Early Signs of Alcoholism

Every evening you get home from work, you pour yourself a glass of wine. It has become a daily ritual, one that you spend the whole day looking forward to. But as you swallow that first sip, you suddenly realize that you’ve drank every day for as long as you can remember. A little voice in your head might be wondering: am I an alcoholic?

Determining if you have alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) can be tricky to self-diagnose; after all, no two individuals who experience alcohol abuse are the same. However, there are definite warning signs to pay attention to, and thankfully, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder-5 (DSM-5), a publication of the American Psychiatric Association, has provided us with a little guidance. The DSM-5 provides clinicians with a set of 11 factors that can guide them in the diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder and its severity grade. 

11 Questions To Help Identify Alcoholism:

1.     Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?

2.     More than once have you wanted to cut down or stop drinking, but couldn’t?

3.     Have you spent a lot of time drinking or getting over drinking’s after-effects?

4.     Have you wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?

5.     Have you found that your drinking – or being sick from drinking – often interfered with taking care of your home or family obligations? Or caused problems at school or at work?

6.     Have you continued to drink even though it was causing damage to your relationships with family or friends?

7.     Have you given up on activities that were important to you/gave you enjoyment so that you could drink?

8.     More than once, have you gotten yourself into situations that increased your chances of getting hurt?

9.     Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel anxious or depressed? Or after having a memory blackout?

10.  Have you had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you wanted?

11.  Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness, after you stopped drinking?

According to this DSM-5 tool, if a person can say “yes” to at least two of the above symptoms in the past year, then that person is considered to have alcoholism. More specifically, the existence of two or three of these symptoms equals a diagnosis of mild alcohol use disorder, while four to five symptoms is considered moderate, and six or more is considered severe.

But even if you don’t exhibit any of the above symptoms, experts say there are still other situations that you should pay attention to. First, take heed if you have a family history of alcoholism. Genetics account for about half the risk of developing addiction. Those with a family history of addiction, meaning one or more blood relatives has had a drug or alcohol problem, are at a significantly higher risk of suffering from addiction and other mental health disorders. Children of alcoholics, for example, are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics, themselves. Secondly, if you’re using alcohol as a mechanism to cope with a life event, such as losing a job or grieving the loss of a loved one, this is a sign that you may have a drinking problem and need to make some changes to your lifestyle.

If you’re concerned about your level of drinking, Arise Recovery Centers can help. We offer a variety of outpatient alcohol treatment services that deliver personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s needs. For more information on these treatment services, please visit our Alcohol Rehab & Treatment page on our website, call us at 1-888-DFW-ARISE (1-888-339-2747) or contact us by email at info@AriseRecoveryCenters.com

The Lesser Known Stage of Withdrawal: PAWS

If you’re thinking about getting sober, chances are you’ve heard about the dreaded withdrawal symptoms that occur not long after quitting drugs and alcohol.  But did you know there’s a second stage of withdrawal that’s not as well-known?  Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, is a series of ongoing withdrawal symptoms – largely psychological and mood-related – that occur after the initial acute withdrawal symptoms have gone away.

These symptoms are individual to the drug that was used, but typically include:

  • severe mood swings;
  • anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure from anything beyond use of the drug);
  • insomnia;
  • extreme drug craving and obsession;
  • hostility or aggression;
  • anxiety and panic attacks;
  • depression;
  • and general cognitive impairment

The onset of PAWS usually occurs around four to eight weeks after getting sober, with each withdrawal episode usually lasting for a few days.

So, why does this even have to happen?  Isn’t the first stage of withdrawal symptoms enough? The damage done to a person’s brain pathways after years of drug abuse doesn’t go away overnight, and it takes time for the brain to recover.  The healing process varies from individual to individual, but some have reported post-acute withdrawal symptoms to last as long as two years.  However, don’t get discouraged – it’s important to remember that these episodes come and go and can lift as quickly as they started.

So, what can you do to help stay strong when experiencing PAWS?

First, be patient and take it easy on yourself.  Though these symptoms can be frustrating, all you can do is take your recovery one day at a time and focus on the positive changes you’re making by being sober.  Experiencing these uncomfortable side effects is actually a sign you’re moving in the right direction.

Next, practice good self-care.  How you will treat yourself in recovery will be the opposite of how you treated yourself in addiction.  Getting enough sleep, exercising and eating right will help give you strength during these post-acute withdrawal episodes and help you heal more quickly afterward.

Finally, be prepared.  If you’re caught off-guard, PAWS and the symptoms associated with it can trigger you to relapse.  But educating yourself about this syndrome and the lingering effects of substance abuse can go a long way towards maintaining your sobriety.

At Arise Recovery Centers, we have many resources available to those struggling with PAWS. With four Texas locations open to the public – Fort Worth, Dallas, McKinney and Southlake – we provide intensive outpatient and aftercare treatment to individuals battling addiction.  For more information on our individually tailored drug and alcohol treatment programs, contact us at 1-888-DFW-ARISE (1-888-339-2747) or by email at info@AriseRecoveryCenters.com.