Woman hold a glass thinking about alcohol abuse and alcohol rehab

Surprising Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Others

When you think of alcohol abuse, what comes to mind? Your understanding of alcoholism might miss people who hide their harmful alcohol use. A person you know could be hiding their alcoholism in plain sight. Many people with alcoholism have jobs and parenting responsibilities. They take part in society and may include people you would not guess. 


Here we’ll review some of the signs of alcoholism you might miss and how to support someone in recovery.


Alcoholism isn’t always obvious

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are disordered ways of using alcohol. However, several people can fit the criteria and have lives that look very different from each other. Because alcoholism involves shame and guilt, many hide their use and the consequences. The UC San Diego Health Library notes that a person with a good job and a nice-looking family may fly under the radar.


Part of the disorder is being dishonest with oneself. A person hiding their alcohol use from others may also try to hide the truth from themselves. They may convince themselves that their harmful drinking isn’t a problem. They may also try to avoid upsetting their family or protect their job. If they can keep up the false front, a person with hidden alcoholism may feel like they’re in control. 


Common easily-missed signs of alcoholism, Harvard Health and the UC San Diego health library all share several signs of alcoholism on their sites. Many of these signs can be attributed to other problems, which can make spotting alcoholism a challenge.

Physical and behavioral signs

  • Nausea, sweating, insomnia, tremors—signs of withdrawal
  • Red nose or cheeks from broken capillaries 
  • Effects of dehydration—brittle hair and nails, dry skin, an aged look
  • Weight loss due to poor diet and filling up on alcoholic drinks instead
  • Signs of liver damage—yellow tone to eyes and skin
  • Increased isolation—avoiding social interaction, more opportunities to drink alone
  • Frequent falls and accidents, more than expected
  • Finding vodka bottles around—no odor, the liquid is clear and hard to detect

Mental and emotional signs

  • Lack of attention to personal appearance or hygiene 
  • Irritability, unexplained mood swings—could be from not having an opportunity to drink or from intoxication that doesn’t look obvious
  • Poor memory, a possible sign of blackouts

Supporting someone in recovery 

When your loved one is still getting used to the idea, be encouraging and supportive. You can kindly speak about their alcohol use without appearing judgmental. With the guidance of a counselor, you can have reasonable conversations with your loved one.


In recovery, a person is working to change habits and associations with addiction. Here are some ways you can offer support before, during and after alcohol rehab.

  • Help them eat healthier meals by making or sharing lunch with them. 
  • Invite them on a walk to encourage exercise and relaxation. 
  • If you’re ready, listen to their concerns with compassion. Encourage them to speak to a counselor if it’s more than you can manage or if you have concerns.
  • Set boundaries with them. If you recognize they are pulling you into emotional drama, stop the pattern. With kindness, remind them that you aren’t supporting that behavior.
  • Resist the urge to fix their mistakes. Allow them to fall and be there if they slip up. Offer your encouragement, but don’t bail them out.
  • Take care of yourself. Giving support to a person in recovery can be demanding on your time and energy. Set boundaries for what you will and won’t do.

Recognizing alcoholism and giving support

It’s not always easy to spot a person with alcoholism. Some people hide their alcohol misuse. They want to avoid hurting their family or need to keep their job. They need help even if most people don’t see their struggle. If you or someone you know needs support for alcoholism, contact us at The Right Step Hill Country at 844.675.1628.

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