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8 Signs Your Partner Might Have a Drinking Problem

It's not always easy to tell if your partner's drinking habits are totally normal or a sign of a bigger issue. But a few key factors, such as how often he slings a drink and how much he downs, can clue you in.

"People who have a healthy relationship with alcohol don’t drink often enough or to the point of excess where they could have a problem," says Jasmine Aranda, addiction counselor and clinical director at The Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

But alcoholics function differently. "An alcoholic is psychologically and physically dependent on the chronic consumption of alcohol and often can’t stop drinking once they’ve started," says Randall Dwenger, M.D., psychiatrist and medical director at Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut.

It’s important to know that even those with healthy, happy lives can fall into the trap of addiction. If you suspect your partner has a problem, these signs can help determine whether your S.O. should seek professional treatment.

1. They drink to feel happy. 

There’s no doubt that alcohol can seriously up your mood, but if your partner relies on a six-pack to feel better about life, it may signal some bigger issues. "A healthy person relies on hobbies, exercise, or just sheer relaxation to rejuvenate them at the end of the day," says Aranda.

2. They drink with the goal of getting drunk. 

If you notice your partner’s constantly drinking to the point of inebriation and verbalizing a desire to get drunk, fast, that’s a sign of alcoholic behavior. "Often alcoholics will drink even before going to an event where there will be more drinking, so as to get ahead of the game," says Dwenger. "This may be their way of reducing any anxiety over the event or the people who will be there." Talk to your partner about drinking in excess and the toll it’s taking on your relationship, health, and finances, says Aranda.

3. They have an alarmingly high tolerance. 

For most people, their weight, gender, and diet determine how much alcohol they can consume. But an alcoholic's tolerance spikes because of their increased alcohol consumption. This can lead to serious alcohol dependence, organ damage, and even death, says Tiffany Louise, L.C.S.W., life coach and therapist for a top treatment center for addictions. "If your partner can consume a relatively large amount of alcohol and still appear relatively normal, this may indicate their body is creating a tolerance," she says.

4. Drinking is above everything else. 

When getting drunk becomes the top priority in their life, alcoholism is to blame. "When you’re dependent on alcohol, drinking alone is more important than spending time with loved ones," says Dwenger. These signs should instantly signal the need for professional help. "Tell your partner that they need to meet a professional, and that you’re willing to support them along the way," says Aranda.

5. They start sneaking around. 

If your partner tells you he has to stay late at work but comes home hammered, he could be on the road to alcoholism—or is already there. "Dishonesty about the amount or frequency in which your partner is drinking can escalate much further as his or her condition worsens," says Dwenger. "Soon you may start noticing that vodka becomes their drink of choice, as its scent is easier to conceal than other types of liquors." A lot of partnered alcoholics will also hide supplies of alcohol in unusual places to make their partner think their drinking is still "normal." Try talking to your partner about why he or she is being dishonest, mention your concerns, and discuss how you can address this issue together, says Aranda.

6. They display symptoms of withdrawal. 

If your partner takes a break from drinking only to experience withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, nausea, tremors, anxiety, irritableness, or even hallucinations or seizures that send him or her back to the bottle, seek help immediately. "Withdrawal means that they experience negative physical effects when they stop using alcohol for a period of time," says Louise. This is why people who are physically dependent on alcohol won’t go a very long time between episodes of using. "If hallucinations or seizures occur, call 911 and seek the help of a medical professional immediately," says Aranda.  "And if withdrawal symptoms are milder, get a medical evaluation by a doctor."

7. They continue to drink, despite life consequences. 

If your S.O. has experienced multiple DUIs, lost his or her job, or cut ties with friends or family while continuing to drink, that's a problem. "An alcoholic has difficulty maintaining responsibilities at home, work, or school," says Dwenger. "So if your partner was always on top of his or her schedule and suddenly can’t remember to pick up the groceries or show up at a monthly meeting because of their drinking, this change in behavior may indicate a problem with alcohol." Not only does this put his safety and health at serious risk, but it can also have severe impacts on yours.

8. They won't admit they have a problem. 

"Unfortunately, true progress can only be made if your partner is willing to admit a problem and seek help," says Aranda. "If your partner remains unwilling to change and move forward, know that you cannot be held responsible for guiding your partner to health." It's your partner who must take the first steps towards recovery. If your partner isn’t open to getting better, it may be time to consider a professional intervention.

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