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

Updated: Apr. 22, 2021

If you knock back four to five drinks in two hours, you just engaged in binge drinking. Here are the other signs you may be binge drinking

The signs of binge drinking

The occasional glass of wine or cold beer is OK, but it’s possible to overdo it without even realizing it—especially when you’re home all day. In fact, one in six American adults binge drink about four times a month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If any of the following signs sound familiar, you may also be dealing with binge drinking. Here’s what you need to know.

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

“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. Women, if you find yourself knocking back four drinks in two hours, you just engaged in binge drinking, according to the (CDC). For men, downing five drinks in two hours is considered a binge-drinking episode.

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You’re tired or moody after a night of drinking

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 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.

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You let responsibilities slip

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. Neglecting your obligations because of alcohol use is one sign that your drinking is a larger problem, according to the American Addiction Centers.

man pouring glass of wine or beer
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You slur or feel off balance

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 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, hydrates you, and slows down your drinking pace.

group drinking wine at social event
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You embarrass yourself in social situations

“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. This is how your genes influence your drinking habits.

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You find yourself in risky situations

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, PhD, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; nearly 700,000 students between ages of 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.

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Your friends are worried about you

If family, friends, or co-workers tell you that they’re concerned alcohol is becoming a problem for you, that’s a red flag. According to the American Addiction Centers, ignoring the concerns of others is one of the signs that you may be binge drinking. Here’s why some experts think AA doesn’t work as well for women.