Alcohol addiction, sometimes referred to as ‘alcoholism’, is a term used to describe when an individual becomes dependent on alcohol in order to cope mentally and is unable to stop consuming it despite the negative physical and/or social consequences they may face as a result.
Despite alcohol addiction being a psychological dependence, as an individual consumes more and more alcohol, it is common for them to become tolerant and therefore develop a physical dependence alongside it, resulting in incredibly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the individual attempts to stop drinking.
However, it is possible to have an addiction to alcohol without a physical dependency, making it more tricky to spot. As alcohol is so commonly used as a way to calm nerves and binge drinking at the weekend is normalised in the UK, an individual may not even realise they have an addiction. In fact, many people can maintain a successful lifestyle on the outside, with a great job, relationship, family etc… and yet behind closed doors they find themselves needing a drink (known as a high functioning alcoholic).
If you are concerned about your own drinking or that of someone you know, here are some common physical signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
The signs of alcoholism can differ from person to person and some of the most common physical signs and symptoms are below:
Alcohol is often the number one priority for individuals with an alcohol addiction, meaning they sometimes neglect other areas of their life such as personal hygiene and grooming. They may also have tired looking eyes and skin due to the way in which alcohol dehydrates the whole body.
Eyes may also appear tired from a lack of sleep which is common with heavy alcohol consumption. The individual may also still smell of alcohol from the previous night or have had an ‘eye-opener’ (drink in the morning) to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Weight Gain or Loss
Heavy alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on an individual’s appetite, resulting in either a suppressed appetite, leading to weight loss, or intense cravings for high-fat foods as a result of the hormone ‘gelanin’ produced by alcohol, leading to weight gain.
It is common for people with alcohol addiction to have redness in the face, particularly in the nose and cheeks. This is because of the way in which the blood vessels dilate in response to alcohol and over time, these vessels can over-dilate, causing spider veins.
Infections and Skin Sores
Alcohol can impair the immune system, making individuals with alcohol addictions more susceptible to infections. In combination with the dehydrating effects of alcohol on the skin which is our natural defense against pathogens, individuals are at greater risk of skin infections.
Individuals with an alcohol addiction can develop erosive gastritis, a condition where the stomach lining begins to wear away, leading to stomach bleeds and ulcers which can be very painful and produce symptoms such as indigestion, heartburn and nausea.
Yellow Skin Tone
Heavy alcohol consumption can cause liver problems which leads to jaundice, a yellow/brown tone to the skin.
Liver problems caused by alcoholism include fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Fatty liver is caused by a buildup of fat in the liver cells and can develop further into alcohol hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. Alcohol hepatitis can then cause liver failure, gradually damaging the organ and resulting in cirrhosis, a condition where the normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, meaning the liver can no longer function effectively.
Loss of Balance and Unsteadiness
Under the influence of alcohol, the part of the brain which controls coordination and balance can be imparied, increasing the risk of falls and accidents, even when the individual is sober.
Bruises and Injuries
When an individual consumes high amounts of alcohol, they have a reduced platelet count causing clotting issues and making them more likely to bruise easily. This, in combination with a loss of balance can result in lots of bruising and injuries. Not only can reduced clotting cause bruising but more seriously it can increase the risk of a stroke.
Physical signs of alcohol withdrawal
- Profuse sweating, even during the cold condition
How To Get Help with an Alcohol Addiction
If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with an alcohol addiction, our team at Acquiesce are here to help you on the road to recovery. Treatment at Acquiesce starts with a free confidential consultation with a trained Recovery Practitioner in order to establish the individual needs and suitability for safe treatment via either residential rehab or outpatient care.
This can be done via phone or by booking an appointment at the treatment centre. Once the correct treatment pathway has been decided and agreed upon, Acquiesce provides a safe and therapeutic environment which is conducive to the recovery from alcohol addiction.
Following a detoxification, a combination programme of evidence based therapies are then delivered by a team of experienced professionals. The therapies address the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of alcohol addiction and utilises holistic therapies, social activities and regular gym and exercise.
Individuals will learn to understand their addiction and gain the knowledge and tools required for an ongoing sustainable recovery, with a personal relapse prevention plan and on-going aftercare that is provided as standard.
To discuss your recovery, or the recovery of a loved one, please get in touch for a free, anonymous consultation.