It’s normal to drink alcohol sometimes – we might have a glass of wine with dinner, enjoy a beer at a football game, or go to a bar to meet friends. Drinking in moderation can be healthy and not something to worry about. However, excessive and problematic drinking can cause severe damage to our health, social, and work life.
If you think your husband is drinking too much, it’s natural to be worried and wonder what you should do next. The good news is, help is available to support people as they look to stop drinking and avoid the devastating effects of alcohol abuse.
Symptoms of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) range from mild to severe. Severe AUDs often involve alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, where someone compulsively seeks and uses alcohol despite its negative consequences. However, any severity of AUD can be damaging, and mild disorders can become more severe with time.
But, how do you know if your spouse’s drinking is a problem? If you are hoping to uncover the answer, reading through some of the signs of alcohol addiction below may help. You might also like to speak to a treatment provider for advice or visit The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism page on AUD here for more information.
What Are the Physical Signs of a Drinking Problem?
1. Withdrawal Symptoms
If your partner experiences withdrawal symptoms when he tries to quit drinking, he probably has substance abuse issues.
Withdrawal symptoms are a sign of physical dependence on alcohol. If your spouse repeatedly drinks over some time, his body will adjust to the presence of the substance and adapt its natural production in response. He will experience withdrawal symptoms as his body readjusts if he suddenly stops drinking.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening. Your husband should never try to go cold turkey or detox from alcohol without professional medical support. Instead, it is in his best interest to contact a healthcare provider or an addiction treatment facility to discuss options for medical detox.
2. Short and Long-Term Health Problems
Alcohol abuse can lead to a range of medical conditions. These include reduced sexual functioning, stomach cramps, cirrhosis of the liver, and the exacerbation of existing conditions.
You may notice other physical signs of excessive drinking while your partner is under the influence, like passing out or blacking out.
What Are the Psychological and Emotional Signs of a Drinking Problem?
1. Changes in Mood and Mental Health Problems
Alcohol and drug abuse can have a serious impact on your husband’s mood and mental health. Alcohol will directly affect how his brain functions and change his brain chemicals. If your husband is abusing alcohol, he may experience sadness, irritability, and have difficulty concentrating. He may also develop alcohol-induced mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety disorders.
2. Drinking Dominates Their Life
While it is normal to drink alcohol from time to time, it should never be something that dominates your partner’s life. If your partner spends a lot of time thinking about, acquiring, and drinking alcohol, he may have a substance abuse problem.
3. Using Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism
While drinking in moderation can be a pleasurable part of everyday life, drinking to deal with or escape from difficult thoughts and feelings is always unhealthy.
Although drinking may help your husband feel better in the short term, it does nothing to tackle the underlying causes of emotional distress. Instead, it will likely harm his mental health. As a result, you may find that your husband feels worse in the long run and relies on alcohol, creating a destructive cycle.
If your husband uses alcohol as a coping mechanism, he needs to focus on the underlying causes of his thoughts and feelings. If he struggles with a mental health condition, he should seek professional treatment or advice on coping in healthy ways. Addiction treatment facilities usually offer treatment options such as dual diagnosis programs that simultaneously treat addiction and mental health disorders.
What Are the Relational Signs of a Drinking Problem?
Alcohol use disorders often cause strained relationships with spouses and other family members, especially as those struggling may lie or act secretively to hide their drinking habits. They may also spend less time with friends and family as they devote more time to drinking and recovering from alcohol.
If you have experienced new difficulties in your relationship with your husband, it may signify a drinking problem. Setting healthy boundaries is crucial to look after yourself and avoid unwillingly enabling your husband’s drinking.
What Is Excessive Drinking?
One of the most obvious signs of an alcohol use disorder is excessive drinking. Excessive drinking is when someone regularly drinks more than the recommended levels.
In its Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, the government defines drinking in moderation as one or two drinks a day or less, depending on whether you are a woman or a man. While occasionally exceeding this limit is okay, regularly drinking above these levels can damage a person’s short-term and long-term health.
One type of excessive drinking is binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as when a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. For a typical male, this corresponds to having five or more drinks in the space of two hours.
Though many people overlook binge drinking, it can be hazardous and lead to alcohol poisoning (overdose) and even drunk driving.
Heavy drinking is another form of excessive drinking. Here, people consistently drink a lot of alcohol. The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as consuming more than four drinks on any day or drinking more than fourteen drinks per week for a man and consuming more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks per week for women.
While the occasional spell of heavy drinking or night of binge drinking may not signify an alcohol use disorder, if your partner’s drinking regularly displays these patterns, he may have substance abuse problems.
Over time, these drinking habits can lead to short-term and long-term health problems like injury, liver disease, and some types of cancer. It also increases the risk of addiction or alcoholism, a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment and support.
Treatment and Recovery
Don’t panic if you think your husband may be struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse. There is help available, and recognizing the problem is often the first step in recovery.
Alcoholism is treatable. No matter how severe the problem, anyone can benefit from substance abuse treatment. There is a range of evidence-based treatment options available for alcohol use disorders, including:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- Complementary therapies, like yoga or acupuncture
- Experiential therapies, like music or drama therapy
- Couples therapy
- Family therapy
The sooner someone can start treatment, the better. You may like to talk to your husband openly about their drinking habits – being careful to avoid criticism – or seek professional support to stage an intervention.
Maintaining a relationship with someone living with an alcohol use disorder or in recovery can be emotionally and physically tiring – you must look after yourself too. Family therapy sessions can help support the loved ones of people in recovery throughout the treatment process and the following years.
With the right support, your family can overcome alcohol abuse and rebuild the strong and caring relationships you long for.