Alcoholism is a progressive and dangerous disease that can seep into every area of a person’s life. The effects of alcoholism are not just physical; there are also significant psychological effects, not to mention the effects of alcoholism on family and other relationships.
Physical Alcoholism Side Effects
Chronic and long-term alcohol abuse leads to numerous health problems. These physical effects of alcoholism can sometimes be reversed if the drinking is stopped, but some effects are permanent and irreversible. The first physical side effects a person will feel are chronic hangovers, frequent blackouts, unexplained stomach pain and other increasing physical symptoms. As the alcoholism progresses, a person will begin to develop a high tolerance for alcohol and experience withdrawal symptoms if they cut back on their alcohol consumption. These withdrawal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, shakiness, tremors, irritability, anxiety, and more.
As the alcoholism progresses, a person increases their risk of malnutrition, kidney disease, pancreatitis, liver cirrhosis, heart disease and certain cancers, including liver cancer, colon cancer, esophageal and other mouth cancers. While men are more likely to develop alcoholism than women, women face an increased risk of harmful side effects, such as breast cancer. Women who drink during pregnancy can pass these harmful side effects on to their fetus through fetal alcohol syndrome. In fact, drinking during pregnancy is the number one-one cause of mental retardation in the United States.
Psychological Alcoholism Side Effects
Most people are aware of the physical side effects of alcoholism, but the psychological side effects are rarely discussed. The psychological effects of alcoholism vary from person to person, depending on the degree of their addiction. Some of the most common psychological effects of alcoholism are insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations, depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior and personality changes.
Co-occurring mental and mood disorders are often common in alcoholics. They can be caused by the mental side effects of heavy drinking or can be the reason heavy drinking occurs in the first place. Oftentimes a person with a co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety will become addicted to alcohol after trying to cope with and self-medicate their symptoms. Because of this, many alcoholics will continue to self-medicate their mental symptoms without realizing that their drinking is causing these problems in the first place.
Relationship/Family Alcoholism Side Effects
Living with an alcoholic is a tumultuous and chaotic experience, and can lead to years of resentment, shame, hurt and anger for those who are close to the alcoholic. And since alcoholism is a progressive disease, the severity of it can sneak up on family members so that extreme and unacceptable behavior seems “normal.” The safety and well-being of family members is under constant threat. Without outside help, it can be very difficult to reverse the unhealthy behaviors that family members learn to cope and relearn how to live a healthy, normal life. Many families and personal relationships are destroyed by alcoholism.
Treating Alcoholism Side Effects
In order for an alcohol treatment program to be effective, it must treat all the side effects of alcoholism. Treatment usually begins by managing the most dangerous physical symptoms, such as the effects of withdrawal. Once these health problems are under control, the psychological effects of alcoholism can be addressed.
When choosing an alcohol treatment program, look for a program that addresses all aspects of the person’s disorder. An effective alcohol addiction treatment program should offer medically assisted detox, holistic therapies, psychological counseling, and aftercare programs to prevent relapse. It should also offer family involvement and family counseling. Call your doctor or an alcohol rehab today to discuss your symptoms and learn which type of alcohol treatment program is right for you.