Alcoholism signs and symptoms include those below. You may:

  • Be unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Feel a strong need or compulsion to drink
  • Develop tolerance to alcohol so that you need more to feel its effects
  • Drink alone or hide your drinking
  • Experience physical withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don't drink
  • Not remember conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as a "black out"
  • Make a ritual of having drinks at certain times and become annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned
  • Be irritable when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn't available
  • Keep alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in your car
  • Gulp drinks, order doubles or become drunk intentionally to feel good, or drink to feel "normal"
  • Have legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances due to drinking
  • Lose interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring you pleasure

If you binge drink or have other problems with alcohol, you may have many of the signs and symptoms above, although you may not feel as much of a compulsion to drink compared with someone who has alcoholism. Also, you may not have physical withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink. But this pattern of drinking can still cause serious problems and lead to alcoholism. As with alcoholism, you may not be able to quit problem drinking without help.

What is considered one drink?

One standard drink is:

  • 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol)
  • 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (about 7 percent alcohol)
  • 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine (about 12 percent alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40 percent alcohol)

What about my drinking?

If you've ever wondered whether your drinking crosses the line into problem drinking or alcoholism, ask yourself these questions:

  • If you're a man, do you ever have five or more drinks in a day?
  • If you're a woman, do you ever have four or more drinks in a day?
  • Do you ever need a drink to get you started in the morning?
  • Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
  • Do you think you need to cut back on how much you drink?
  • Are you annoyed when other people comment on or criticize your drinking habits?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may have a problem with alcohol.

When to see a doctor

If you feel that you sometimes drink too much or your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your doctor. See your doctor even if you don't think you have alcoholism, but you're concerned about your drinking or it's causing problems in your life. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health provider or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Because denial is common, you may not feel like you have a problem with drinking or that you need help to stop. You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Listen to family members, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help.

Dec. 05, 2014

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