30 Signs You May Have a Problem With Alcohol

Alcohol to most is rarely truly considered a drug – just a drink. We think that because society and the alcohol industry sell us that very concept. They sell us the highs but not the lows and realities of alcohol use. The truth is that alcohol is a drug and an addictive and harmful one for many when consumed regularly. This short article shines some light on how you may have been conditioned to drink alcohol and helps you understand and identify if you may have developed a problem or dependency on alcohol.

Are we conditioned to drink alcohol in Ireland? Absolutely.

In Irish society, alcohol use is commonplace, sure isn’t it part of our culture and how we are portrayed around the world? Alcohol plays a role in socialising, celebrations, sporting events, family gatherings, travelling, births, deaths and let’s be honest – many life events. There is a pub on every village corner and an alcohol aisle in most stores and stations around the country. When you go to a restaurant we are politely asked ‘Would you like to see the drinks menu? Supermarkets encourage us to buy 6 bottles of beer and wine instead of one – because it’s cheaper. Sporting events push alcohol sales for profit. We believe it’s part of the atmosphere, the buzz, it comes with the love of the sport. Alcohol is available on trains, planes and even in garden centre restaurants and cinemas.

When drinking becomes your norm, it does not mean it is normal or healthy. When it becomes your norm, it is harder to see the problem with it and how it is affecting you in reality. Our brains filter out all the red flags of problem drinking because we do not want to acknowledge them.

We have been conditioned to accept alcohol as the norm without questioning it for ourselves. It is not surprising that many Irish people at some stage in their life may begin to struggle with alcohol use. If this sounds like it could be you, then keep reading and let’s find out.

My point is that alcohol use and drinking are normalised, encouraged and promoted all around us and we don’t even notice. Typically we begin drinking because it’s the norm, our parents, grandparents, peers, partners or family drink. And, as a result, we begin drinking in our teens or twenties long before our brains are fully developed enough to make conscious, mature and informed decisions about using alcohol. For others, unwanted or excessive drinking may begin later in life, brought on by stressful events, parenting, trauma, health conditions, life changes or transition periods.

In my practice, almost the same amount of clients come to therapy to discuss their concerns about how to better manage a partner or parent who has a drink problem as those who come for counselling for help about alcohol use. Alcohol use disorder effects the whole family system not just the drinker. In fact, the problem drinker is usually last to realise the impact their drinking has on themselves and others.’

Positive trends continue to happen in Ireland towards reducing and cutting out alcohol from the diet, going 0.0% and sober curiosity. Both women and men are evaluating their use of alcohol and the impact on their overall quality of life, health, fitness, diet, bank balance, family life and importantly life longevity. Questioning the status quo has many benefits! It is a positive thing to begin to make conscious informed educated choices and decisions about the role of alcohol in your life. The first step begins with understanding where you are at right now in your relationship with alcohol.

Low-risk alcohol use guidelines in Ireland

The terms alcoholic and alcoholism are lesser used in the medical field. As an Addiction counsellor for over a decade, I know these words are what prevent many people from seeking help in case they become labelled ‘an alcoholic’ or ‘a drunk.’

Today unwanted, harmful and problematic alcohol use is evaluated and assessed using the term and assessment criteria for ‘Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)’. There are a number of questions that help evaluate the level of alcohol use disorder on a scale and the best course of treatment going forward. It is called the AUDIT screening tool. The below 30 signs of problem alcohol use include 10 of these questions found in the AUD questionnaire. You can find lots of information and research about alcohol on the World Health Organisation and helpful tools and resources on the Irish drinkaware.ie website.

Alcohol is a drug toxic which causes harm to the body and inhibits the body’s healthy functioning. It leads to over 200 diseases including cancer and as a result there are no zero-risk guidelines, only low-risk guidelines for consumption. One pint of beer or glass of wine is fact more than one standard unit. One pint is two units and one large glass of wine could be more than 2 units.

Wine is a popular and cheap drink of choice amongst Irish women. Did you know that a standard bottle of red wine (13.5%) is 10 units? Take some time to identify what you drink and how many units you are consuming each week and in a month over the past 6 months. The drinkaware website has a handy calculator you could use.

If you are consuming more than 11 units for a woman and 17 for a man per 7-day period you are over the low-risk guidelines and harming your physical health and are at risk of developing harmful alcohol use, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder. A binge drinker can easily consume the full 11/17 units in one session. In Ireland, over 350,000 men and women (approx 8.5% of the population) are believed to have an alcohol use disorder. Want to learn more? Take a read of the latest statistics about alcohol consumption in Ireland.


There are many signs of problem drinking, alcohol misuse and alcohol abuse. Some of these may be obvious to you while others may be more obvious to close family and friends. Often as regular drinkers we can not see what is right in front of us – but our loved ones can. It’s more complex than that of course! Our brains have a way of filtering out thoughts and feelings that make us feel uncomfortable, so we ignore over and over again all the signs of problem drinking. While under the influence of alcohol and during recovery the next day, your brain does not have the capacity to effectively process the harm either.

When drinking becomes your norm, it does not mean it is normal or healthy – making it even harder to see the problem with it and how it is affecting you in reality. Our brains filter out all the constant red flags of problem drinking because we do not want to acknowledge them. We know ourselves better than anyone right? Wrong. When it comes to alcohol and substance use and abuse, we fail to see the signs ourselves over time. As a simple rule of thumb, if you are consuming alcohol it is important to keep checking your consumption against the low-risk guidelines regularly.


Take a read of these 30 common signs you may have a problem with alcohol which I have compiled. This is far from an exhaustive list, there are many more. If you can identify and agree to one or more of these signs of problem alcohol use then you may have a problem with alcohol. You can benefit from seeking help to understand how to address drinking in your life and begin to make positive changes and informed decisions.

  1. You consume alcohol between 2 to 7 days a week.
  2. You often drink every day of the week without a 2-day break.
  3. You drink 5 or more drinks/units regularly each week, daily or almost daily.
  4. You find it hard to stop drinking once you start weekly, daily or almost daily.
  5. You have failed to do what is expected or needed of you because of drinking regularly.
  6. You have begun to drink alone often.
  7. You have had feelings of guilt, regret and remorse after drinking.
  8. You have been unable to remember what happened the night before when drinking often.
  9. You or someone else has been injured physically or mentally from your drinking.
  10. A partner, friend, professional or someone in your life has been concerned about your drinking and suggested you cut down or seek help in the past year.
  11. You are contemplating that your alcohol use is unhealthy for you or your family.
  12. You are drinking more than the low-risk guidelines regularly.
  13. You are neglecting those you love because of your alcohol use.
  14. You feel dependent on drinking to get through the week.
  15. You are using alcohol to help you sleep, reduce anxiety, and cope better with stressors in your life.
  16. You are secretive and hiding your drinking from a partner, others and family members.
  17. You regularly feel hungover and feel stuck in a cycle of alcohol use.
  18. Your alcohol use leads to unwanted behaviours or substance use.
  19. You get angry, wreckless, abusive, violent or wreckless when drinking.
  20. You refuse to listen or accept what your family, children or friends are telling you about the impact of your drinking on them.
  21. You find you are always normalising your drinking.
  22. You often feel your life would be different if you did not drink.
  23. You minimise your drinking or tell lies about how much you drink.
  24. You do not like the person you become when you are drinking
  25. Your alcohol use regularly leads to arguments, fights and upset in your relationship.
  26. You refuse to discuss a partner or family member’s concerns about your alcohol use.
  27. You allocate or prioritise money each week for drinking and neglect funds for healthcare, food, bills, childcare etc.
  28. Your alcohol use is harming your health, diet, nutrition, sleep quality, emotional and mental health.
  29. You believe life without alcohol would be pointless, impossible or unachievable.
  30. You have tried to cut down or stop your drinking in the past but failed.

What to do next if you think you have a problem with alcohol

If you can identify and agree with one or more of the above signs in the past twelve months its time to understand where you are at right now. There are lots of options and positive steps you can take next to address unwanted and problematic alcohol use. Talking helps. Understanding more about what you are experiencing helps. Getting support helps. Talking to your GP helps. Reducing alcohol intake to the low-risk guidelines is a big step. Talking to an addiction counsellor helps. Learning more about how alcohol affects your brain and body helps. To book an appointment with me today click here.

You might be interested in listening to my podcast with Jessica Cooke about breaking free from unwanted behaviour and alcohol on the Jessica Cooke Podcast.

Talking to a partner or close family member helps. Finding out what resources and supports are available in your community helps. Taking a read of the DayOne recovery series blog may help. Self-help alcohol recovery groups help. Seeking out help and guidance from others helps. For those with alcohol dependency inpatient and outpatient treatment, support and medical healthcare help.

If you want to talk about any concerns about your relationship with alcohol let’s talk in confidence and with compassion and find out what the next best steps are for you right now. As an IACP-accredited addiction psychotherapist and recovery coach I can bring you and your partner through those next steps with direction, reassurance and professional clinical support or help you both to identify the best options for rehabilitation treatment in Ireland if necessary.

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit www.orlaghreid.ie

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

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