Alcoholism is distinctly stereotyped. Someone who suffers from an alcohol dependency is automatically envisioned to drink at all hours and to be heavily influenced by alcohol. They are regularly described as a low life, and as someone who lacks willpower and who cannot control themselves.

Stereotypes are however incorrect, making it even harder to spot alcoholism.

An alcohol addiction looks different across each user. For some, it’s closer to the stereotype, yet for others, it’s far from it, found to impact people from all walks of life. Someone who is happy, sad, wealthy, under financial pressure, comfortable in life, uncomfortable and stressed, healthy, unhealthy, set within influential environments, set in a positive setting, in the public eye or just an average person can be addicted to alcohol.

Alcohol is such a widely used substance that has been normalised. It is affordable, accessible, and highly addictive. Habit-like behaviours can develop, possible to advance into alcoholism, a clinically diagnosed brain disease.

Due to misconceptions, blurred lines and judgments, spotting alcoholism in yourself or someone you care about can be tough. Here’s how to recognise a dependence as we answer, ‘what does alcohol addiction look like?’.

For support, addiction treatment, and guidance through alcoholism, we at Ocean Recovery are here for you.


What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism is clinically diagnosed as a compulsive disease of the mind. Whilst to onlookers it is deemed as a choice and a way of living, it is an uncontrollable condition that can be brought on for a wide range of reasons.

Anything from a neglectful upbringing, high stress, pre-existing mental health issues, financial worries, genetics, social pressures, and trauma can trigger alcoholism. The commonality for most people is that alcohol is a rewarding substance that induces the production of dopamine in the brain.

As alcohol consumption becomes associated with pleasure and reward, and the ability to suppress everyday stresses and pressures, habit-like consumption can begin.

At Ocean Recovery we have helped people from all walks of life, with wide-spanning triggers and stories through alcohol rehabilitation. The mutual factor is that they consume excessive alcohol levels and feel stuck in the cycle of addiction, even if consequences present themselves. Yet beyond that, an alcohol use disorder is unbiased, unpredictable, and impulsive with its effects.

There are however some warning signs and symptoms of alcoholism, which help with diagnosing and subsequently treating the disease. Here’s the realism of alcoholism by considering ‘what does alcohol addiction look like?’.


What are the warning signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction?

Warning signs of alcohol addiction can vary between users. The amount of alcohol that’s consumed, its strength and its frequency can all play a part in the effects of alcoholism. Personal factors can also impact the severity of initial alcohol abuse, as some individuals can tolerate symptoms more than others due to health, age, and gender.

It is also important to remember that some signs and symptoms can be hidden, and some individuals can experience denial. With that, it can be difficult to spot the early signs of alcoholism.

Alcoholism can cause physical, psychological, and behavioural changes, which display as direct symptoms.

Physical warning signs and symptoms:

  • Tolerance to alcohol
  • Excessive drinking habits
  • Ill-health and physical signs of neglect
  • Lack of control over consumption
  • Needing to drink more alcohol to experience similar effects
  • Fatigue
  • Withdrawal symptoms in between alcohol exposure
  • Signs of alcohol poisoning
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Malnourishment
  • Physical side effects such as headaches, blackouts, and health problems


Psychological warning signs and symptoms:

  • Poor mental health, with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic
  • Memory loss
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Using alcohol as a stress reliever or as a form of self-medication
  • Poor decision making and limited concentration
  • Poor self-esteem and minimal awareness
  • Consuming alcohol whilst faced with consequences


Behavioural warning signs and symptoms:

  • Secret drinking
  • Associating with other drinkers
  • Withdrawn from everyday responsibilities
  • Social isolation
  • Change in interests
  • Financial problems linked to excessive drinking
  • Unhealthy drinking habits and schedules
  • Avoiding loved ones
  • Noticeable changes in decisions and attitudes
  • Poor performance across work and other activities
  • The priority of alcohol consumption


Reasonably, alcoholism will look different across its various stages and will materialise diversely across individuals. Some will suffer from mental health issues and will experience significant behavioural changes, whilst others will mostly display physical symptoms.

A combination of the above physical, psychological, and behavioural changes will indicate some form of drinking problem whilst alcohol is a regular influence.


Steps to take if you think a loved one is an alcoholic

Are you wondering ‘what does alcohol addiction look like?’. Are you questioning this due to concerns over a loved one’s drinking habits?

If you are worried and also believe that some degree of an alcohol problem is amounting, there are some steps that you can take to support your family member or friend through this time.

Firstly, you should become aware of alcoholism as a medical diagnosis. Instead of reading into the stereotypes or commonalities, it is important to see addiction as a compulsive and uncontrollable disease. Education will help you appreciate the challenges of addiction recovery and how addictive alcohol can be.

Secondly, you should consider the type of support that you hope to offer and the approach that you will take. Will you attend support group meetings? Will you maintain a clean house? Will you offer emotional support and follow a compassionate approach? Do you have time to listen and to guide? Will you be searching for rehab addiction treatment? There are a wealth of potential actions to consider which can help someone you care about through alcoholism.

Thirdly, with preparation, you can then look to approach your loved one, possibly complete a family and friend referral, or even look into an intervention. Your approach, either way, should be direct and honest, yet empathetic and sensitive.

Lastly, if treatment and support are accepted, you should be there for your loved ones and help them through alcohol rehab. If you’re yet to reach acceptance, it’s important to remain patient and to disable alcohol abuse as much as possible.

The sooner that you can recognise the signs and symptoms, and as soon as you can take action, the better. Alcoholism can be a very dangerous and damaging condition. Yet you must be clued up and armed with external support, in order to deliver a support network.


How to treat alcoholism

As alcohol addiction can look differently across individuals, can be caused by various stimuli, and can result in a multitude of effects, treating alcoholism should be a personal process.

Core addiction treatments are recommended to treat the commonalities of alcohol abuse. They include alcohol detoxification, one-to-on talking therapy, holistic therapies, mental health treatments, disease control and relapse prevention planning, group therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and support groups.

Depending on personal symptoms, consequences, effects and recovery goals, additional treatments and services will then be arranged to strengthen recovery rates.

Recovering from alcoholism is a long-term process that begins with withdrawal, continues with restoration, and follows with planning, management, and relapse prevention. Working through each step will be necessary, possible with professional and specialist help.


Alcohol support services at Ocean Recovery

At Ocean Recovery we offer personalised alcohol support services, treatments, and programmes, delivered on an inpatient basis. From our private and high-quality rehab facility, we provide the guidance, treatment sessions and surroundings to work through each step of recovery.

As addiction is an unpredictable condition, its recovery can also result in unforeseeable effects. Due to this, we offer one-to-one services, our facility is medically observed on a 24/7 basis, and amendments are made where necessary to protect health, safety, and progress. We truly consider personal circumstances and how we can ease this time on an individual level.

For more insight into ‘what does alcohol addiction look like?’, or to gauge possible recovery results, reach out to our team.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: March 24, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.