Alcoholism has four stages: pre-alcoholic, warning, critical, and chronic. With each subsequent stage, the symptoms of alcoholism increase and worsen. However, as psychotherapists emphasize, treatment can be started at any stage of addiction development, and it is always possible for the patient to return to complete sobriety. How do we recognize the different stages of alcoholism?
The symptoms characteristic of this stage do not differ significantly from the behavior of people who occasionally drink alcohol. The decisive factor is the person’s attitude towards alcohol and alcoholism in general.
A potential alcoholic, unlike people who are less likely to suffer from the disease, considers drinking to be particularly pleasant and relaxing for him. Therefore, he begins to treat alcohol as a means of improving his mood – he reaches for it whenever he is in a bad mood, depressed, or upset.
At this stage, he does not drink alone, but subconsciously seeks opportunities – often attending parties and social gatherings where he can drink.
The warning stage begins with the appearance of the first “blackout” or gap in memory. This moment is commonly referred to as a “movie breakthrough” – the person remains conscious (does not lose consciousness), and yet does not remember what happened to him after drinking.
This stage is characterized by the repetition of blackouts even after drinking a relatively small amount of alcohol. In addition, several characteristic behavioral manifestations can be observed in a person at risk of alcoholism:
- acceleration of drinking pace
- a significant change in behavior after drinking – a person who was quiet before suddenly talks a lot, becomes bolder, loses inhibitions;
- drinking in secret
- without occasion, in seclusion.
This phase is also characterized by expressions of regret. The potential alcoholic begins to realize that he or she is drinking too much, but at this stage, he or she is not yet aware that there is a problem with alcohol.
The critical phase of alcoholism begins when the alcoholic loses control over drinking. The entire life of the dependent person begins to revolve around alcohol – his or her main activity is planning when to drink, purchasing alcohol, or collecting funds for this purpose.
The alcoholic neglects his or her family and work, loses interests, stops caring about his or her appearance and surroundings, but does not realize that this is alcoholism. His or her sex appeal decreases. At the same time, he or she still cannot admit that there is a problem with alcohol – constantly finding new excuses and reacting aggressively to criticism. This phase is also characterized by a sharp decrease in self-esteem, a feeling of emptiness and helplessness.
It is the most advanced stage of alcoholism, in which the alcoholic gets rid of all the guilt and inhibitions. He or she drinks almost constantly, and in the morning, he or she takes his or her first dose of alcohol. He or she is constantly drunk, his or her alcohol tolerance decreases sharply – only a few glasses are enough to become completely drunk.
The constantly high level of ethanol in the blood has a very negative impact on his or her health: there is a decrease in intellectual functions, a slowdown in psychomotor activity, a disorder of sexual appetite, changes in character, and damage to the liver and nervous system.
Every attempt to break free from alcohol activity ends with a severe withdrawal syndrome – hand tremors, headaches, general weakness, vomiting, sleep disturbances, or anxiety. Chronic alcoholic psychosis can develop.