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When social drinking becomes a problem

Society has normalised drinking to the extent that many of us don’t see going out and drinking heavily as a problem. We are so used to images of people falling out of pubs and clubs that we don’t bat an eyelid when we see it, with some even setting out to get this drunk.

While over-indulging occasionally isn’t necessarily a sign of alcoholism, ‘social drinking’ can be more problematic than we realise. It’s not just our physical health that suffers. Regular and excessive alcohol consumption can have a profound effect on our mental health.

When drinking becomes something to worry about

When society normalises, encourages and even promotes heavy drinking, how do you know when your drinking habits are becoming harmful?

  • You don’t know when to stop - Going out for a few drinks with friends is more often than not, perfectly harmless. If it’s always you who wants to keep the party going, tries to get people to stay out, or continues drinking on your own or with strangers, this is a sign of a problem.

  • You get very drunk on a regular basis - If nights where you’re simply ‘letting off steam’ become frequent, it may be time to re-assess your drinking habits.

  • You worry about how much alcohol there will be - Just like a smoker panics when their pack is running low and they can’t get to a shop, someone with a drink problem will worry about their alcohol supply. If your primary concern is whether or not there will be enough to drink at social gatherings, it may be a sign of obsessive thinking about alcohol.

  • Negative consequences don’t matter to you - If you continue to drink despite other areas of your life starting to suffer as a result, it may be time to cut down. Whether it is becoming involved in fights, injuring yourself, throwing up or having no recollection of the evening, this behaviour has a knock-on effect. Other aspects of your life may suffer too. You may be too hungover to go to work or look after your children, and relationships may start to suffer if your partner expresses concern or angst about your drinking habits.

  • People have expressed concern - If you’re regularly behaving in a way that’s making your friends, family, partner or colleagues worry about your drinking and they’ve reached the point where they’ve taken you aside to talk to you about it, it’s wise to listen to them. The people closest to us are usually the first to express concern and notice when something is getting out of hand..

  • You’re either drunk or hungover - If you’ve become known as the ‘crazy’ friend in your group who people can always count on to be up for a night out, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. You may be telling yourself it’s because you’re sociable or have a lot of friends and you can therefore justify being out all the time, but this could be masking a serious problem.

  • Your tolerance levels are increasing - If you’ve noticed that you need to consume more alcohol in order to get the same effect from it that you used to, this could be a sign that you’re drinking too much.

  • Alcohol is affecting your mental health - Too much alcohol can leave you feeling depressed. Perhaps you feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking, or you’re anxious about lying to people about your habits and thinking about when you can get your next drink.

  • You experience withdrawal symptoms - If you’ve noticed that when you stop drinking you experience symptoms such as shaking, sweating, hallucinations and an overwhelming desire to drink, this is called withdrawal and is symptomatic of a larger problem.
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