What Does Alcohol Use Disorder Look Like?

Published On: November 10, 2023|Categories: Alcohol Use Disorder|
Homeless army veteran sitting on pavement begging on the street holding a placard with text Homeless vet

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the most common mental health condition affecting veterans. According to the American Addiction Centers, 20 percent of service members report heavy drinking (defined as 8+ drinks a week for women and 15+ drinks a week for men). 

In order to receive the help necessary to overcome an AUD, you have to first be able to recognize the symptoms. By knowing the causes and symptoms, you can get your loved one the help you need, or identify when you yourself need to seek help for unhealthy habits.

What is alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is a repeated pattern of behavior where one is unable to control their consumption of alcohol, struggles to stop alcohol consumption even when it’s causing problems and is repeatedly recovering from overconsumption. 

For some people, alcohol consumption is used as a means of coping with challenging mental health conditions. This includes depression, anxiety, and, for many veterans, PTSD. As a depressant, alcohol works to numb the brain and body, offering a temporary band-aid for the agonizing symptoms that these mental health conditions can perpetuate. 

However, by turning to alcohol use for “help,” further problems can arise, including co-occurring disorders.

Alcohol use disorder symptoms 

Each individual will display signs of alcohol abuse differently based on their habits and even personal history. But a number of common symptoms are likely to display themselves.

Symptoms that alcohol use has turned into abuse include:

  • Being unable to stop drinking even when problems begin arising in one’s personal life
  • Receiving a DUI
  • Spending a lot of time recovering from drinking
  • Being unable to stop drinking once started
  • Struggling financially due to the money being spent on alcohol/drinking habits
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and other obligations as a result of alcohol abuse
  • Having troubles at work/school, including absenteeism or tardiness
  • Engaging in unsafe/reckless behaviors as a result of drinking
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol

If you notice these signs of alcohol abuse in a loved one, or in yourself, it may be time to address the problem and get help. 

What causes alcohol use disorder?

There is no one cause of alcohol use disorder because each person’s experience and story is completely different. What might cause one person to begin drinking excessively might have little effect on the behaviors of another. 

Among the veteran population, and members of the military in general, however, there is present the commonality of military work. Unfortunately, alcohol use/misuse is a very common thing in the military field and veterans are more susceptible to an AUD than the general population. 

That being said, there are additional factors that may play a role in whether or not one meets the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. These criteria include: 

  • Whether a pre-existing mental health condition is present – Those battling depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. are more at risk for developing co-occurring disorders
  • Peer influence – If the people around you drink heavily, you may be more inclined to partake in said behaviors
  • Family history – Those with a background of drinking in their families are at a higher risk for misuse of alcohol
  • Personal experience – Those with a history of trauma, especially unaddressed trauma, or those under persistent stress may be at a higher risk for developing an AUD 

Additionally, men and women who were deployed and witnessed extreme violence, lost a close friend in the military or suffered from a severe injury are more at risk for struggling with alcohol abuse.

Recovering from alcohol use disorder

Whether symptoms of mild or severe alcohol use disorder are present, there are ways in which you or your loved one can recover from the effects of these habits. AUDs are challenging mentally, but they can do significant damage to one’s physical health as well. In order to prevent significant liver, digestive and heart problems, it’s crucial to seek the help needed early.

In addition to the benefits that alcohol use disorder treatment offers, there are a number of ways you can begin to wean yourself off alcohol consumption: 

  • Be aware of the company you surround yourself with – If you spend time with people who also drink heavily, you are more likely to find yourself engaging in their bad habits
  • Keep your house dry – Preventing yourself from bringing alcohol into the home will help you break the habit of drinking alone or often at home, and limiting yourself to just drinking socially may help break the habit of over-consuming
  • Ask for accountability – If you have a trusted roommate, friend or family member, be open to them about your struggles and see if they can help you remain accountable to sobriety
  • Have an exit plan – If you are going out with friends and the drinking becomes excessive, have a plan for what you will do/when you will leave to keep yourself from engaging in overconsumption

If you have tried a number of methods to break your habit, but have found yourself unable, or recognize that your loved one is struggling with their recovery journey, remember there is no shame in seeking help. Recovery is hard and professional guidance is sometimes the only thing that can boost you into a motivated state for sobriety and wellness.

Reach out today

To get in touch with a counselor to help you on your sober journey, contact Pyramid Military Therapy by calling our offices at 814-631-5676 to learn more.

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