Is my dad an alcoholic? 10 signs to look out for and what to do


If you live with an alcoholic parent, sibling, spouse, or someone who struggles with alcohol use disorder, you’ve probably been emotionally, financially, or even physically impacted.

Excessive use of alcohol for a long period of time can develop into Alcohol Use Disorder or Alcoholism.

AUD is characterized by cravings, physical and emotional dependence on alcohol, uncontrollable alcohol use, and negative emotions when not drinking.

1. Symptoms of AUD

Symptoms of AUD include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures.  Sometimes symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.

NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows: For men, consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week.

Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person and depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Number of alcoholic drinks consumed
  • How often alcohol is consumed
  • Age
  • The general state of health
  • Family history

Here are 10 signs to indicate if your parent is an alcoholic.

2. They have mood swings and anger issues 

If someone is honest about a problem existing it may be met with anger or hostility. They may become more defensive and combative toward the people around them, particularly when they’re approached about their drinking. There can be an atmosphere of fear in a home with alcoholism.

3. They prioritize drinking over other activities 

Giving up on interesting, important, or pleasurable activities to drink instead is a sign of alcoholism.

They might also start making excuses for drinking— like blaming drinking on having a stressful job.

4. They show signs of psychological problems 

They might start showing signs of anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings which can all develop when someone is alcohol dependent. This is partly because regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in our brains that are needed for good mental health.

Alcohol abuse can cause signs and symptoms of psychosis, and antisocial behaviour, both during intoxication and during withdrawal.

5. They have no control over alcohol consumption 

They have an attachment to alcohol that has taken over their regular routine. They are aware of the adverse effects, but no longer have control over alcohol consumption. They might even try to stop drinking but not can not manage to do so.

6. They experience withdrawal symptoms 

They start experiencing withdrawal symptoms if alcohol use is stopped suddenly. If they go for a few days not drinking and suffer symptoms such as shakes, sweats, anxiety, and being sick to their stomach, then they are addicted to the substance.

7. They become secretive about drinking 

For most people, drinking alcohol is a social activity. But if a person becomes alcoholic they start to prefer drinking alone and secretly. 

8. Increasing alcohol intake 

Drinking much more to get the same effect or finding the usual number of drinks has become less effective than before.

9. They drink at inappropriate times 

Frequently drinking a larger amount of alcohol at inappropriate times and or for longer periods than intended.

10. Significant weight loss or weight gain

They continue to choose alcohol even at the expense of their health.

Isolating oneself from friends and family as a result of drinking

They face problems at home with family, work, or other commitments as a result of drinking or being sick from drinking but they continue to drink even though it causes issues with loved ones.

To avoid such issues they isolate themselves from family and friends they also fail to fulfill personal obligations and responsibilities because of excessive alcohol consumption.

People who are at higher risk of alcohol use disorder 

There are certain factors that can raise the risk of becoming an alcoholic

  • People with mental health conditions are more likely to be at risk for alcohol use disorder.
  • People having trauma history are also at higher risk for alcoholism than others.
  • Genetics and family history play an important role. If you have a parent or a close relative with alcohol addiction, your risk goes up.
  • Social factors including social and family customs, culture, poor parental support, and peer pressure can play roles in alcohol addiction.

Effects of an alcoholic parent on children and family 

Alcoholism is known as a family disease because it doesn’t just affect the person with the disease, but everyone in a family unit.

  • They are more often “emotionally unavailable” as a result of drinking-related consequences, which include hangovers, irritability, and negative mood states. These effects disrupt healthy emotional development in their children.
  • There is a higher risk of alcohol use or abuse in children with an alcoholic parent.

How to deal with them 

It is extremely painful and challenging to deal with an alcoholic parent. Luckily there are many ways that you can help get them on the road to recovery.

  • Try to have a conversation with them. Try not to initiate the conversation when your parent is intoxicated. During the conversation, emphasize that you’re having this conversation because you’re concerned about their well-being. List behaviors and incidents that you’ve observed and why they concern you.
  • Make it clear that you will not facilitate their drinking in any way.
  • If your parents refuse help then you can turn to friends and family members of your parent as well to see if you can get them to help convince your parent to seek help.
  • If you are in your teens then you might feel you have to be an adult before you are ready, feel scared, alone, or unsafe at home and you might be frustrated when your parent does not change. If you are going through this, tell someone what it's like for you because it can help you cope. For example, a teacher, school counselor, doctor, therapist, or relative and get the support you need and deserve.


If you sense these signs, for your sake and your family's, do reach out for help as alcohol dependence brings a lot of other life-threatening problems with it.

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