Symptoms of Alcoholism in Your Family

Friday, December 6th, 2013

The symptoms of alcoholism in the family are not always obvious. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that worsens over time, so catching it in the beginning stages can be difficult. However, there are signs to watch for, particularly if there is a history of alcoholism in the family. Although alcoholism is not explicitly genetic, there are indications that alcoholism and related patterns of behavior might run in families.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics reports that roughly 43% of US adults have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Furthermore, children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than non-children of alcoholics. This statistic should not be interpreted as an inevitable consequence of growing up with alcoholism in the family, and being aware of the symptoms of alcoholism can help break the cycle.

Symptoms of Alcoholism to Watch For

If you suspect a family member is struggling with alcoholism, here are some signs to be aware of:

Inability to limit amount of alcohol: Your loved one can’t seem to set a limit and stick to it, and is consistently drinking to the point of heavy intoxication.

Hiding alcohol: You find alcohol stashed in unusual places, such as under the kitchen sink or in the back of the closet.

Loses interest in activities and hobbies: The things that used to bring them joy are no longer of interest to your family member.

Unexplained absences: He or she disappears for unexplained periods of time.

Slurred speech or lack of motor control: These symptoms of alcoholism occur while intoxicated and can include swaying, incoherent speech, or poor perception.

Mood swings: These can occur whether or not an alcoholic is intoxicated at the time.

Financial problems: Your loved one is spending money and seems to have nothing to show for it; if a parent has alcoholism, this could be causing real problems with the family finances.

Drinking alone or daily: An alcoholic may drink on their own, in secret, or first thing in the morning. They may feel the need to have a drink in order to function or calm their nerves.

These symptoms of alcoholism may not appear in everyone, as alcoholism can affect each individual differently. When it occurs in a family, other family members may be unwittingly contributing to the problem by enabling or ignoring the situation. If you suspect that you have alcoholism in your family, seek treatment as soon as possible. Children in particular can subconsciously adopt or adapt to the patterns of behavior that emerge from being around an alcoholic, and treatment can make a difference for the whole family.

Look for treatment options that include family programs, so your family can heal together. This may include one-on-one counseling for family members of the alcoholic, group therapy as a family, or attending support group meetings with other family members of alcoholics. Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. The sooner you seek treatment after the symptoms of alcoholism appear, the better your chances of recovery, both for the alcoholic and the family as a whole.