Linda remembered experimenting with alcohol as a teen. She knew her teenage daughter probably would, too. But Gabby’s behavior was starting to make her worry. Was Gabby developing a drinking problem?
Linda didn’t know if she should be concerned; she didn’t know if Gabby was showing legitimate signs of alcohol abuse. Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, Linda still found herself sitting up at night, worried sick. Was she being an overprotective mom or a legitimately concerned parent?
Warning Danger Ahead
Are you in Linda’s shoes? Many parents are. To discern if your teen has a drinking problem, watch for these red flags:
- Change in AppearanceMany teens change their looks on a whim. A surprise pink hair-do isn’t a concern, but heavy drinking causes weight loss and general physical deterioration. It also results in a loss of interest in maintaining their physical appearance. If her weight drops and she no longer cares what she looks like, she could have a problem.
- Neglecting ResponsibilitiesFlunking class or poor performance in other activities can also be a sign she’s in trouble. If she’s too focused on alcohol, she’s likely to neglect other things (even those that may have been important to her in the past). She could be too hungover to pay attention in class, or her focus may be entirely directed toward getting her next drink. Her responsibilities at home, work and school suffer.
- Behaving IrresponsiblyIf she’s making decisions that endanger her life, this is another indication her drinking is out of control. These actions might include getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated, mixing alcohol with prescription medication, or performing other physical activities that are dangerous if done while intoxicated. While adolescence is often characterized by foolishness, this disregard for personal safety, especially if it happens more than once, is a potential red flag for alcohol issues.
- Disregard for RelationshipsDrinking problems inevitably affect relationships. If she continues to drink despite its negative effects on her relationships with family and friends, she might have a drinking problem. She will consistently make alcohol use a priority, even if it hurts these relationships.
- Lying About DrinkingThis one’s tricky. Since she isn’t of legal drinking age, it’s pretty common for her to lie about it. In an effort to avoid punishment, she lies about drinking. The difference in this case is that she lies about how much she’s drinking.
For example, you get wind of her reputation for binge drinking at parties, but she claims to only have an occasional beer. Or, she’s regularly sneaking alcohol in an attempt to be secretive about her drinking. Or, if she’s drinking to the point of passing out, (especially if she won’t admit it) it’s a sign her drinking levels are unhealthy.
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