Therapy is a great tool in the arsenal of treating addiction to alcohol. In this blog, we’ll explore the symptoms of addiction to alcohol, when to seek help, types of help available, and why therapy is such a great choice.
Symptoms of Addiction to Alcohol
Drinking is a social activity and pleasant way to relax for many people. However, those with an addiction to alcohol show distinct differences from casual drinkers. According to the APA, moderate alcohol use in adults — no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women and older people — is relatively harmless. (A “drink” means 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer, all of which contain 0.5 ounces of alcohol. Consumption beyond that can be indicative of addiction to alcohol, ranging from simple alcohol abuse to alcohol dependency. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 1 in 12 American adults is an alcohol abuser or alcoholic.
In order to help identify if alcohol consumption is becoming a problem, look for the following symptoms:
- Hiding the drinking. When individuals hide their drinking, lie about the quantity of drinking, or deny having a problem when confronted, they may have a serious addiction to alcohol.
- Regularly drink more than they intended to. When addiction is an issue, the person drinking often has a hard time stopping themselves from having “just one more”. Tolerance builds up and compounds this.
- Feelings of guilt or shame. If the individual expresses remorse, guilt, or shame, it’s indicative of knowing that there’s a problem- they likely need help to get back on track to beat the addiction.
- Black out drinking or forgetfulness after drinking. When addicted to alcohol, the individual may have a hard time gauging appropriate levels of alcohol consumption, leading them to heavily over-consume. Black outs and forgetfulness are strong indicators that of heavy alcohol consumption.
- Needing a drink to relax/fall asleep. When drinking becomes a ‘need’, it’s a clear sign of alcohol dependence.
- Neglecting responsibilities. Though this isn’t a stand alone diagnostic of alcohol addiction, it’s a strong indicator of something being wrong. Often, when addiction to alcohol is suspected, it has been preceded by a steady decline in work or school habits, attention to detail, and focus on healthy relationships. When someone shows this sign, pay attention for other indicators.
- Risk taking and legal issues. Addiction to alcohol often leads down the road to riskier behaviors, like drinking and driving and disorderly conduct. Anyone who has a DUI should seek treatment for addiction to alcohol.
When alcohol addiction is suspected, help should be sought out. The longer the addiction goes on without treatment, the more risk there is of long term adverse effects of all kinds.
How Therapy Helps Treat Addiction to Alcohol
Psychologists who are trained and experienced in treating alcohol problems can be helpful in many ways. Before the drinker seeks assistance, a psychologist can guide the family or others in helping to increase the drinker’s motivation to change. When the addicted individual decides to seek treatment, a psychologist can assess the types and degrees of problems the drinker has experienced. The results of the assessment can offer initial guidance to the drinker about what treatment to seek and help motivate the problem drinker to get treatment. Chances of recovery improve greatly by seeking help early.
A number of therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy coping skills treatment and motivational enhancement therapy, were developed by psychologists. Additional therapies include 12-Step facilitation approaches that assist those with drinking problems in using self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). All three of these therapies have demonstrated their effectiveness. One analysis of cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches, for instance, found that 58 percent of patients receiving cognitive-behavioral treatment fared better than those in comparison groups.
Additionally, therapy can help to repair the relationships of those impacted by the drinker’s addiction. Family & friends may feel a great amount of distrust in the individual after years of addictive behavior, legal issues, lies, and more. Therapy provides a framework to explore those feelings and provides guidance in understanding the addiction. Therapy might also be necessary to help transition key influencers in the addicted individuals life away from advocating drinking- for instance, guiding them away from social settings where alcohol is consumed.
These therapies can help people boost their motivation to stop drinking, identify circumstances that trigger drinking, learn new methods to cope with high-risk drinking situations, and develop social support systems within their own communities.
Are you or a loved one addicted to alcohol? If you’re noticing any of the symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to call us at to schedule an initial consultation with one of our counselors. We have addiction specialists on staff who can increase your prospects for successful long-term addiction resolution.