What are the Physical and Emotional Effects of Alcoholism?

We all know that alcoholism isn’t the best thing for our health. However, maybe we don’t know specifically, what are the physical symptoms of alcoholism? What about the emotional effects too? Alcoholism takes its toll on the mind and body in many ways. There are both short and long term effects from alcoholism ranging in severity from dry skin to cancer. Here, we’ll get into a little more detail about the emotional and physical symptoms of alcoholism.

Binge Drinking

Alcohol dependence usually has its roots in binge drinking when we’re young. Between the ages of 14 and 30, binge drinking is quite common and is related to developing alcohol dependence later in life. For that reason, this stage is sometimes referred to as early alcoholism. Experts consider Binge Drinking an alcohol use disorder, like alcoholism, because it produces negative effects on the mind and body. Some of the effects of early alcoholism, or binge drinking, include:

  • Hangovers
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of income
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Memory Loss
  • Shakiness
  • Loss of Muscle Control
  • Alcohol Poisoning
  • Doing Badly at Work or School
  • Anxiety

Longterm, binge drinking can lead to:


Alcoholism, refers to when alcohol abuse becomes an addiction. This condition is also known as Alcohol Dependence. This is a psychological condition that occurs when someone experiences a higher tolerance for alcohol, withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, increased alcohol use over time, desires to quit or cut down, withdrawal from life pursuits because of alcohol, and continued drinking despite knowing the harms.

At this stage, when dependence is present, these physical symptoms will start to show up.

Dehydrated Skin | Accidents | Injuries | Stomach Cramps | Appetite loss | Broken blood vessels on the face | Dry skin & Tired appearance | Swelling and redness of the palms and hands | Facial redness, especially the on the nose and cheeks | Skin sores that don’t heal | Frequent infections | Decreased interest in sex | Impotence | Numbness or Tingling in the hands and feet | Liver problems, like Cirrhosis | Sore and Upset stomach | Malnourishment | Weight Loss

Long term excessive alcohol use damages organs and systems within the body, producing chronic and life threatening diseases.

Cancer- Alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for developing cancers of the throat and mouth (second only to smoking). Drinking also contributes to cancer of the liver.

Circulatory System – Alcohol causes high blood pressure which we know leads to strokes, heart attacks, and dementia. Drinking also causes the heart to weaken and occasionally beat irregularly, which is an arrhythmia. These arrhythmias can lead to sudden death from heart failure.

Lungs – Alcohol dependence is related to more lung infections, greater risk of pneumonia, and greater risk of experiencing a collapsed lung.

Intestines – Alcohol inflames the intestines which decreases their ability to absorb nutrients. An inflamed intestine contributes to cancer risks and malnutrition.

Liver – Most of us know that drinking damages the liver. The liver is the organ that processes toxins like alcohol, removing them from the body. First, drinking causes deposits of fat to form in the liver leading to inflammation and hepatitis. Alcohol abuse leaves permanent scar tissue in the liver, causing increased risk for cirrhosis and cancer.

Stomach – Excess alcohol can cause stomach ulcers and internal bleeding, and cancer as well. Alcohol causes inflammation of the stomach which may then lead to chronic gastritis and malnourishment.

Kidneys – Drinking alcohol raises our blood pressure which then contributes to developing chronic kidney disease. A possibly fatal condition.

Weight – Alcoholism leads to unhealthy weights at both extremes. The malnourishment and appetite loss can lead to severe weight loss. However, on the other end the high calorie content of alcohol can also lead to weight gain. Ever heard of a beer-belly? Alcoholic drinks frequently come along with carbohydrates, and processed sugars if mixed with soft drinks. Some people put on quite a bit of weight because of alcoholism.

Pancreas – Drinking leads to inflammation of the pancreas, which is a painful condition. The symptoms of inflammation include vomiting, fever, weight loss, and death.

Sexuality – Alcohol decreases libido and fertility for both men and women. Men specifically may experience impotence. For pregnant women, drinking can lead to babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Mental Health – Alcohol is connected to mental illnesses including schizophrenia, personality disorders, Anxiety, and Depression. Sometimes alcohol is used to self-medicate developing symptoms of mental illness, which then leads to further degeneration. Sleep patterns, which are essential for emotional wellness, get disrupted by drinking. Sadly, Alcohol is related to about 70% of suicides (Mental Health Foundation).


Wet Brain is the common name for a serious, thankfully rare, outcome of alcohol abuse. The true name for this condition is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. It is a form of brain damage resulting from a severe vitamin deficiency that causes brain lesions. This disorder can complicate the detox process and impede recovery from alcohol abuse. The symptoms that occur during the first phase of Wet Brain include confusion, loss of muscle coordination, memory problems, and loss of mental activity. The first phase is known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy and has a 10-20% mortality rate. The second phase is known as Korsakoff’s psychosis. The symptoms include amnesia, language failure, inability to recognize common objects, and loss of muscle control. Wet brain can be treated with thiamine, to stop the degeneration. However, there is unfortunately no cure for the loss of mental functioning. The brain damage is irreversible.