Recognising the signs you might have a drinking problem

There has been a lot of discussion around the subject of the 'demon booze' in the media, but also in the therapy room, too. From celebrity chat show hosts to stand-up comics, it seems that everyone has a view, including my barber who only last week was telling me about the virtues of red wine. It’s great that the subject is being discussed. It must be topical, but as a therapist and addiction counsellor I’m only too aware that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and that misinformation is easy to find.


Here are some signs that suggest you may wish to rethink your drinking habits and consider some professional support.

Recognising the warning signals

It can be a delicate balance to determine when your alcohol consumption crosses into problematic territory. Here, I outline signs that could indicate you’re drinking too much and potentially developing a dependency.

Alterations in behaviour often accompany alcohol consumption, but some behavioural shifts may signal deeper concerns:

Concerns voiced by loved ones

If friends, family, or close associates express worry about your drinking habits, it might be a sign of an emerging problem. Alternatively, if you’ve noticed a friend grappling with excessive drinking, there’s plenty you can do to offer support.

Using alcohol to cope

Relying on alcohol to alleviate stress or elevate your mood can lead to a downward spiral. Alcohol’s depressant nature may worsen your mood once its initial effects fade. Frequent use in this manner could be a red flag.

Secrecy and concealment

Concealing or downplaying your alcohol consumption, even to those close to you, suggests a potential issue. If you’ve found yourself hiding bottles or cans, you might be acknowledging your overindulgence.

Impact on work and relationships

When excessive drinking spills over into your professional life and relationships, it’s time to take note. Lateness at work or conflicts at home might signify a brewing problem.

Failed attempts to cut down

Unsuccessful attempts at reducing your alcohol intake could signify the magnitude of your issue. While there are various strategies to lessen consumption, repeated failures could be telling.

Solo binge drinking

Enjoying alcohol alone or excessively outside social contexts may point to problematic behaviour.

Alcohol-centric lifestyle

If alcohol becomes central to your socialising or daily routine, it’s worth evaluating. A dependency might be developing if you struggle to function or socialise without it.

Positive screening test results

Sometimes, it’s challenging to recognise these changes in ourselves. Screening tools such as the alcohol use disorder test (AUDIT) can provide an objective assessment of your relationship with alcohol.

Physical and psychological symptoms

Problematic drinking can manifest as both behavioural and physical/psychological symptoms:

Physical symptoms:

  • frequent headaches
  • disrupted sleep patterns
  • excessive sweating without physical exertion

Psychological symptoms:

  • mental health challenges like depression and anxiety
  • heightened irritability and agitation
  • confusion

These symptoms may arise during or after heavy drinking or as part of alcohol withdrawal if you attempt to cut back.

If you’ve identified with any of these signs, it’s crucial to seek support and guidance. Recognising a potential issue is the first step towards a healthier relationship with alcohol. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness!

How can person-centred counselling help?

Unlike directive approaches, a person-centred counsellor can work with you to achieve your desired outcomes. This type of counselling is client-led and non-directive, which means you work at your pace and decide the direction you wish to head in. This might be recognising the need for a harm-reduction strategy, exploring why your drinking has become problematic or deciding on total abstinence.

Addiction can often begin as a coping strategy to deal with life events – from anxiety and trauma through to bereavement and stress in the workplace. Counselling can help you to address underlying psychological problems and help you to explore the root causes in a safe and confidential space and not sitting in the barber’s chair.

Is it time for you to rethink your drink? If so, you won’t be alone. According to the NHS, over 3% of women and a staggering 9% of men have a dependency on alcohol. Perhaps it’s time to focus on the new pandemic in our midst.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Southampton, Hampshire, SO31 4HJ
Written by Grant Woodall, DipHE Person Centred Counselling and Psychotherapy. (MBACP)
Southampton, Hampshire, SO31 4HJ

Hello, I'm Woody — a Person-Centred Counsellor and Psychotherapist with a passion for mental health and well-being. Over the last 50 years, I've worn many hats—a Dad, Husband, ex 'Corporate Suit,' Mature Student, Camper Van enthusiast and I've even worked in a Prison. These diverse exper...

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