The Stages of Alcoholism

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is a disease that develops gradually and progresses over time. Slowly, it takes over the person’s life – from their health to their finances, relationships, and mental health.

While the progression of alcoholism may not be easily visible, some clear warning signs can be identified at each stage.

Stage #1: Denial

The first stage of alcoholism is often characterized by a denial of the problem along with the following symptoms –

  • an occasional drink to relieve stress or other problems
  • slowly a rise in drinking frequency and tolerance
  • thoughts start getting focused on alcohol consumption
  • rationalization of alcohol abuse
  • most people around the person are not aware of the drinking problem

An early warning sign of alcoholism is using alcohol to cope with stressors like relationship issues, daily stress etc.

Stage #2: Loss of Control

The next stage of alcoholism is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • intense desire to drink
  • alcohol-induced blackouts
  • severe withdrawal symptoms if the person doesn’t drink
  • loss of control over drinking
  • people around the individual can see his/her drinking problem
  • hiding drinking and its evidence from others
  • increase in relationship issues
  • social isolation

During this stage, the person starts becoming more accustomed to drinking larger amounts of alcohol without many effects showing. S/he can still function well despite heavy drinking. They become more focused on obtaining the next drink. Soon it is all they can think about.

Blackouts due to alcohol consumption become common and may even result in significant time loss, up to an entire day. During the blackout, the person may fail to remember where s/he went, what they did, or who they were with. This can result in hazardous physical and mental consequences.

Stage #3: Physical and Emotional Deterioration

The final stage of alcoholism is the most severe and consists of –

  • drinking obsession
  • can’t function without alcohol
  • Loss of interests in anything else
  • Depression, anxiety, insomnia
  • financial, legal, and relationship issues become worse
  • serious health problems

In this stage, the person now has a full-blown alcohol addiction. The person has become completely obsessed with drinking and thinking about the next drink.

To ensure complete recovery, a long-term alcohol treatment program is essential. Leading rehabs offer individualized treatment programs so that the individual can learn to overcome psychological, behavioral and emotional issues.

If you or a loved one is going through one of these three stages of alcoholism, don’t delay getting treatment.

Skip to content