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How do I know if my drinking is problematic?
Problematic Drinking - Freedom From Addiction

I drink a lot, but I’m not sure if it’s problematic? I am gay, and my family is not accepting…almost homophobic, so it helps me deal with the negative comments whenever they arise. How can I tell if my drinking is problematic and what can I do?


Thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear that you are questioning yourself and that your family members are not supportive. The first thing is that I hope you do have people in your life who are supportive. If so, spend more time with them. Also, seeking out a gay-friendly and culturally sensitive therapist could be helpful to help you process your negative feelings, deal with any shame and guilt, self-acceptance, and developing healthy coping skills

If you think you are drinking too much, then perhaps cutting back would be a good idea. You stated that you drink to help you deal with the negative comments. I would suggest finding and adopting healthier coping tools. This is another reason why therapy might be helpful for you.

In response to your question about if your drinking is problematic, you should know that there is a difference between heavy drinking and someone who meets criteria for a diagnosis of substance use disorder. If drinking is causing problems, such your responsibilities are being neglected or are suffering, you have developed tolerance or might experience withdrawal if you stopped, this might indicate alcohol abuse. If the drinking is causing significant impairment (clinically or functionally) such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home; that also might be evidence of a substance use disorder.

According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of substance use disorder is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria. So an actual diagnosis is not based on how many drinks someone has and how often. However, you have to keep in mind that each person responds to alcohol differently.

You may want to ask yourself if the majority of your plans revolve around alcohol. Are people are mentioning your drinking too much to you? Is it interfering with professional, or social relationships? Do you wake up not feeling well as a result of drinking? Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed (which already indicated you do)? Do you plan to drink less/set limits but doesn’t work?

Most importantly, if you are questioning the amount you are drinking and are drinking to deal with negative emotions, then it might be beneficial to cut back. If you are unable to on your own, please reach out, and we can help you find a local professional. It is important for you to process your negative feelings especially rejection and shame as a result of your parent’s reported homophobia.

* All responses provided by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

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