10 Signs You're Dating an Alcoholic

There can also be early signs that someone will become an alcoholic

The experts say that alcoholism is a progressive disease. When someone with an alcohol use disorder continues to drink, the symptoms become more apparent and more numerous, until it is finally obvious to almost everyone that they have a drinking problem.

It is easy to recognize the homeless person in the gutter, or the wino on the street begging for change to buy a bottle, as alcoholics. But, they did not always display all the obvious symptoms. They were alcoholics long before they lost everything and ended up in the street. Their drinking problems developed over a long period of time. They did not wake up one day and suddenly "become" an alcoholic.

What that means, however, is it's not so obvious in the early stages of the disease.  In the early stages of alcoholism, it is not always apparent that the person has a drinking problem, but there can be some tell-tale signs.

You may know someone or be dating someone who is in the beginning stages of alcoholism. Something tells you that they may have a problem with alcohol, but there is nothing that you can really put your finger on, because the person is currently exhibiting few of the recognized symptoms of an alcohol use disorder.

So, how can you tell if someone you are dating is an alcoholic? Here are some things to look for.

His Entire Social Life Revolves Around Alcohol

Beer bottles at bar

He only attends events where alcohol is available or allowed. He hangs out with others who drink, and shuns those who do not. He won't go to a Little League game, but he will definitely go to a college game where there will be tailgating. He may take you to an occasional movie, but he can't wait to get out of there and go to a bar.

She Drinks to 'Relieve Stress'

Depressed Woman With Wine
Drinking to Cope With Life. © Getty Images

She drinks when she's happy, and when she's mad. She drinks when she celebrating (and she will celebrate anything!), and drinks when she's depressed. She uses alcohol to cope with life, whether life brings ups or downs. For her, alcohol is a crutch. She relies on it to deal with her emotions. Alcohol simply means more to her than it does other people.

He Doesn't Seem to Be Intoxicated

Couple Drinking Wine
You Can Build Up a Tolerance to Alcohol. © Getty Images

He can "hold his liquor." He can have several drinks and not exhibit any signs of being intoxicated. He has developed a tolerance for alcohol, which means it takes more alcohol to make him feel the way one or two drinks used to make him feel. If you try to drink along with him, you will feel the effects long before he even thinks about slowing down.

Her Personality Changes When She's Drinking

Woman With Wine Glass
Alcohol Can Change Some Drinkers' Personalities. © Getty Images

Although she may not appear intoxicated after a few drinks, her mood or personality may change. She may go from being a kind, sweet person to being mean and verbally abusive after just a couple of drinks. Or, she could change from being shy and quiet, to being loud and aggressive. Or, she could become overly emotional while she is drinking, when sober she rarely expresses any emotions.

He Gets Irritable When Not Drinking

Frustrated Couple Sitting on Couch
Irritation Can Be a Sign of Alcohol Withdrawal. © Getty Images

He's fine when he has a drink in his hand, but if he's in a situation in which he cannot drink for any significant period of time, he can become irritable. He may become angry with the slightest provocation, or no provocation at all. When he's sober he becomes more unpredictable and difficult to communicate with.

She Drinks When She Did Not Plan To

Woman Thinking About Drinking
Alcoholics Can't Control How Much They Drink. © Getty Images

She may say that she is not going to drink today, but as soon as she gets around others who are drinking, she changes her mind. Or, she may tell you that she is only going to drink one or two, but ends up having much more. She may start out not drinking during the evening, but soon creates a situation - like starting an argument—that gives her an "excuse" to start drinking.

He Doesn't Stick to One Brand

Liquor Shelf
Alcoholics Will Drink Anything. © Getty Images

Most social drinkers have a type of alcohol or a brand that they prefer and they stick to drinking their preferred beverage. If their brand in unavailable, they will simply decline to drink. Alcoholics will drink whatever they can get their hands on. When they have plenty of money, they may drink the finer spirits, but if they are low on money, they will drink the cheapest beer. The type and brands may change, but the drinking will not stop.

Drinking Has Caused Problems in Her Life

Woman in Handcuffs
Drinking In Spite of Problems Is a Symptom. © Getty Images

She may have lost a job over missing work due to her drinking habits. Or, she may have had trouble with the law while drinking. Many people whose drinking has caused them problems, or who have simply embarrassed themselves while intoxicated, will simply swear off and never drink again. But, she continues to drink in spite of the continued problems.

He Always Finds a Way to Obtain Alcohol

Man Buying Cheap Beer
Alcoholics Find a Way to Drink. © Getty Images

He may not have enough money to take you out, but he's always got enough to buy alcohol. He may even put off buying something he needs for himself if it means he can't buy his alcohol also. He'll put off other financial obligations, to make sure he can get alcohol. If he's out of money entirely, he'll go to a friend's house and drink their booze.

She Has a Family History of Alcoholism

Elderly Man Drinking Whisky
A Family History Is a Risk Factor. © Getty Images

Those who have a family history of alcoholism have a much higher risk of becoming alcoholics, compared to the general population. Get to know her family. If she has any blood relatives—parents, siblings, aunts or uncles—who have drinking problems, and she is beginning to show signs of developing alcohol use disorders, it could be a sign she "will become" an alcoholic herself.

Sound Familiar?

If any of this sounds familiar, the person you know just might be a budding alcoholic. You may want to find out more about what it is like to have a loved one who is an alcoholic.

You may also want to find out more about what you can and cannot do to help an alcoholic, and find out if anything that you are currently doing might be enabling the alcoholic to continue their downward spiral.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol Use Disorder." Alcohol & Your Health Accessed 2016.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5." NIH Publication No. 13–7999. November 2013.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol and Tolerance." Alcohol Alert April 1995.

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