APRIL IS ALCOHOL AWARENESSS MONTH
ARE YOU REALLY A SOCIAL DRINKER OR COULD YOU BE AN ALCOHOLIC?
Increasingly, women are going head to head with men when it comes to binge drinking. It’s not surprising: society normalizes, encourages, and promotes drinking so heavily that it can be nearly impossible, at times, to know what’s “normal” or not. A 2015 report by the National Institutes of Health, says an exploding number of Americans are in the drinking danger zone. According to the report, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, nearly one-third of American adults at some point in their life have an Alcohol Abuse Disorder, and only 20% seek treatment. Drinking may seem harmless but overindulging in alcohol is responsible for more than 80,000 deaths in this country per year and is the third leading cause of preventable deaths. We turned to NYC Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez to outline the differences between social, problem and alcoholic drinking.
Addicted alcoholics hide their habit
Dr. Sanam Hafeez says, “When people veer from social drinking to alcoholism, they usually try to conceal their drinking from those who are close to them. This is a warning sign because they deliberately wish to hide their drinking habit from their loved ones so as not to alarm or disappoint them. The fact is, the more they try to hide their drinking habit, the more serious their drinking problem becomes.”
Alcoholics tend to miss work, damage other people’s lives, and not fulfill obligations because they stay busy drinking. Social drinkers will drink at specific times when they are usually free so that no important work is hampered. Social drinkers make sure that they do not over-drink, which ensures that they can tend to important obligations. “If they start ignoring these obligations because of drinking, they have likely become alcoholic,” says Dr. Hafeez.
You’re a weekend warrior.
“If you don’t drink daily, but are drinking regularly, such as binges every Friday night, that’s a red flag,” says Dr. Hafeez. While research shows that having about seven alcoholic beverages per week lowers your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, abstaining all week only to guzzle five or six glasses in a single sitting negates any of alcohol’s potential health benefits. Moreover, binge drinking can raise blood pressure and interfere with certain medications.
Drinking just “creeps up on you.”
Have you ever told yourself you were going to have only a drink or two at happy hour, and before you knew it you’d downed five? One of the clues that you may be a binge drinker is not knowing your limits—or feeling surprised when you've "suddenly" passed them. “Like diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems, drinking problems develop gradually and alcoholism is progressive,” says Dr. Hafeez.
Drinking and driving
Alcoholics end up in alcohol-related accidents, while social drinkers do not. However, for a social drinker, they know that drinking and driving is not permitted and can be fatal. So, even if they over-drink on a particular social occasion, they don’t get behind the wheel.
You wonder if there will be enough alcohol available
“This most likely means that you are probably chasing the buzzed feeling and are unable to enjoy yourself without the fear of losing that high” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez. “It is most definitely a warning sign of addiction and it can be a sign of obsessive thinking around alcohol, which should absolutely raise red flags.”
You “Pre-Game It”
Perhaps you are going on a blind date and don’t want your date to think you drink too much so you have 2 drinks at home and 2 drinks while on the date. You know you’ve had 4 drinks, but your date perceives you as a “normal” drinker. You are aware of your true quantity and have the buzz to go along with it.
You hide alcohol
If you don’t want your spouse, roommate or family member to see you drinking, perhaps you hide alcohol in a closet or bathroom cabinet and put your drinks in a colored paper cup so only you know you’re drinking. Dr. Sanam Hafeez says, “alcoholics will do this to be able to indulge in their addiction while attempting to “act sober” and deceive others around them.”
You switch drinks or try to make rules for yourself that you don’t follow
Many people will negotiate with themselves. For example, “I will switch from 4 glasses of wine to two Vodkas” or “I will only drink on weekends,” “I will only go to happy hour when I have a new client win.” “Normal” drinkers don’t make these kinds of bargains with themselves because their lives don’t revolve around alcohol or attempts to control consumption of it,” says Dr. Hafeez.
A ”problem drinker” versus an alcoholic
Dr. Sanam Hafeez explains that, “A problem drinker is able to self-correct when they are given sufficient reason to do so – negative consequences, painful hangovers, birth of a child, new responsibilities, etc. An alcoholic, on the other hand, is unable to permanently cut back or stop drinking even when they have numerous reasons to do so. When faced with serious consequences and reality, an alcoholic may temporarily stop or limit themselves, but they will invariably return to their regular excessive drinking patterns.”
What to do if you’re not sure you have a problem
Dr. Sanam Hafeez suggests, “If you are not certain you are an alcoholic, seek the advice of a therapist, or attend an AA meeting and speak with those who have long term sobriety to see if they share similar thoughts and experiences. If you feel that you need more than therapy to stop drinking, in patient treatment (rehab) may be the course of action you need to get both the therapy and tools to live a sober life.
Sanam Hafeez Psy.D
New York State Licensed Neuropsychologist and School Psychologist
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a New York City based Neuro-psychologist and School Psychologist. She is also the founder and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. She is currently a teaching faculty member at Columbia University. Click here to see Dr. Hafeez on Dr.Oz: http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/do-smart-drugs-work-we-test-them-so-you-don-t-have?video_id=4518086514001
Dr. Hafeez graduated from Queens College, CUNY with a BA in psychology. She then went on to earn her Master of Science in Psychology at Hofstra University. Following that she stayed at Hofstra to receive her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) She later completed her post-doctoral training in Neuropsychology and Developmental Pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital.
Dr. Hafeez’s provides neuropsychological educational and developmental evaluations in her practice. She also works with children and adults who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, autism, attention and memory problems, trauma and brain injury, abuse, childhood development and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…) In addition, Dr. Hafeez serves as a medical expert and expert witness by providing full evaluations and witness testimony to law firms and courts.
Dr. Hafeez immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when she was twelve years old. She is fluent in English, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi (Pakistani and Indian languages.) She resides in Queens, New York with her husband and twin boys.
Honors and Publications:
April 2013 Main Speaker at Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference, New York City at Baruch College, CUNY
“Evaluating and Accommodating Students with
June 2008 Appointment to the New York City 18-B panel Assigned Counsel Plan
Appointed as a preferred and approved Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist in the New York City Court System for low cost or pro bono criminal, civil and family law cases
January 2008 CUNY Proficiency Exam Waiver Position Paper
Hafeez, S. (2008)
Commissioned by CUNY to advocate for the Learning Disabled population and the bias of the CUNY Assessment.
Research based paper presented to the Board of CUNY Student Disabilities to waive requirement.
1998-2000 Doctoral Fellowship, Hofstra University
*Awarded a stipend in exchange for a research assistant position with core faculty member
Director and Founder February 2003-Present
Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services
- Provide quality monolingual and bilingual psychological, educational, neuropsychological and speech and language evaluations
- Early Intervention, Pre-School and School Age Special Education Services
- Awarded a competitive contract through bidding with the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE)
- Awarded an assessment and interpreting contract with Putnam-Westchester BOCES
- Provide evaluations and services to college level students with educational disabilities
- Also provide occupational and physical therapy evaluations as well as therapeutic services in all areas.
- Contract with school district and various agencies to provide evaluations and related services
- Provide neuropsychological, psychological and forensic evaluations for legal purposes to individuals, law firms, agencies and courts
Faculty Appointment September 2011-Present
Columbia University, Teacher’s College, New York, NY
PhD program in Psychology
- Instruction of neuropsychological and cognitive testing measures (SB-5, WJ-III, WISC-IV, etc)
- Supervision and training of graduate students for clinical testing at university clinic