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Am I Drinking Too Much? When Pleasure Becomes Problematic

Presented by BetterHelp

Drinking Too Much alcohol

In social interactions, the consumption of alcohol can feel pleasurable to many people. Drinking is a common communal activity. However, what happens when the line between enjoyment and potential harm becomes blurred? 

Many people come to a point in their lives where they question why they turn to alcohol. They may begin examining the signs that their drinking may be problematic. This could lead them to explore the options available for support or treatment.

It’s often healthy self-exploration to question your behaviors. Curiosity can birth growth and sometimes lead to better health.

If you’re wondering if your drinking is a little excessive, here are some things to consider.

Why Do We Drink:

Humans are social creatures and most people seek out opportunities to combat loneliness through social interaction. Most people have probably heard the age-old advice to never drink alone. But what if most of your drinking is social? Could it still be a problem?

who do we drink

For many, the act of drinking may relate to pleasure and relaxation. Alcohol has the ability to induce euphoria and temporarily alleviate stress, as highlighted in a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Social dynamics also play a significant role, with individuals using alcohol to navigate social situations and potentially alleviate social anxiety. 

Specifically, peer pressure can be a factor. This type of social pressure is complex and can have a huge impact on our behavior. 

Other people may find that they drink because they simply enjoy the taste. Maybe you love craft beer. You may be a wine aficionado. 

These all may seem like reasonable reasons to enjoy a drink or two and they certainly could be fine. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re drinking in a healthy way.

The reason behind alcohol consumption doesn’t have to be problematic. However, you may still be wondering if you’re drinking excessively if you are covering up underlying challenges with alcohol, or if drinking impacts your life negatively.

How Do You Know If Drinking Is A Problem?

Recognizing when drinking becomes problematic is crucial. 

If you relate to any of the following concerns, it may be time to think about your relationship with alcohol.

You Think You’re Binge Drinking

Of course, alcohol is a drug and overdose is a potential concern. Some people may worry about binge drinking. The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women and 5 or more for men. There are a few potential concerns about binge drinking, including alcohol overdose.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides valuable insights into understanding the dangers of alcohol overdose. Knowing the signs of excessive drinking and the potential risks associated can be a vital first step in evaluating one’s relationship with alcohol. 

An overdose can cause acute medical problems that include impaired brain function. This impairment could result in life-threatening consequences.

If you think you may be binge drinking, you may want to explore your relationship with alcohol.

You’re Concerned About Your Alcohol Use

According to the NHS, if you worry you may be drinking too much, it’s worth exploring. The website cites this self-examination as a potential sign of overconsumption.

To evaluate this, it may be helpful to keep a journal of your alcohol use or monitor your thoughts in a kind way. How often are you drinking and how often are you thinking about alcohol?

tracking alcohol consumption

You Experience Criticism From Others

Another sign of alcohol misuse from the NHS is feedback from others. If your friends and family seem concerned about your drinking, they could have a point. 

Do you feel their concerns are valid?

Guilt Creeps In

The NHS also cites guilt as a potential concern when evaluating your alcohol use. Do you feel guilty over the amount you drink? 

Do you sometimes do things while intoxicated that trouble you once sober?

Difficulty remembering your actions after drinking could also cause guilt. Additionally, failing to meet obligations could show that alcohol interferes with your life.

You’re Drinking In The Morning Or As A Remedy

We’ve all heard that a little ‘hair of the dog’ can cure a hangover. However, drinking first thing in the morning as a remedy may be problematic. 

Do you feel in control of your alcohol use?

Any of these thoughts and behaviors could signify a need for change. But, what kind of change?

Treatment Or Moderation?

Determining whether you need substance misuse therapy or alternative support is a nuanced process. It involves distinguishing between excess drinking and alcoholism. 

Therapy is a potential avenue for both. But, getting clear about your relationship with alcohol may guide your successful journey. 

Addiction treatment, as explored in a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, may involve various approaches and interventions. Each treatment provider will have their own approach, but you may experience any form of the following:

  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy, 
  • Supportive Expressive Psychotherapy, 
  • Community Reinforcement Approach, 
  • Matrix model, and 
  • Voucher-based reinforcement therapy.

These treatments may or may not go hand in hand with medications and other forms of psychotherapy.

On the other hand, if you aren’t sure your alcohol use rises to the level of misuse, there are other options. You may be able to seek conventional therapy to discover what lies beneath your drinking. 

Perhaps you experience social anxiety, feel overwhelmed, or lack impulse control. In these cases, it’s possible that excessive drinking could be the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

Most credible, professional therapists can help you determine what’s going on. It can be helpful to have a partner in exploring your wellness.

therapy for alcohol addiction
Roads To Additional Support

Whether you’re addicted to alcohol or something else is at play, additional support may help. Uncovering any underlying issues can be instrumental to your overall health or recovery. 

Even if one identifies more with excess drinking than actual alcoholism, seeking therapy for things like social anxiety can address triggers and offer coping skills. This type of treatment may make abstinence more manageable. 

Online therapy providers like BetterHelp pairs therapists with individuals living with social anxiety. For many, this is a convenient way to seek treatment. Because it’s easy to get started, a few sessions with a therapist could help bring clarity to your situation. From there, you can decide if actual alcohol addiction treatment is the next step. 

What To Do If This Hits Close To Home

Understanding the potential risks of drinking, recognizing signs of problematic consumption, and considering available treatment options are essential steps for individuals questioning their relationship with alcohol. 

Seeking support, whether through therapy or other avenues, can be a proactive step towards a healthier and more balanced life.

By Melissa L. Walker, Guest Post Writer for BetterHelp.com

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