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Spotting the hidden signs of alcoholism

Alcohol addiction is not always obvious. The disease convinces people that they don’t want to get help, and they become skilled at hiding their tell-tale signs. Priory, to raise awareness of how easily the drinking problem of a loved one can go unnoticed, has developed an interactive feature to help demonstrate the hidden signs of alcoholism and how best to spot them.

Do you think you could spot a drinking problem in your own home? An addict may be in denial, so it can often fall to those around them to notice the signs.

People with a drinking problem become adept at concealing it. There are several reasons for this - they may wish to protect their loved ones so they don’t worry, or wish to hide their addiction from their employer to avoid damaging their career.

All this deception can build a pressure of its own. An addict may go to extreme lengths to hide their addiction, travelling large distances to buy alcohol where they won’t be recognised, or hiding alcohol in places around the house or office. This may include using a hip flask, hiding alcohol in soft drinks containers, or mixing spirits heavily into soft drinks to conceal how much alcohol they’re consuming.

Billy Henderson, Addiction Treatment Manager at The Priory Hospital Glasgow, said: “It can be a disease of isolation and of secrecy. The people around the drinker may not notice, and the actual drinker may also not know that they suffer from it. Alcoholism tells the individual that they don’t have it; this is called denial.”

There has been a lot of media focus on binge drinking, particularly among students, over the past decade. However, this focus can often cause us to overlook what may be right in front of us. The Office of National Statistics reported that while drinking in many age categories had reduced, those aged 55-64 were now the most likely to be drinking at ‘higher or increasing risk levels’.  

But why?

Understanding your relationship with alcohol

Priory’s Dr Paul McLaren says you need to be honest with yourself and ask the right questions to discover whether you have a problem: “Alcohol has the potential to be toxic for anyone who drinks it and it can be toxic for different individuals in different ways. Understanding how your personality, your strategies for coping with stress and your physiology interact with alcohol is as important as knowing how many units are recommended as safe.”

There are a range of signs which could indicate someone has a drinking problem:

  • Lying about or covering up drinking levels
  • Drinking heavily alone
  • Drinking to the point of passing out
  • Missing out on special occasions through heavy drinking
  • Drinking alcohol first thing in the morning
  • Cravings for a drink affecting mood or concentration levels
  • ‘Self-medicating’ with drink because of pre-existing problems
  • Negative effects on your life at home, work or socially.

Priory’s Hidden Signs of Alcoholism campaign aims to show people how easily a drinking problem can go under the radar.

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