within a one-year period of time. The severity of the AUD depends on how many of the following criteria a person experiences.
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Have been unable to cut down or stop drinking despite wanting to on multiple occasions
- Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
- Experiencing cravings or strong desires to drink
- Drinking, or being sick from drinking, interferes with home, school, or work problems
- Continuing to drink even after it causes trouble
- Giving up activities that are important in order to drink
- Frequently getting into situations that are dangerous, risky, or illegal
- Continuing to drink despite worsening mental or physical health symptoms
- Developing a tolerance, or need to drink more than you once did to get drunk
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
People who suffer from AUD typically have difficulty stopping drinking without professional help. Furthermore, it is dangerous to stop drinking cold-turkey. Instead, finding help from alcohol detox and rehab near you is a critical first step towards recovery.
Causes and Risk Factors
Environmental, psychological, social, and genetic factors can all affect a person’s drinking habits and risk for developing AUD. In addition, drinking has a stronger effect on certain people. However, anyone who drinks copious amounts on a recurrent basis or drinks in an unhealthy way can develop AUD. Over time, alcohol consumption alters brain functioning. It impacts areas of the brain that are associated with pleasure, judgment, and mood. Therefore, when a person who abuses alcohol stops drinking, he or she may feel irritable or even sick. Similarly, people may feel as though they have to drink to feel normal. This pattern of drinking usually results in tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and addiction.
The Mayo Clinic explains that the following risk factors make individuals more susceptible to an alcohol use disorder.
- Drinking at an early age (especially binge drinking)
- Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health problems
- Family history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism
- History of emotional or physical trauma, abuse, or neglect
- Having bariatric surgery
- Drinking steadily over time
- Peer influence, or being friends with a group who drinks in dangerous ways
Everyone with AUD is unique and will have different underlying factors that contribute to their alcoholism. Seeking help from an alcohol rehab near you can help you uncover the root of your problem and begin to heal.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
In the early stages of AUD, a person may start lying about their drinking. In addition, if family and friends become worried, the person will likely continue to drink. They may also justify their drinking or simply deny that they have a problem. You may also notice that they make alcohol a top priority, spend a lot of time drinking, or drink to cope with emotions. Mood swings, poor decision making, and changes in appearance can also indicate a drinking problem.
People with AUD are typically unable to control the amount they drink. Similarly, they may drink even when they don’t want to drink or know they shouldn’t drink. As the disorder progresses, the body becomes used to alcohol, and tolerance develops. Individuals begin to drink more and more in order to feel the effects they desire. When tolerance develops, dependence usually does, too. As a result, people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink. Alcohol withdrawal is particularly dangerous because it can cause seizures and other complications. A person should never attempt to detox on their own. Instead, alcohol detox near you can help make the process as easy and comfortable as possible.
Treating Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcoholism in Palm Beach
Recognizing that your drinking has become a problem is the first step. Reaching out for help is the second. When you choose an alcohol rehab in Palm Beach, you will not only have access to evidence-based therapy, but you will have comfort and support as well. Your recovery will rely on the support and behavioral therapy as you learn how to live without alcohol. Alcohol rehab in Palm Beach will help you face the underlying causes and conditions of your drinking and help you move past them. Lastly, alcohol rehab will help you learn new coping skills and relapse prevention strategies to help you stay sober.
You don’t have to face recovery alone. If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, reach out to CWC Recovery today.
Medically Reviewed: December 11, 2019
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.