We’re drinking more alcohol than ever right now, so here’s how to know if we’re taking in too much!
- You drink because you’re stressed.
In general, it’s considered problematic when alcohol intake increases during stressful situations, “even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amanda Brown, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and an associate at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “It means that we are using alcohol to cope with the negative emotions caused by stress.”
- You drink because you’re bored.
The thought of spending another Saturday night at home in front of the TV might seem unbearable. That is, unless you also have a glass (OK, bottle) of wine at your side. Similar to drinking due to stress, drinking to cope with boredom is a red flag, according to Andrew Mendonsa, a clinical psychologist with addiction treatment center Sprout Health Group. “When you say, ‘I’m bored at home, I’m going to turn to the bottle,’ that’s when you start to cross the line,” he said.
- You drink on the job.
Transitioning to a fully remote job can be tough if you’re not used to working from home. It may be stressful learning new tools and communication methods. Plus, you might struggle with productivity. With no office to drive to and no boss looking over your shoulder, there may be more temptation to Irish up your morning coffee or crack open a beer at 3 p.m. “If you’re working from home and have justified that it’s okay to drink while working, you are mistaken,” Wind said. “While working from home, you should conduct yourself just as you would being on the job. If you’re drinking to get through the workday, it’s a sign that you have a problem.”
- You’re constantly worried about having enough alcohol.
Another way to know that you’re drinking too much during isolation is if you worry about having enough alcohol and find yourself making extra trips to the store or gas station just to buy it. “We should be minimizing trips that aren’t essential right now, so if getting alcohol feels like an essential to you and you’re going out often to stock up on it, you’re probably drinking too much,” Wind said.
- Your responsibilities are falling to the wayside.
Balancing your job, your child’s education and relationships with family and friends is hard enough without a pandemic adding to the chaos. It’s understandable if you drop the ball on your obligations sometimes. However, Eitches said that if alcohol use interferes with your priorities and obligations in any realm of your life ― including work, social connections and self-care ― it’s a sign that there’s a problem.
- You’ve been making poor decisions while drunk.
Many of us have let a secret slip or gone overboard online shopping after a few drinks. Hey, mistakes happen ― we’re not here to judge. But those alcohol-induced slip-ups should be few and far between. If you regularly make decisions when intoxicated that you wouldn’t make or would regret when you are sober, there’s a larger issue at hand, Eitches said.
- You don’t feel good physically.
Hangovers are a reminder that overindulging on alcohol isn’t great for your body. So if you regularly wake up with headaches, sensitivity to light, dehydration and other hangover symptoms, it’s a sign you’re going overboard. Eitches added that generally feeling crappy due to drinking, due to disrupted sleep and eating patterns or less motivation to exercise, are also warning signs.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms.
When you drink often enough, your body becomes reliant on alcohol to function. Stopping alcohol intake when your body is dependent on it results in withdrawal symptoms, which range from mild to severe and can include shaky hands, anxiety, sweating, racing heartbeat, hallucinations and even seizures. You may begin to experience certain withdrawal symptoms within six hours of your last drink.