Alcohol addiction is one of those rare diseases which convinces those suffering they don’t want to get help. An addict learns how to hide it; they become adept at deception. To begin, let’s take a look at the range of signs which could indicate someone has a drinking problem:
- Lying about or concealing the extent of their drinking
- Drinking heavily alone
- Passing out from drinking too much
- Missing special occasions
- Drinking alcohol first thing in the morning
- Cravings for a drink affecting mood or concentration levels
- ‘Self-medicating’ with drink because of pre-existing problems
- Adverse effects on your life at home, work or socially.
Considering this array of potential indicators, and the nuances involved in each, it’s clear just how vigilant you have to be to notice the signs. You may already be in bed and long asleep by the time your loved one has passed out from drinking, or be too involved in your work and social life to see your loved one drinking alone or struggling with their work.
For this reason, Priory Group has created an interactive campaign http://www.priorygroup.com/the-addiction. Through a series of snapshots and story snippets, we take you on a journey of addiction. Will you recognize the hidden signs of alcohol dependence? If some of the scenes seem familiar, it might be indicative of a problem with drinking either by yourself or in a loved one. Priory offers a free addiction assessment which can help them work toward the best possible solution moving forward.
Denial and the effects of alcohol
Part of the reason it’s so vital to intervene early in cases of alcohol addiction is because of the long-term health complications it can cause. Without intervention, many drinkers will continue on the same path without accepting they have a problem. Billy Henderson, Addictions Treatment Manager at The Priory Hospital Glasgow, adds: “Alcoholism tells the individual that they don’t have it; this is called denial.”
Denial helps a drinker to rationalize their behavior. They can go on drinking heavily without noticing the signs and problems they are causing and may never reach what you might call a ‘rock bottom moment.’ The longer this level of dangerous drinking continues increases the chances of complications and illness in the future.
The NHS estimates that 9% of men and 4% of women in the UK are dependent on alcohol – however, most don’t seek help. Alcohol has been identified as a causal factor in more than 60 serious medical conditions. These range from heart disease and liver disease to various cancers and mental health problems (Public Health England). The importance of educating yourself and being aware of the signs cannot be stressed enough, but you also need to be prepared to act on your concerns. Priory’s intervention guide may prove useful reading.
Regarding mental health problems, alcohol can make them worse. It can be tempting for an addict to self-medicate with alcohol, for example in cases where they are also suffering from depression and anxiety (it’s not uncommon for more than one condition to be present). However, this only contributes to worsening the problem in the long run.
Deception: would you notice a drinking problem in your home?
The deception an addict uses to prevent family members, friends, and work colleagues seeing the extent of their drinking brings its own pressures. Billy Henderson adds: “It can be a disease of isolation and of secrecy. The people around the drinker may not notice, and the actual drinker may also not know that they suffer from it.” Someone practicing such constant deception may be thinking of their next drink and how to go about it. They may wish to hide it from loved ones to protect them, to stop them worrying, but this is all part of rationalizing their behavior. They may also be looking to protect their career, ensuring work does not find out the extent of their heavy drinking.
An addict’s continuous cycle of deception can see them finding new ways to hide their drinking. Traveling long distances to buy alcohol where they won’t be recognized isn’t uncommon, nor is hiding alcohol in secret locations around the house or office. A range of other methods, such as using a hip flask, hiding alcohol in soft drinks containers, or mixing spirits heavily into soft drinks, are also used to hide the real level of a person’s alcohol consumption.
It is important to look out for changes in a person’s regular pattern of behavior, something which can be difficult to do when you’re wrapped up in your own life. This is where, once again, the need to be vigilant, and also empathetic, comes into it. It is your concern for the health of your loved ones which will help you to realize some of the signs we’ve highlighted so far are present, and that they need to be addressed.
Understanding you and being honest
In recent times the problems surrounding binge drinking have been a more prominent focus for media outlets, particularly binge drinking among students or younger people. While binge drinking is an issue, this misguided focus can cause other problems to slip by unnoticed. The Office of National Statistics reported that, although drinking in many age categories had gone down, those aged 55-64 were now the most likely to be drinking at ‘higher or increasing risk levels.’ These figures show how drinking consistently and frequently is a prevalent issue and indicates it is older people putting themselves at the most risk. Ongoing issues in later life can include boredom in retirement, or ‘empty nest syndrome’ (when children leave home and start the next chapter of their lives, causing a loss of purpose in the parents), can lead people to take up their time with drinking alcohol. Understanding how your own personality reacts and copes with emotional issues is fundamental, as is the need to avoid self-medicating.
Alcohol can adversely affect anyone, and these effects will reveal themselves differently to different people. A person needs to know what questions to ask of themselves and how to be honest with themselves too. Understanding how you cope with stress, how alcohol reacts with your mind and body, are all parts of understanding addiction.
Overall, it is vital to gain as much information as you can around addiction. Moving forward, this can help you understand the problem and be in a better position to help yourself or to help a loved one. This is, ultimately, the goal of Priory’s Hidden Signs of Alcoholism campaign – to raise awareness and to educate. To view the interactive feature, please click here.