Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

A few mild symptoms may not seem like a trouble sign, however they can signal a start of a drinking problem. Knowing the signs can help you identify if you have the beginnings of a problem and you can make changes. If you continue to drink despite the mild symptoms, the severity can worsen and add up to a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder

  • Drinking more than you wanted to. Drinking for longer than you intended. Drinking even though you told yourself that you wouldn’t do it this time.
  • You have a constant desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use. But everything you have tried to stop and stay stopped hasn’t worked.
  • Gotten sick after drinking or spent a lot of time drinking.
  • Could only think of drinking because you wanted a drink so badly.
    • You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. You don’t do many (or any at all) activities that don’t revolve around the use of alcohol.
  • Drinking, or being sick from drinking, interfered with taking care of your home, family, caused problems at your job/school.
    • For example:
      • Performing poorly at work.
      • Flunking classes.
      • Neglecting your kids.
      • Skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
  • Had difficulties with family/friends due to the drinking but continue to drink despite that.
    • For example: getting drunk with your friends even though you know your spouse will be very upset. Or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.
  • Cut back on or stopped activities you used to enjoy so you could spend time drinking.
    • You are spending less time on activities that used to be important to you (like hanging out with family and friends, exercising, hobbies or other interests) because of the use of alcohol.
  • Gotten into situations that increased your chances of getting hurt while or after drinking.
    • Such as:
      • Drinking and driving.
      • Operating machinery while intoxicated.
      • Mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders.
  • Drank even though drinking makes you feel anxious or depressed.
  • Increased your drinking to get the same effect you used to get.
  • Had withdrawal symptoms (trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, racing heart, seizures, hallucinations).


Additional Factors to Alcohol Use Disorder

People who drink alcohol may also develop physical symptoms.
  • Tolerance: Tolerance means that, over time, you need more alcohol to feel the same effect. Do you drink more than you used to? Do you drink more than other people without showing obvious signs of being drunk?
  • Withdrawal: As the effect of the alcohol wears off you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These include:
    • Anxiety or jumpiness.
    • Shakiness or trembling.
    • Sweating, nausea and vomiting.
    • Insomnia.
    • Depression.
    • Irritability.
    • Fatigue. 
    • Loss of appetite.
    • Headaches.
Do you drink to steady the nerves or stop the shakes in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcohol use disorder.

In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening. It can involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous. They should be treated by a doctor trained and experienced in dealing with alcohol use disorder.

Learn some tips on how to cut down on your drinking.

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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)