Alcohol abuse

Written by Bonnie Gifford
Bonnie Gifford
Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Faye Hatch
Last updated 18th April 2024 | Next update due 18th April 2027

Hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse can help those struggling to break their addiction by working on the root cause of the dependency and then using suggestion techniques to help adjust negative thoughts and behaviours associated with the addiction.

What is alcohol addiction?

Being dependent on alcohol means you feel like you’re unable to relax or enjoy yourself without a drink. You may feel like you’re unable to function at all without drinking, and that it has become an important, or the most important, factor in your life.

Alcohol dependency (also known as alcoholism, alcohol addiction, or being an alcoholic) doesn’t have to mean you drink a lot at all times, or that you binge-drink on certain days of the week. If you are drinking alcoholic drinks regularly - be that as a way to unwind, or cope with particularly stressful situations - you are likely to have at least a degree of alcohol dependency.

Problem drinking isn’t always easy to identify. You may not notice when alcohol goes from being part of your social life to shaping your whole life and the choices you make. It can affect your life in many different ways, harming your mind, body and relationships. Over time, it can affect those around you, too.

According to the NHS Statistics on Alcohol, England 2020 report, we've seen a 6% year-on-year increase in the number of hospital admissions where the main cause for concern was drinking alcohol. Over the space of 10 years, figures have risen by 19%, with 358,000 people being admitted between 2018/19 alone.

Men (38%) and women (19%) aged 55 to 64 were found to be drinking the most, usually drinking 14 or more units per week - higher than the recommended guidelines.

An estimated 9% of men and 3% of women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence. This can happen at any age, to anyone, no matter what their background.

What causes alcohol dependency?

The causes of alcohol dependency can vary but there are a number of factors thought to contribute to an individual developing alcohol dependence. It can stem from using drink as a way to cope with big stressful life events, such as bereavement or redundancy, or as a way to numb day-to-day stresses, anxiety or worries.

Drinking alcohol may seem like nothing - a normal part of your life - and you may not think it’s a problem at first. But, over time, relying on alcohol as a way of emotional support will become second nature to you. When you immediately turn to drink instead of other ways of dealing with a situation, it is a cause for concern.

Your environment and past experiences can also contribute to developing a dependency on alcohol. For example, if you saw members of your family using alcohol as a way to unwind and cope, you may develop similar coping mechanisms. Whether we realise it or not, those around us - family, friends, and even media depictions of people we look up to - can all impact our behaviour, how we approach problems, and what we do to try and manage our own issues.

What are the signs of a drinking problem?

Like many other drugs, alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive. If you’re worried about your own drinking habits, or someone else’s, here are some common signs:

  • Worrying about when your next drink will be and planning social, family and work events around alcohol.
  • Your mood seems to swing from one extreme to another, or you feel extremely irritable for no good reason.
  • You no longer feel you have the ability to stop drinking, even if you want to.
  • Making excuses to drink (for example to deal with stress, to relax and unwind, or to ‘feel normal’), hiding your drinking or drinking alone.
  • Drinking early in the day, or feeling the need to drink in the morning.
  • Feeling the need to drink when under pressure or during stressful situations.
  • When you don’t drink, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking and nausea, and these stop when you do drink.  
  • Becoming distant or isolated from friends and family members.
  • Being unable to remember things or having gaps in your memory (these can be signs of short-term memory loss or temporary blackouts).
  • Choosing to drink rather than take care of other responsibilities or obligations.

If you recognise any of the above signs in yourself or are worried about a friend, know that there is help available. If you’re worried about your own drinking but don’t feel comfortable speaking to friends, you can talk to your GP or a professional - like a counsellor. There are also support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, where you can seek support from those who know what you’re going through.

If you’re worried about a friend, approaching the subject may be difficult, but letting them know you are concerned and are there if they need you can help. It’s important you speak to them calmly and without judgment. Share your concern without being accusatory, and let them know that you are there to support them through their journey.

If they’re not ready to talk right now, that’s OK, don’t push them. Addiction can take over a person’s life, and they may feel like they have no control, so support them as much as you can while they work things out.

How can hypnotherapy help with drinking problems?

Hypnotherapy is an approach that many people find to be incredibly effective, especially when combined with other forms of treatment.

The thing with addiction is that, often, there are a number of underlying issues that have led to the problem. Whether it be a traumatic event, a past experience or a number of stressors, if you've turned to alcohol or another substance as a way of self-medicating, the issue hasn’t been dealt with. Somewhere deep down, the effects are still there, quietly fuelling your addiction.

Hypnotherapy looks to change the way you think and behave in certain situations. Hypnosis for drinking aims to access your unconscious (the part of your mind that runs without you knowing), and using suggestion techniques, help you change the negative thoughts and behaviours associated with the addiction.

"Hypnosis reaches into your mind and puts in suggestions that help you break the addiction at the source. While the body does carry a physical addiction that demonstrates itself through cravings, hypnosis can help reduce the sensations so that it becomes easier to resist alcohol."

- Hypnotherapist Biodun Ogunyemi in 'Alcohol addiction and how to combat it with hypnosis'

How does hypnotherapy work?

The hypnotherapist will encourage you to enter a state of deep relaxation. In this trance-like state, it’s believed that your unconscious is more open to suggestion. Using suggestion techniques, the hypnotherapist will look to change the way you react to certain things.

In hypnotherapy for alcohol addiction, for example, the suggestions would be tailored to your triggers, changing the way you react and helping you not to crave alcohol. Suggestions may include not needing to drink anymore, or associating alcohol with an unpleasant taste or smell.

Some hypnotherapists may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques, to help you continue your work and cope with any potential triggers, long after sessions are over. 

How can I manage my drinking problem?

Reducing your alcohol intake has many benefits -  mentally, physically, and financially. Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially if you are in some way alcohol dependent.

While counselling and hypnotherapy can help you understand and overcome any underlying issues, there are some steps you can practise to help yourself:

  • Try to reduce the amount you drink in the week, like alcohol-free days or weekend-only drinking.
  • Limit your exposure to alcohol. It’s OK to say no to social events if you’re not ready.
  • Try alternatives. Consider mocktails or alcohol-free occasions with friends.
  • Ask your partner to join you in cutting down. Having support can make things feel much easier.
  • Try to find alternative forms of stress relief. Replace drinking with going on a walk or doing something you previously enjoyed that you may not have done in a while.
  • Talk about how you feel. Instead of keeping your concerns to yourself and drinking as a way of a solution, talk about your worries. You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.
  • Track your progress. Drinkaware has a great online portal where you can track your progress, find support and celebrate achievements.

Addiction can be incredibly isolating. You may feel like you’re stuck with no control but know that support is available and you can get better.

If you’re not ready to speak to a professional, there are a number of charities and support groups across the UK that may be helpful, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Drinkline, a free confidential helpline (0300 123 1110). You can also use the NHS website to find local alcohol addiction services in your area. 

Further reading

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