7 Signs You Might Be Binge Drinking (Without Realizing It)

One in six adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge. If you recognize any of the following signs, you might be a binge drinker too.

You think it's OK to overdo it every so often

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"There's a notion that everybody drinks too much sometimes, but that's not true. Many people never binge drink, period," says Peter Hendricks, PhD, associate professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Public Health. Ladies, if you find yourself knocking back four drinks in two hours, you just engaged in binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For men, five drinks in two hours is considered a binge drinking episode. And though binge drinking and college seem to go hand-in-hand, surprisingly, binge drinkers age 65 and older actually binge drink more often (five to six times a month, on average) than young adults age 18 to 34, according to the CDC. Binge drinking is twice as prevalent among men than it is among women.

You're tired or moody after a night of drinking

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Got eight hours of rest but still woke up tired and groggy? If you drank the night before, that's probably why. "Alcohol suppresses the REM cycle and results in poor sleep. That's a big sign you're drinking too much," says Dr. Hendricks. Hangovers don't just come in the form of a pounding headache or queasy stomach; people who wake up feeling overly tired, anxious, sad, or irritable might actually be experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, he says. These factors could affect how quickly you get drunk.

You let responsibilities slip

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If you've never missed a deadline but suddenly struggle to finish big projects at work, or if you're a dedicated gym rat but begin skipping your workouts, it might mean drinking has become a priority. "Drinking is a problem when you notice that you've started to neglect things that are important to you for the sake of alcohol," Keith Humphreys, PhD, of the VA/Stanford University Center for Health Care Evaluation in Palo Alto, California told Prevention.com.

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You slur or feel off balance

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A glass of wine or mug of beer should give you a subtle feeling of relaxation; but if you begin slurring your words or wobbling when you walk, that's a sign you're drinking too much, says Dr. Hendricks. A good way to avoid accidental bingeing: Eat while you drink, he says, so it's more of an experience and all the emphasis isn't on drinking. Another trick is to follow up each drink with a glass of water, which makes you feel fuller and slows down your drinking pace. Here are 13 secrets bartenders won't tell you.

You embarrass yourself in social situations

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"Some degree of social anxiety is a good thing; you shouldn't just say whatever you're thinking. So if you find yourself with no filter, that can be a sign you've had too much to drink," says Hendricks. Laughing too loudly or at inappropriate times, sharing embarrassing stories, or generally being obnoxious and drawing attention to yourself are other common signs that you've had one too many, he says.

You find yourself in risky situations

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Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions, so excessive drinking can cause you to make risky sexual decisions (putting you at greater risk for assault or sexually transmitted diseases), increase the chance of injuring yourself, and even lead to alcohol poisoning. "As blood alcohol content increases, so does alcohol's effects and the risk for harm," says Megan McMurray, clinical psychology intern at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Nearly 700,000 students between age 18 and 24 are assaulted every year by another student who has been drinking, and almost 2,000 die from alcohol-related injuries each year, according to information from UAB.

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Your friends are worried about you

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If family, friends, or co-workers tell you that they're concerned alcohol is becoming a problem for you, that's a red flag, Deidra Roach, MD, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told Prevention.com. "And if you're afraid to ask people if you drink too much, that's probably a sign that you're overdoing it, too," she added. Here's why some experts think AA doesn't work as well for women.


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