Drinking behaviors can be brought about by several drinking patterns from alcoholism and alcohol abuse to heavy social drinking and binge drinking. Drinking behaviors can be defined as the behaviors someone engages in or exhibits due to alcohol altering their brain function. These behaviors are often unintentional except in cases where the person acts the same way even when sober. These behaviors are what happens when the individual’s brain functioning is changed by alcohol.
Causes of Drinking Behaviors
They are obviously caused by drinking, but at this point, things often go left because the individual will start giving all kinds of excuses for these behaviors excluding the fact that he or she has an actual problem.
Drinking behaviors happen when a person takes more ethyl alcohol (the chemicals found in alcohol) than the liver can eliminate or metabolize. Most people usually think that it is possible to sweat, urinate, or vomit out the alcohol but this is far from the truth. Alcohol can only leave a person’s body via the liver. The average time taken by the liver to metabolize the alcohol present in a single standard drink is roughly one hour. This average time can again depend on various factors such as stress, mental illness, genetic differences, whether he/she is on any medication, stage of brain development, or gender. This can explain why someone who takes two drinks can start exhibiting these drinking behaviors while another person who has taken the same amount of alcohol will not. It should also be noted that things like taking a walk, eating a huge meal, or drinking water will not make a person sober simply because of how the body metabolizes alcohol. Time is the only thing that will do so. After consuming alcohol, the liver will need enough time to get rid of the alcohol in the body, specifically the amount of alcohol that is present in every standard drink taken. Five drinks, for example, will take five hours to eliminate. As the body is waiting for the liver to metabolize all this alcohol, the ethyl alcohol will be moving through the bloodstream and heading to highly vascularized body organs such as the brain. This chemical will sit in the said organs as it awaits metabolism by the liver during which time the alcohol causes chemical changes to brain functioning. This in turn causes the changes in the individual’s behaviors.
If someone takes too much alcohol for the brain, he/she will start slurring words, start fights, experience memory lapses, say nasty things, lose coordination, stumble, and become incapable of thinking straight. All this happens because ethyl alcohol will have changed the way the brain functions chemically.
Drinking Patterns That Lead to Drinking Behaviors
Four overall drinking patterns are responsible for the known drinking behaviors:
- Alcoholism: a brain disease caused by addiction to alcohol
- Alcohol abuse: routinely drinking heavily or binge drinking
- Heavy drinking: consuming a minimum or 8 drinks (for women) or 15 drinks(for men) per week
- Binge drinking: consuming a minimum of 4 (for women) or 5 (for men) standard drinks on any occasion.
It is possible for an alcohol abuser, a heavy social drinker, or a binge drinker to alter their drinking patterns so that they fall within low-risk restrictions. Doing this can help them to probably stop their drinking behaviors.
It is crucial that people know the signs to look out for in alcoholics so they can spot the problem early enough and deal with it accordingly. Alcoholism is a chronic illness and it is marked by specific drinking behaviors coupled with particular genetic traits. Compulsive drinking, for example, is deemed a behavior while someone with an alcoholic personality has a higher chance of falling into addiction. Chronic or heavy alcohol use causes physical and psychological dependence and even addiction. When alcohol is consumed in excessive amounts, the effects caused can bring about irrational behaviors, which can have significant consequences on a person’s life.
If you spot some of these drinking behaviors in a loved one, they may possibly have an addiction. When the drinking behaviors become more apparent then there is a chance that the problem has existed for a while. A problem drinker will usually do whatever he or she can to hide their symptoms of alcoholism so you may find it difficult to know immediately. There are few symptoms to look out for in the beginning stages of alcoholism to indicate a genuine problem. In fact, you may not even notice the obvious signs that someone is an alcoholic until he or she reaches the tipping point. This tipping point into full blown alcoholism might even take years to get to the point where you can see what is actually going on. A high functioning alcoholic, for example, is capable of maintaining a completely normal life without showing any signs at all. It will not be as obvious that their drinking has transcended from social use to abuse until quite some time has passed.
When one is in a relationship with an alcoholic be it a family member, a romantic partner, or a working relationship, you will be able to notice any changes in them. Behaviors of alcoholics not only include their drinking patterns but also their amount of consumption. Even though some people have not gotten to the point of becoming alcoholics, this does not mean you should ignore the signs of regular drinking. Their behaviors can be deemed as high-risk drinking meaning they could be on the path towards alcohol addiction in no time. Someone who regularly engages in binge drinking at least once on weekly basis can be considered a high-risk drinker. Such a person has a much higher chance of developing alcoholism than other types of drinkers and has a higher likelihood of turning to the bottle when faced with challenging scenarios or circumstances in future.
Research found that drinking makes people act differently at times with some becoming happier and more excited. Someone who drinks alcohol too frequently can engage in risky behavior and exhibit poor judgment as the brain chemistry changes. This ends up becoming a perpetual problem in the person’s daily life as their brain is affected. MRI scans and cognitive test scores conducted within relevant studies found that the area of the brain known as the hippocampus shrinks with increased alcohol consumption. This region of the brain plays a role in memory and reasoning. A person who had a minimum of four drinks on a daily basis had 6 times of a higher risk of their hippocampus shrinking in comparison to a non-drinker. The signs of someone with an alcoholic personality can be attributed to their hasty decline in cognitive performance. Alcohol can change a person’s personality aside from changing how he or she acts when under the influence. Most crimes committed can in fact, be attributed to a person being under the influence of alcohol. Even someone who is typically level headed and calm can transform into a violent and aggressive character when he or she becomes intoxicated. Alcohol can be responsible for drastic changes in an individual. It should be worth noting that there are people who are capable of getting away with being high-functioning alcoholics. With such a person, you will find that the indications of alcoholism are mild, which is why it is good to be aware. It can be even harder to make note of any indications of alcohol abuse in such individuals. They can go about their normal daily lives in the same way they would when sober. A good number of high-functioning alcoholics can even hold significant job positions with some even working in the medical field or in law enforcement. You may ask yourself what the problem is but the truth of things is that they are still taking a big risk when it comes to their health. These high-functioning alcoholics are continuing to damage their liver and kidneys with their regular drinking. If you feel that someone you know and love is indulging too much but holding it together, then he or she is probably struggling with an addiction that is out of control.
Behaviors of Alcoholism
One of the first indications that someone is suffering from alcoholism is that the person starts drinking more alcohol than he/she did before to get buzzed or relaxed. An alcoholic can take a higher amount of alcohol than others can without even getting drunk. This is because they have established a tolerance for alcohol. A regular heavy drinker typically has to drink more alcohol to get the same effect. Sometimes the amount of alcohol that the person needs to take can be dangerously close to that which may cause alcohol poisoning. If someone develops alcohol tolerance, it will interfere with his/her behavior and functioning. It is usually the first indication of a problem and the definite path towards alcoholism. Even though tolerance does not necessarily mean someone is addicted yet, it does have some health consequences and influence drinking behavior.
The second phase of alcoholism usually comes with withdrawal symptoms including uncontrollable shakes during morning hours when the person’s body becomes dependent on alcohol. This explains why an alcoholic will indulge even in the morning. Withdrawal symptoms mean the person is already addicted to alcohol and they occur when his/her body is no longer capable of functioning without alcohol. As mentioned before, it is because alcohol will have altered their brain chemistry levels, particularly by altering serotonin and dopamine levels in the body.
Common withdrawal symptoms in alcoholics include:
- Depression due to lack or dopamine or serotonin levels in the person’s central nervous system and also because the brain has started depending on alcohol to increase their levels
- Flu-like symptoms including fatigue, body aches, headaches, vomiting, nausea, and sweating
- Uncontrollable shaking caused by the brain’s reliance on alcohol
- Anxiety and being easily startled
It should be noted that the amount and intensity of the withdrawal symptoms experienced would be different in each person. Even though there are common alcoholic behaviors, other factors such as a person’s biological makeup will come into play. There are some possibly deadly withdrawal symptoms from alcohol an example being delirium tremens, the most dangerous symptom. Some of the symptoms resulting from delirium tremens include confusion, shakes, and seizures and they can cause death or coma. This is why it is crucial to get help for the affected individual if they decide to stop drinking.
Making Excuses to Take Alcohol
This is one of the earlier exhibited behaviors of an alcoholic. The individual will drink in the event of a bad news in the name of drowning his or her sorrows. They will also turn to the bottle after receiving good news. If you or someone else keeps finding excuses to take alcohol then this could be an indication of alcoholism. The person quickly learns to hide his or her drinking habits and this is the reason problems occur in alcoholic relationships. The lying and hiding what is going on is to blame. A loved one will be able to sense the presence of an unspoken problem. An alcoholic will do everything possible to cover their tracks regarding their problem drinking.
Someone struggling with an alcohol addiction will try denying there is a problem and instead of owning up to needing help, might make excuses to hide any addiction-related issues he/she has. The person’s family and friends might also aid him or her in hiding the alcohol addiction with all kinds of excuses. This is called co-dependency and it can bring on multiple issues in the family even for the coming generations. Making excuses and denying the existence of the problem is a major sign of alcoholism and it is designed to keep other from seeing the addiction for what it is. An alcoholic will believe that he or she has total control over the drinking and as such can stop at any time.
Hiding Alcohol All Over the House
Alcoholics usually hide alcohol all around their houses and they will find very good hiding areas to make sure no one else in the house can locate them. This is because they feel ashamed of their behavior so they become desperate to hide it from others. They also hide alcohol because they do not want to be caught in their problem and forced to deal with it. He or she will want to have access to a drink from anywhere in the house without being asked any questions about it. This is when it would be ideal to organize an intervention before the person’s alcoholism develops into something bigger. It will not be hard to find empty alcohol bottles around the house in hidden spots.
They Decline Any Events without Drinking Involved
An alcoholic always accepts going to an event in which there will be drinking. One of the signs of alcoholism indicated that they like to celebrate by drinking. They will find any reason to drink especially with other people so that they do not feel out of place. An alcoholic will avoid any event where there is no drinking taking place altogether. He or she might refuse to go to the movies as opposed to going to a party. Most alcoholics have a tendency of isolating themselves from friends and family and they can even disappear for days on end. They prefer to drink by themselves at home than to spend time with other people. Their choice to isolate themselves can make it even harder for other people to see there is a problem.
They Will Spend Late Nights Allowing Them to Drink Undisturbed
An alcoholic will stay up longer than everyone else will so he or she can drink alone without the amount of alcohol taken being monitored. They usually feel freer at this time when there is no one present to judge them.
Their Drinking Time Gets Earlier and Earlier
As an alcoholic becomes more dependent on alcohol, he or she will need to drink more frequently to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. You may even be able to tell they have been day-drinking from the smell of alcohol coming from their breath during daytime. As time goes by, they will start drinking earlier and earlier in the day. They will only get a break from drinking when asleep and when they wake up in the morning will immediately get the shakes and feel exhausted. It may be assumed a hangover when in actual sense, it is withdrawal.
They Are Defensive When Asked About Their Drinking
An alcoholic will get very defensive when confronted about his or her drinking habits. They can react with physical or even verbal aggression. This makes it hard to confront them about their alcohol addiction and also why interventions are so sensitive.
They Pre-Drink Before Going Out
Alcoholic behavior tends to be more obvious in relationships. You will see that the person likes to drink before going out and this is a symptom of alcoholism. They will want to get a head start on how much they will drink. They will then be able to attend the party and drink a seemingly normal amount because no one saw the pre-drinking. This person can arrive to the event when drunk and possibly not eat not to mention they may draw attention.
They Feel Shame Regarding Their Drinking
The alcoholic will lie to his or her loved ones on whereabouts and even ask you to lie on their behalf. This becomes very hard for the family members as they end up enabling the alcoholic and his or her behaviors. Alcoholic relationships can become quite stressful for family members. The alcoholic will become very secretive and they will experience such a drastic behavioral change that you will become incapable of recognizing them anymore. The relationships end up deteriorating and communication will be lacking if the problem is not handled soon enough.
Drastic Mood Changes with Alcohol Consumption
An alcoholic may be very angry or anxious until after he or she has a drink and in actuality, these are withdrawal symptoms being experienced. The individual may seem to have the flu depending on their degree of alcoholism. He or she feels ill and becomes sweaty but after having a drink, you will see a significant change. The person becomes more relaxed and capable of dealing with life better. All this is until he or she overindulges and starts exhibiting the negative behaviors of alcoholism.
Alcoholics usually have a higher chance of blacking out compared to people who drink less. This usually happens after years of drinking when alcoholism becomes well established within the person. Someone who regularly blacks out after drinking might be a long-time alcoholic. They will also experience problems with memory and might forget things that happened when sober.
An alcoholic usually neglects school, work, and home responsibilities. Worse still, he or she might tend to important things when under the influence. The person will be unable to meet responsibilities and commitments because of either being hung-over or drunk.
An alcoholic tends to drink without thinking about the consequences of doing so because of being dependent on alcohol. He or she might drink and operate heavy machinery or drive while intoxicated putting others and themselves at risk. They will also mix drugs with prescription medication or illegal drugs despite label warnings. They will engage in risky behavior as a means of getting their fix.
Legal Problems and Financial Debt
The behaviors associated with alcoholic drinking will typically cause financial and legal problems for the person. There is a higher chance of being caught drinking especially when you are doing it more frequently. A major sign that someone is an alcoholic is when he or she still needs to consume alcohol regardless of the risk of legal problems when driving under the influence. When you are under the influence constantly, you can incur mistakes that can have serious consequences. Some of the behaviors that alcoholics engage in and can cause financial debt and legal problems include violent behavior, disorderly conduct, and DUIs.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism and Problem Drinking
Some people have a higher prevalence for alcoholism and this means they are at a higher risk. Such people may have alcoholic personality traits making them more prone to the development of alcoholism. Aside from the symptoms of alcoholism, a medical professional might find it easier to see if the person has the disease thanks to these said factors. This can also be helpful in finding out whether the person has other mood disorders resulting in a co-occurring disorder. Someone suffering from mental health problems such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression in addition to alcoholism will be characterized as having a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Some of these mental conditions can make people engage in risky behaviors thus, making them more prone to falling into alcohol or drug abuse. When someone with a mental illness becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, he/she will have to handle these two illnesses.