How To Spot If Your Partner Is An Alcoholic

An addiction to alcohol is often seen as an extremely personal and private matter, and as a result, many people will attempt to conceal the extent of the addiction from their partner or spouse.

Alternatively, a large number of alcoholics may not be aware that they have a problem, even when the physical, psychological and behavioural effects become clear for others to see.

What are the most common symptoms of alcohol addiction?

If you are concerned that your partner may be an alcoholic, keep an eye out for the most common signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction.

Physical symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Noticeable weight gain or weight loss
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Poor personal hygiene and lack of grooming
  • Insomnia, trouble falling and/or staying asleep

Psychological symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Memory loss and blackouts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Extreme, often uncontrollable cravings for alcohol

Behavioural symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Becoming withdrawn and isolated
  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Attempting to conceal the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Displaying dishonest and deceitful behaviour
  • Drinking to excess, often becoming extremely intoxicated or passing out
  • Prioritising alcohol over other responsibilities

While many of the above symptoms can be attributed to other problems or mental health disorders, they can often indicate an alcohol addiction and should not be taken lightly. If possible, continue to monitor your partner’s drinking behaviours and consider raising your concerns with them in a supportive and empathetic manner.

What other warning signs should I look out for?

As well as the above symptoms, there are a number of additional warning signs that are often only noticed by the partner or spouse of an alcoholic.

Whether they are drinking at inappropriate times or undergoing a complete personality change when intoxicated, continue reading to learn more about what you should be looking out for if you have concerns about your partner’s drinking habits.

1. They need to drink more alcohol in order to experience the same effects

If your partner drinks excessive amounts of alcohol on a regular basis their body can quickly develop a tolerance to this substance, requiring more alcohol on a more frequent basis in order to experience the same effects. [1]

As a result, many alcoholics may appear to be perfectly sober even after consuming multiple bottles of wine or spirits. This increased tolerance is one of the earlier symptoms of an alcohol addiction and can lead to severe liver damage as the individual continues to increase their alcohol consumption.

2. Their alcohol use is affecting their work, relationships and family life

An addiction to alcohol can bleed into all aspects of an individual’s life, causing problems in a number of key areas.

Your spouse may have received a warning at work for being intoxicated on the job, or even been fired for multiple absences due to their drinking. They may have been arrested for drunk-driving or disorderly behaviour, drained their bank account to fund their addiction or started arguments between friends and family members.

3. They have attempted to reduce or completely stop their alcohol intake but have been unable to

One of the key signs of addiction involves the desire and attempt to stop the substance use or detrimental behaviour but being unable to do so. No matter how hard they try, the cravings become too strong and ultimately overwhelm even the most determined resolutions.

If your partner has expressed that they would like to reduce or completely stop their alcohol intake only to continue drinking to the same or even higher levels, this could indicate that they have a physical or psychological addiction to this substance.

4. They become defensive and angry when confronted about their alcohol use

A person who is addicted to alcohol may feel immense shame and guilt regarding their behaviours around this substance, and will often attempt to hide the extent of their drinking.

As a result, they may respond aggressively when confronted about their alcohol use and defend their behaviour even to the extend of being dishonest and deceitful. This may involve shouting, insulting the other person and even becoming violent in extreme cases.

5. They have a family history of alcohol addiction or dependency

Some studies have shown that addiction can be passed down through generations, so a person with a family history of alcoholism is more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol when compared to someone who does not have this history. [2]

This link extends further than immediate family members such as parents and siblings – even an uncle, aunt or grandparent with an alcohol addiction can increase the chances of alcoholism within the extended family.

6. They drink at inappropriate times

Have you noticed signs that your partner has been drinking early in the morning or late at night before bed? You may be able to smell alcohol on their breath or notice a change in behaviour if you pay close attention.

It is common for alcoholics to drink at inappropriate times, which can cause problems when they are required to attend work, drive a car or be responsible for small children. This is a warning sign that they are struggling to function in everyday life without the presence of alcohol.

7. They become a different person when they drink alcohol

Many people who drink excessively and regularly often appear to undergo a personality change when intoxicated. They may be quiet and reserved when sober only to become loud and exuberant after a few drinks, while kind and gentle people can become aggressive and violent when drunk.

This can come as a surprise to their partner or spouse, who may be unable to recognise this extreme change in behaviour, particularly when the individual does not exhibit any other signs of being intoxicated.

8. They experience withdrawal symptoms

There are certain situations or events in which your partner may not be able to access alcohol, and as a result, they will not be able to consume their usual amount.

If they are physically addicted to this substance, they are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms during this time as their body attempts to rebalance and learn to function with little to no alcohol in their system. [3]

Knowing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can help you to recognise whether your partner requires medical assistance and to understand the extent of their addiction.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Excessive perspiration
  • Noticeable and uncontrollable tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia and nightmares
  • Seizures

If you suspect that your partner is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, particularly if they are attempting to reduce or completely stop their alcohol intake, seek medical assistance immediately. Even the mildest symptoms can quickly become dangerous, and alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening if not properly managed.

How can I help my partner or spouse with their alcohol addiction?

It’s natural that you will want to do anything you can to help your partner recover from alcohol addiction, and there are a number of steps that you can take to show your support and encourage them to seek help.

Simple ways to help your partner with their alcohol addiction include:

  • Raising your concerns in a calm and supportive manner
  • Gathering facts and evidence to back up your claims
  • Arranging a professional intervention to encourage them to seek help
  • Researching rehabilitation facilities and treatment programmes
  • Reducing your own alcohol consumption to show your support

Depending on the extent of their addiction, your partner may require more support than you can give them at home. The most effective method to treat an alcohol addiction involves a rehabilitation centre or treatment programme, which can usually be completed as an inpatient or outpatient.

Many of us know from experience the devastating impact that alcoholism can have on both the affected person and their spouse. Give our team a call today to discuss the options available to you and your partner – it’s never too late to seek help.