“Name your poison” goes a joke that dates back at least to the mid-19th century. It’s a “humorous” way for one adult to offer another an alcoholic drink. However, when it comes to your brain and other organs, alcohol actually is a poison. And alcoholism is no joke.
At The Soho Center for Mental Health our expert counselors help you identify whether you have a healthy relationship to alcohol or not. We also treat substance use disorders, including alcoholism, with individual and group therapy at our offices in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City.
Are you at risk for alcoholism? Following are some of the signs that you may be.
You need alcohol to feel normal
The stress of the pandemic and lockdown increased alcohol use in the United States. However, any kind of chronic stress can trigger an increased dependence on alcohol.
If your go-to method for dealing with stress is to reach for a drink, you are at increased risk for alcoholism. As part of your therapy, we may teach you stress-reduction techniques, including deep breathing and meditation, to help you manage stress without alcohol.
Even though alcohol may make you feel immediately better, it’s a depressant that interferes with the way your body functions. Long-term and chronic use don’t resolve the problems that cause your stress and could create more serious — even life-threatening — problems down the road.
You have trouble remembering
Even small amounts of alcohol can immediately affect how your brain works. Alcohol interferes with the way the nerves cells (i.e., neurons) in your brain communicate with one another, leading to symptoms such as:
- Poor memory
- Slurred speech
- Slow reflexes
Exposing neurons to alcohol over the long term can even kill them, leading to brain shrinkage. There’s even a type of dementia known as alcohol-related dementia, which accounts for 10% of all dementia cases. Alcohol contributes to almost 30% of all types of dementia.
You choose a drink over other obligations or needs
Cognitive effects due to alcohol can be compounded if you aren’t eating a healthy diet. If you find yourself reaching for a drink first thing in the morning, and aren’t eating plenty of fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, your brain and other organs don’t have the support they need to function. One sign of alcoholism is, in fact, rapid, unintended weight loss.
Choosing a drink over other obligations, such as work or family, is another sign of alcoholism. If you find yourself avoiding your normal daily routines, or drinking in secret, give us a call.
You need more and more alcohol
A key sign that your body’s developed tolerance to alcohol and that you’re an alcoholic is that you need more and more alcohol to get the same buzz or relief. Another sign of alcohol dependency is being unable to stop drinking, even after you’ve told yourself you’d only have a single drink.
Your mood and relationships have deteriorated
Alcoholics may experience mood swings, such as feeling depressed, irritable, or even angry. These mood swings affect relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. If you have a problem with alcohol, you may find yourself becoming:
- Unable to sleep
You may also find that it’s hard to concentrate and complete daily tasks, including work-related tasks. You may feel sleepy, groggy, and impaired.
You’re a risky drinker
Taking a drink when you’re about to engage in a high-risk activity puts your own life and the lives of others in danger. If you drink and drive, be sure to contact us right away to minimize your risk for an accident.
Alcoholism is a disease, which takes more than willpower to manage. If you’re an alcoholic, or at danger for becoming one, alcohol has actually changed the structure of your brain so that it craves more alcohol. However, you don’t have to be a victim of your disease. We can help.
To learn more about how to break your dependency on alcohol and find new, healthy ways of managing stress of all kinds, reach out with our online form, or call our friendly staff during office hours to schedule a consultation.
You may also choose teletherapy, which we conduct through confidential and affordable video/phone consultations.