If you were asked to spot an alcoholic in a crowd of people, what characteristics would you look out for? You might look for “classic” giveaways such as difficulty standing, dishevelled appearance, or perhaps even constant sips from a concealed flask, but there is one more feature to take note of – the face.
Our face reveals a lot about our overall health. It’s almost like a window into bodies and, if you know what to look for, can be a sign of how a person is treating themselves.
How can facial features indicate an alcohol problem?
Let’s take a breakout of spots as an example. A breakout could result from an unhealthy diet, inadequate skincare routine, stress, hormones, medications, or an underlying medical condition; all of which are caused by our own unhealthy actions or internal health issues. Similarly, an individual struggling with an alcohol addiction may have distinct facial issues as a result of the stress they put on their body when drinking frequently.
Below are some of the most common signs to look for:
Excessive drinking causes the body to retain water, leading to swelling and puffiness in all areas of the body, including the face. To add to this, alcohol consumption can lead to inflammation and damage to the liver, which plays a crucial role in eliminating toxins from the body.
As the liver becomes damaged, it can become less efficient in removing toxins, leading to a buildup of waste products that can cause facial swelling.
Dark circles under the eyes
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause dark circles under the eyes due to dehydration and disrupted sleep patterns. These factors can make the skin around the eyes appear darker, sunken and thinner, causing blood vessels to become more visible.
Over time, an alcoholic may start to notice these signs becoming frequent as the body will go through the same battle every time they drink.
Broken blood vessels (Spider veins)
Long-term alcohol abuse can cause spider veins due to the effect it has on the blood vessels. When a person drinks, the walls of the blood vessels become more relaxed and widened, making them more visible and prone to breaking over time.
The more someone drinks, the likelier they are to break the blood vessels. This can occur anywhere on the body, including the face.
Alcohol abuse can have serious consequences on the body, including damage to the liver. This damage can lead to a build-up of bile in the bloodstream, causing a condition known as jaundice.
Symptoms of jaundice include yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, which is why you may see these types of symptoms in the eyes of alcoholics.
It’s also worth noting that excessive alcohol can also irritate the blood vessels in the eyes, resulting in bloodshot or red eyes. This is why bloodshot/red eyes commonly occur when someone has a hangover.
Alcohol widens blood vessels in the face, causing redness and a flushed appearance. Long-term heavy drinking can permanently damage blood vessels, potentially resulting in a persistently red face.
Body weight and alcoholism
The link between body weight and alcoholism isn’t an easy one to make. You may have seen people’s size be affected in different ways, so why is this?
It can depend on various factors, like the type of alcohol you drink and how much you consume. Beer, for instance, has a large amount of calories, so drinking too much can cause weight gain. Alcohol can also make you feel hungry and overeating can contribute to further weight gain. This would certainly cause changes in facial shapes, especially if the person continues to drink and over-eat.
However, alcohol also affects how our bodies metabolise nutrients and can lead to muscle loss, which can result in weight loss. In some cases, people may even focus on drinking alcohol instead of eating food, which is why some alcoholics may appear to have thin face shapes.
But it’s worth noting that weight changes don’t necessarily mean someone has an alcohol addiction. There could be other underlying factors at play. That’s why it’s important to seek professional help if you experience significant changes in your weight to figure out what’s causing it.
Are facial appearances enough to conclude that someone is an alcoholic?
While certain physical facial features are commonly associated with alcoholism, it’s important to recognise that they alone cannot definitively indicate the condition.
For instance, dark circles under the eyes can stem from lack of sleep or illness and appearing hungover may stem from a one-off night of excessive drinking rather than alcohol addiction.
Features such as spider veins in the face may be a result of natural ageing, sun exposure, or weather changes rather than alcohol consumption.
Rather than relying solely on physical appearance, it’s crucial to consider other factors when assessing whether someone may be an alcoholic.
This might include evaluating their behaviour and patterns of drinking, as well as examining any additional physical symptoms they may exhibit. In this way, a more comprehensive picture can be formed and appropriate treatment can be pursued if necessary.
I feel I have an issue with alcohol – how can I get help?
Alcohol addiction is a complex issue that demands compassionate and effective treatment, which is exactly what we offer at Primrose Lodge. We recognise that stereotypes and judgemental attitudes towards addiction are not helpful in addressing the problem.
That’s why we offer a world-class alcohol detox programme that is tailored to support your physical recovery from alcoholism. Our highly trained medical team will be on hand to provide medical care and support throughout the process.
Get in touch with Primrose Lodge
If you, or your loved one, resonates with any of the issues stated in this help guide, or you want to know more details about how to spot an alcoholic face, contact Primrose Lodge for further advice. Our team is always ready to assist and guide you through the next steps.