Early Signs of Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  FEBRUARY  14 ,
2021 | 4 Sources

It is important to be aware of the early signs of alcoholism, because the sooner the disease is detected and treatment is sought, the better. The first signs of alcoholism are subtle, and can be easy to miss. Here are some signs to watch for, though.

  • You notice an increasing tolerance to the effects of alcohol. You can drink more than you used to, without seeming intoxicated.
  • You have a growing preoccupation with drinking. You start to plan your recreational time around drinking.
  • You start drinking alone.
  • You lie about how much you drink.
  • You drink “secretly.” You hide alcohol or sneak drinks.
  • You drink before going to activities where there will be drinking.
  • People express concern about how much you drink.
  • You have mood changes when you drink. These can be “good” mood changes (you feel happy) or “bad” mood changes (you feel sad).
  • There are changes in your behavior when you’re drinking. You do things when you’ve been drinking that you wouldn’t do when you’re sober.
  • You wonder if you have a drinking problem.

What Should You do if You Notice These Early Signs of Alcoholism in Yourself?

First of all, congratulations for taking the first step and admitting that you are experiencing the first signs of alcoholism. Recognizing that there is indeed a problem is often the hardest part.

Because you’ve noticed the early signs of alcoholism, you need to stop drinking. Continuing to drink just puts you at greater risk of developing full-blown alcoholism.

Consider joining a group like AA. Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help group for alcoholics. Recovering alcoholics offer each other encouragement and support in staying sober.

You will learn a lot about how to say no to alcohol and to deal with the issues that led you to drink in the first place. If you have difficulty abstaining from alcohol, AA will be a big help to you.

If you find it difficult to give up alcohol, see a professional for a drug and alcohol assessment (you’ll be assessed for both, even if you don’t use drugs). A professional counselor will evaluate you to determine what level of treatment you need.

Depending on your alcohol use and your degree of dependency, they may recommend you attend AA, enroll in an outpatient rehabilitation program, or check into an inpatient program.

While you’re doing all of these things, you don’t have to do them alone. You’ve admitted the truth to yourself; now it’s time to admit it to your family and close friends. Let them know that you’ve recognized the first signs of alcoholism in yourself.

They’ve probably noticed them too and will not be surprised. Let them know you need their support.

What if You Notice The Early Signs of Alcoholism in a Loved One?

By all means, point it out to them. Say, “I’ve noticed you are drinking an awful lot lately.” Let them know you are concerned. Say, “I’m worried about how much you are drinking.”

You can expect them to deny it. One of the first signs of alcoholism is denial. But continue to express your concern in a gentle, consistent way.

Offer help. You can contact AA for a schedule of meetings and give it to your loved one. They might or might not use it, but at least they’ll have the information.

Provide support if your loved one does decide to get help. You can attend AA meetings with them if they desire (as long as they are open meetings; closed meetings are for alcoholics only). You can attend any family component of their treatment program. You can educate yourself about the disease.

Remember, it’s important to watch out for the first signs of alcoholism because the sooner the disease is caught, the easier and more effective treatment will be. 

More early signs of alcoholism on our main alcoholism signs page

Alcoholism home page

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More