A woman displaying one of the many warning Signs of Alcoholism in Women
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The warning signs of alcoholism in women can differ from person to person. They include an increased tolerance to alcohol as an intoxicant, hiding a drinking habit from others, drinking alone most of the time, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when cutting down on alcohol. Addressing an alcohol addiction in women begins with identifying an alcohol problem and calling attention to it.   

Alcohol use disorder affects millions of men and women. Historically, men have reported higher rates of alcoholism than women, but recent statistics reflect a change in that fact.

Among younger people, women have been more likely to struggle with alcohol use problems than men, and the consequences of long-term alcohol use can be worse for women than for men. Women have had larger increases in alcohol-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations than men in the last two decades. 

Identifying alcohol use problems among our loved ones requires understanding how alcoholism can present itself, and what the warning signs might look like.

In this article, we will explore the 7 most common warning signs of alcoholism in women.  

Warning Signs of Alcoholism in Women  

Changes in behavior, mood, and physical health characterize an alcohol use disorder. Long-term alcohol use can affect the mind and body, resulting in memory problems, weight gain, poor skin health, irritability, mood swings, bouts of depression, social isolation, and more.  

Women are at a greater risk of experiencing the adverse side effects of long-term alcohol consumption primarily due to differences in body weight (women tend to be lighter than men) and body composition (women hold less water than men). Identifying the proper warning signs can help women and their loved ones seek treatment for an alcohol use problem before it continues to develop.

Here are the seven most common warning signs of alcoholism in women:  

Increased Tolerance  

Increased tolerance to alcohol is a noteworthy warning sign that should not be overlooked.

It refers to the need to consume more significant amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effects once felt with less. This gradual adaptation can often be misleading, making it difficult for individuals to recognize the growing dependence on alcohol. It’s a sign that the body is becoming accustomed to alcohol’s presence, which can lead to more frequent and heavier drinking.

Acknowledging this change is crucial, as it’s an early indicator that alcohol is becoming a central part of one’s life, potentially leading to more severe health risks and dependencies.

Drinking Alone  

Drinking alone, especially at home, can be a red flag for the development of alcoholism.

This behavior may start innocently, perhaps as a way to unwind after a long day. However, over time, if drinking becomes a primary method for dealing with stress, loneliness, or boredom, it might indicate a deeper issue.

It’s important to understand that seeking solace in alcohol, particularly in isolation, can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and may signal the beginning of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Recognizing this behavior as a potential concern is a step towards assessing one’s drinking habits and considering healthier coping mechanisms.

Hiding Alcohol  

More indicting than a certain tolerance to alcohol or the habit of having a glass of wine or a beer alone is the act of intentionally hiding one’s alcohol use.

Hiding alcohol or alcohol use is a clear indicator that someone knows they’re drinking too much, and either don’t want to address the issue, or don’t want to be called out on it again.

Knowing you’re drinking too much, and refusing to do something about it, is the biggest warning sign for alcoholism.  

Neglecting Responsibilities 

A crucial characteristic for identifying a substance use disorder is whether the recurring drug use is impacting a person’s daily life, including their social or professional responsibilities.

When someone’s drinking begins to affect their job, their ability to spend time with their family members, or their responsibilities at home or elsewhere, then they have a drinking problem – and potentially, an addiction.  

Mood Swings  

Mood swings associated with alcohol use can be both a cause and effect of increased alcohol consumption. This cyclical nature often complicates the ability to identify alcoholism.

The chemical changes in the brain caused by regular alcohol intake can lead to unpredictable emotional responses, ranging from unprovoked irritability to sudden bouts of sadness or euphoria. These mood fluctuations not only affect the individual’s mental health but also strain relationships with loved ones, creating a ripple effect of social and emotional challenges.

Recognizing these mood swings as a potential sign of alcoholism is crucial. It underscores the need for supportive interventions that address both the emotional instability and the underlying alcohol use.

Withdrawal Symptoms  

Withdrawal symptoms are physical and psychological effects that occur when a person who has been drinking heavily reduces or stops alcohol consumption.

These symptoms can range from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications such as seizures and delirium tremens. Withdrawal indicates the body’s dependence on alcohol to function normally, highlighting the physical grip of alcoholism.

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a clear sign that the body has adapted to the presence of alcohol and is struggling to recalibrate in its absence.

This dependence is not only a health risk but also a barrier to cessation, emphasizing the importance of seeking medical advice and support for recovery.

Social Withdrawal  

Social withdrawal is a significant warning sign of alcoholism, characterized by a deliberate avoidance of social interactions and activities that were once enjoyable. Individuals may isolate themselves to hide their drinking habits or because of the guilt and shame associated with their alcohol use.

This withdrawal can lead to a damaging cycle where the individual relies more heavily on alcohol as a coping mechanism for loneliness and depression, further deepening the addiction. Recognizing and addressing social withdrawal early can help prevent the exacerbation of alcoholism.

It encourages the affected individual to reconnect with their social networks and seek the supportive and understanding environment necessary for recovery.

Explore Alcohol Rehab for Women  

The effects of alcohol use on women are a greater problem because of general physical differences between men and women, as well as the fact that women are still less likely to seek alcohol rehab treatment than men.  

While women report lower rates of total alcohol use, younger women are more likely to binge drink than men, and more likely to experience hospitalization because of an alcohol-related health issue. In recent years, alcohol use problems have claimed a record number of deaths – up to 500 a day, according to the CDC.  

Alcoholism is a serious drug addiction and can be as deadly as an addiction to illicit substances. Furthermore, the withdrawal symptoms for alcohol use disorder tend to be worse than most other substances. As a depressant, alcohol directly affects the central and peripheral nervous system, resulting in changes to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Going cold turkey can crash a person’s breathing and heart rate, lead to seizures, and risk brain damage.  

Comprehensive alcoholism treatment for women requires a safe space for detoxification and long-term treatment, including talk therapy, mindfulness training, experiential group therapy, 12-step meetings, and more. We at the Ho Tai Way focus on incorporating trauma-informed psychoeducation and mindfulness techniques to help women focus on their own healing journey and regain the self-confidence they need to continue to manage and avoid relapses after treatment.   


Alcoholism can be a debilitating illness, causing chronic pain, mood changes, organ failure, and serious cognitive problems, ranging from memory loss to poorer decision-making and problem-solving skills.  

Thankfully, the warning signs of alcoholism in women can be quite definitive, and recognizing the signs of a drinking problem is the first step toward getting a loved one the help they need. Get in touch with us at the Ho Tai Way to learn more about our treatment plans for women with alcoholism, and how our recovery program can help your loved one.