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Is my drinking a problem?

11 signs you may be losing control of your drinking


When does a casual drink tip into a concern? Recognizing problematic drinking isn't always straightforward, especially when social events and stress relief are often tangled up with alcohol consumption. It's not just about how much you drink, but how drinking affects your life. If you're wondering about your drinking habits, you're not alone. Here are 11 signs, inspired by DSM-5, that may indicate your relationship with alcohol is more complicated than you think.

1. You drink more, or for longer, than you plan to

This sign touches on the inability to stick to limits. What starts as a quick drink can spiral into multiple sessions, indicating a loss of control over consumption habits.

2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down

Attempts to reduce drinking, like participating in Dry July, often fail. This recurring pattern shows a struggle to maintain moderation despite good intentions.

3. A great deal of time is spent obtaining, using or recovering from drinking

If weekends are consumed by alcohol, either in anticipation, consumption, or recovery, it's a sign that alcohol is dominating your time and activities.

 “I spend my whole weekend either drunk or hungover!”

4. Craving or strong desire or urge to drink

Constant thoughts about the next drink can signal a psychological dependence, where the desire to drink begins to take precedence over other thoughts and responsibilities.

5. Drinking leading to failure to fulfil major obligations at work, school or home

When alcohol use results in neglecting professional or personal responsibilities, like taking excessive sick days, it's indicative of problematic behaviour.

“I’ve had to take 3 sickies this month”

6. Continued drinking despite social or interpersonal problems as a result

Choosing alcohol over maintaining relationships, even when faced with ultimatums, suggests a deep-seated issue that needs addressing.

7. Important social, recreational or occupational activities are given up or reduced due to drinking

Avoiding previously enjoyed social settings because they interfere with drinking routines is a red flag for alcohol dependence.

8. Recurrent alcohol use in situations where it is physically hazardous

Repeatedly finding yourself in dangerous situations, such as failing sobriety tests, points to a disregard for safety in favour of drinking.

9. Continued drinking despite being aware of a physical or psychological harm attribute to it

Ignoring medical warnings and continuing to drink, even when it exacerbates health issues, shows a concerning prioritisation of alcohol over well-being.

“Alcohol worsens my anxiety, and now my blood test shows my liver is inflamed, but I just can’t stop’

10. Development of tolerance

Needing to consume more alcohol to feel its effects indicates an increasing tolerance, which can lead to higher levels of consumption.

11. Withdrawal symptoms

Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms like shakiness or insomnia when not drinking is a clear sign of physical dependence.

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