Understanding Alcoholism

Alcohol use disorder is one of the most prevalent mental-health disorders in the world. It is a complex disease that, while common, is still stigmatized, misunderstood and often untreated. It is important to understand the complex nature of alcoholism in order to defeat it.

How is Alcoholism Diagnosed?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), which is the universal diagnostic manual for mental health disorders, diagnoses alcohol use disorder based on the presence of at least 2 of the following 11 symptoms:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other after-effects?
  4. Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  5. Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

What Causes Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease that not discriminate. While some individuals are more susceptible to chronic obsessive drinking due to genetics as well as their environment, it can still occur in almost anyone who displays patterns of alcohol abuse.  Those affected often lose control of the quantity of their alcohol consumption and will often disregard the consequences of their addiction.

It is believed that alcoholism is caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, also referred to as “nature vs. nurture”. Geneticists have determined that humans possess specific genes that predispose them to an addiction. These genes can be inherited from parents, hence how often alcoholism is present in multiple generations in a family.

Mental health also plays a crucial role in the development of addition. Alcoholism is often seen in conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and/or depression and is then referred to as a co-occurring disorder. Alcohol is used to self-medicate through symptoms of their mental health issues.

Health Risks

Alcoholism poses a number of immediate and long-term health risks. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to injury, including fatal falls, drownings or car accidents. It can also result in violence, sexual assault or risky sexual behavior. Long-term, alcohol misuse or dependence can show signs of hypertension, hearth disease, liver or multiple organ failure or cancer of the throat, liver, colon or breast.

When chronic alcohol use is abruptly stopped, individuals will experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome. What starts off as hangover-like symptoms increases to insomnia, shaking, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, muscle spasms and more.

Get Help Now

It is important to remember you are never alone. If you or a loved one is suffering through an addiction, Lake Ave Recovery’s masters and doctorate level clinicians are here to guide you through a customized treatment plan. Call us today at 508-794-4400 to learn more about treatment options.