Alcoholic Symptoms: Signs of an Alcoholic

Get trusted info on alcoholic symptoms and alcoholic signs. Includes detailed info on mental, physical, behavioral signs of an alcoholic at home and work.

Unfortunately, many people are unable to see the alcoholic symptoms within themselves and so the people around them must watch for the signs of an alcoholic. Alcoholic symptoms can typically be seen throughout the alcoholic's life such as at work, at school and with family. Those around the alcoholic may be reluctant to admit to the alcoholic signs and often make excuses for the alcoholic so they don't have to face the reality that their loved one is showing the symptoms of an alcoholic and likely has a problem.viii

Alcoholic Symptoms - Behavioral Signs of an Alcoholic

Behavioral signs of an alcohol addict can be some of the easiest to notice but unfortunately also may cause some of the most damage to those around the alcoholic. Behavioral signs of an alcoholic may be seen by friends, family or even coworkers of the alcoholic.

Behavioral signs of an alcoholic include:

  • Has legal trouble such as DUI, domestic abuse or assault
  • Arrives for appointments, interviews, or meetings intoxicated, or misses them altogether
  • Frequently goes "on and off-the-wagon"
  • Behaves in an uncharacteristic, impulsive, or inappropriate manner
  • Is increasingly angry or defiant
  • Overreacts to ordinary circumstances and problems, advice and criticism
  • Is uncharacteristically isolated and withdrawn
  • Denies, lies, covers up or is secretive about behaviors and whereabouts
  • Loses interest in hobbies and activities
  • Takes unnecessary risks or acts in a reckless manner
  • Has increasing financial problems (may borrow or steal from family and friends)

Alcoholic Symptoms - Mental Signs of an Alcoholic

Mental signs of an alcoholic can be more difficult to spot and are often noticed by those who live with the alcoholic. Mental symptoms of an alcoholic often indicate a severe worsening of the disease and should not be ignored.

Mental alcoholic signs include:

  • Has difficulty concentrating, focusing, or attending to a task, needs help to complete a task
  • Frequently appears distracted or disoriented
  • Makes inappropriate or unreasonable choices
  • Has difficulty making decisions
  • Experiences short-term memory loss or blacks out (read: effects of alcohol on the brain)
  • Often needs directions repeated
  • Has difficulty recalling known details
  • Is depressed or irritable (read: alcoholism and depression)

Alcoholic Symptoms - Physical Signs of an Alcoholic

Physical signs of an alcoholic are more difficult to pick up on then the behavioral signs of an alcoholic but once educated, alcoholic symptoms can be seen. Physical signs of an alcoholic are generally either caused by the drinking itself or by the withdrawal when the alcoholic is not drinking. (See physical effects of alcohol)

Physical symptoms of an alcoholic include:

  • Smell of alcohol on breath
  • Slurs speech or stutters, is incoherent, speaks slowly
  • Has difficulty maintaining eye contact
  • Has tremors (shaking or twitching of hands and eyelids)
  • Appears lethargic or falls asleep easily
  • Experiences sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia, chronic fatigue)
  • Exhibits deteriorating personal hygiene, grooming, and posture
  • Exhibits impaired coordination or unsteady gait (e.g., staggering, off balance)
  • Has frequent injuries or bruises without reasonable explanations
  • Has chronic illnesses requiring doctors visits or hospitalization
  • Experiences wide mood swings (highs and lows)
  • Experiences general change in mood toward a more depressed and negative or critical outlook
  • Panic attacks

Alcoholic Symptoms - Signs of an Alcoholic on the Job

Just as alcoholic symptoms affect home and personal life, signs of an alcoholic are also seen on the job. Family members may not be made aware of job performance issues before it's too late, but co-workers who are friends of the alcoholic can notice the signs of an alcoholic and possibly turn to the family or alcoholic themselves.

Signs of an alcoholic at work include:

  • Makes frequent performance mistakes
  • Gives questionable excuses or blames others for poor performance
  • Has difficulty adhering to schedules
  • Misses meetings and scheduled activities, is frequently late
  • Lodges numerous complaints or grievances
  • Uses excessive sick leave with poor excuses
  • Takes long lunch hours and breaks
  • Returns to work after breaks in a noticeably changed condition
  • Avoids supervisors and coworkers
  • Violates company policies and procedures

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). Alcoholic Symptoms: Signs of an Alcoholic, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: December 29, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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