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How to spot if your partner is an alcoholic

Sometimes, it can be difficult to notice when your partner is drinking too much. Even when it's someone you spend a significant amount of time with, the warning signs can slip by. Or it may be you've been busy at work yourself, or your partner has, and you haven’t seen as much of each other as you'd like. It could even be that your partner has become adept at hiding the signs of addiction, concealing the frequency and volume in which they are drinking. Although they may find it hard to admit, they may feel ashamed of their drinking, and this can lead to secretive behaviour.

Below we look at the signs and symptoms you need to look out for, as well as offering examples of how this may affect your partner's behaviour.

What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol addictions?

It's important to familiarise yourself with the broader signs and symptoms of addiction. By doing this you can then begin to gauge whether your partner is exhibiting one or more of the signs. These can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Withdrawal from responsibility
  • Less concern with appearance/hygiene
  • A defensive attitude
  • Paranoia or overreaction to criticism
  • Frequent small accidents or mistakes
  • Fatigue
  • Secretive or dishonest behaviour
  • Distraction
  • Sudden weight loss

The above symptoms can manifest in various ways. There are noticeable physical signs, but each on their own may not add up to a problem with alcohol. When someone develops an unhealthy relationship with alcohol it will change their behaviour and affect their life in a negative fashion. Secretive and dishonest behaviour may involve your partner hiding alcohol or their empty bottles around the house, even in unusual places, to ensure you don't discover the extent of their drinking.

If your partner is beginning to have problems at work - perhaps they are frequently late (possibly due to hangovers), or their performance in work is suffering because they're distracted and agitated, the reason behind these issues may be a problem with alcohol.

They may also drink as a coping mechanism to alleviate stress, anxiety or depression, so turning to alcohol when they’ve had a bad day, when they're feeling low or under pressure, can be an indicator.

However, spotting if your partner has a drinking problem can simply involve noticing the gradual increase in their consumption and their tolerance to alcohol. For many people it may start as a glass of wine in the evening after a stressful day at work. This then becomes two glasses, then a bottle, on several nights a week and weekends. While the inherent drinking culture in the UK can lead people to rationalise their drinking, for example saying, 'well everyone is doing it', it is important to recognise the very real health risks, both physical and mental, associated with heavy alcohol consumption.

Is my partner suffering from withdrawal symptoms?

Another sign your partner is addicted to alcohol is if they begin to exhibit signs of withdrawal. Due to the physical dependency upon alcohol involved in alcoholism, times in which your partner is trying to not drink, or is unable to procure alcohol, will lead to withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Higher body temperature
  • Anxiety

Once the body has become accustomed to a heavy alcohol intake, any extended breaks can have an effect on your system. Being watchful for these signs can help you to recognise whether your partner has a problem with alcohol.

If you are worried your partner has become addicted to alcohol, there are appropriate and measured ways to bring the subject up. Priory's guide on how to start the conversation may help, as may our intervention guide. And, most importantly, remember that help and support is available for them and they can, in time, recover.

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